The days are growing shorter, and the temperature is slowly dropping. This can only mean one thing: winter is coming! And with winter comes the opportunity to sow some of your favorite plants.
Winter sowing is one of the best ways to get a jump-start on your garden come spring. But there are some common mistakes winter-sowers may make that can ruin the entire experience. To make sure you don’t fall victim to these errors and give yourself a chance at gardening success in the coming season, here are nine winter sowing mistakes you should try to avoid.
Not Using Seed Starting Mix
One of the frequently crucial mistakes winter sowers make is not using the proper seed starting mix for their seeds. Regular garden variety dirt will not provide the warmth and humidity needed for successful germination. Use a quality seed starting mix or pre-moistened potting soil for your seeds to get the most out of your winter sowing.
It’s important that the containers you use for your winter sowing can hold up to the cold weather. Plastic milk jugs or 2-liter bottles work well, as do single-serve plastic water bottles and takeout containers with lids. Avoid shallow containers, as the roots may not have enough space to grow.
Be sure any container you use is clean and free from any type of material that could leach into the soil or be a place for mold, mildew, and fungi to grow. You can wash your containers with soapy water or use a 10 percent bleach solution and rinse well.
Not Making Drainage Holes
One of the most important things to consider when winter sowing is making sure your containers have drainage holes. Without these, your plants will become waterlogged and suffocate in the soil. To avoid this issue, ensure that each container has at least four holes for moisture to escape.
Planting Too Early
Another common mistake made by winter sowers is planting too early in the season. Wait until after your area’s last frost date to plant seeds, as anything before that will probably die from the cold temperatures.
If you’re in the northern hemisphere, December through January is your best bet.
Planting Too Many Seeds
Keep in mind that if you plant too many seeds, it will be much harder for your plants to thrive as they live for resources like water and sunlight. And when it comes time to transplant your winter-sown seedlings into the soil, it may also be necessary to thin out or separate some of them.
To avoid this extra hassle, don’t plant more seeds than your container can handle. Here, it’s best to follow the package directions.
Not Labeling Containers
When you start your seeds in the late winter, it’s sometimes difficult to remember which varieties are planted in each container. Once the plants sprout up and you have multiple starts of different plants, it’s impossible to tell them apart without labels.
Not labeling your containers is a simple mistake to make if you’re in a hurry with prepping your garden beds or just feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of seeds that need planting. Take some time before you sow to make labels for each container. Now you know what’s sprouting up when it’s time to harvest.
It’s also a good idea to jot down details about your varieties, such as the expected maturity date. The more information you include the more prepared you’ll be in case something happens, and you need to refer to them later. That way, you’ll have all the important information at your fingertips.
Watering Too Much or Too Little
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of winter sowing, but there is one mistake that you need to avoid: watering too much or too little. Too much water can lead to root rot, while too little water can cause your seeds to dry out and not germinate. Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to get a perfect balance!
When sowing seeds during the winter months, rain and snow are all the moisture your plants will need. You don’t want to add additional water unless you see a lack of condensation on your containers or your soil is dry to the touch. If this happens, gently water your seedlings.
Once spring arrives and the temperature rises, you may need to add a bit more water as your plants grow and require more moisture. As always, use discretion. If it looks like your plants have had enough, don’t keep pouring! Overwatering can cause just as many issues as underwatering.
Poor Quality or Wrong Seeds
It may be tempting to head to the local store or online marketplace and grab some cheap seed but, this can often lead to poor germination rates and disappointing results in the long run. To reduce the risk of frustration, it’s important to source good quality seeds from reliable suppliers.
Look for high-quality seeds, as well as varieties that are well suited to your climate and soil conditions. Native plants are great for winter sowing. As are Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. However, heat-loving plants, such as Anise hyssop, may not fare as well.
One of the most common mistakes made when winter sowing is putting your jugs in direct sunlight. This may seem like a good idea at first. After all, it could help you take advantage of the winter warmth, but it’s actually a recipe for disaster. The direct sunlight will quickly heat the jug and may cause your seeds to germinate too soon or die off, which could ruin their chance at success.
Instead, look for a north or east-facing spot that allows for some light but also protection from strong winds and cooler temperatures during the night. This will give your jugs the perfect combination of warmth and protection to ensure successful germination.
That’s Just Right!
Winter sowing is a great way to get a jump on the gardening season, but like any other project, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of success. By avoiding these nine mistakes when winter sowing, you will have a successful garden come springtime. Now, all that’s left to do is sit back and wait for the warmer months ahead! Good luck and happy sowing!
Share this article with your friends who love spending time in their gardens. They’ll appreciate it! Do you have any tips or tricks for winter sowing? Leave a comment below!