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How to Winter Sow Seeds Outdoors in 9 Easy Steps

Looking for ways to start seeds this winter? Wait until you see how easy it is to winter sow seeds outdoors!

Winter sowing seeds outdoors is a great way to get a jump on the next growing season without sacrificing space indoors to start seeds.

Since seeds germinate and grow in the outdoor environment, acclimating plants to the outdoors is much easier.

So I decided to try this method because after starting all those seeds indoors last year, I am inspired to grow more here at the new house.

Now maybe you think that’s a little nuts given I started about 1400 flowers indoors last season, but hear me out.

I have a new garden.

And while the gardens have a lot of great bones.

I need to grow more flowers here.

And what better way than to start them from seed!

It’s much less expensive than purchasing full-grown plants.

Plus I can get more of a variety, as well as plants not readily available at local nurseries.

Not to mention, I need to grow another cut flower garden this year.

Because I love making bouquets.

While I still plan to sow seed indoors in my sunroom, I could grow SO MUCH MORE if I winter sow some outdoors!

It’s pretty easy and inexpensive to do too because we are mostly working with recycled materials.

So are you ready to grow more plants with me?

Let’s do this!

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When Should I Start Winter Sowing?

As a general rule, you don’t want to start before the winter begins (December 21).

And with the holidays immediately following that time, to me, January is a great time to get started.

New year new plants, am I right?

How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

How Late Can I Winter Sow?

The answer depends on the type of seeds you plan to grow.

If certain seeds have a chill requirement, then they need to be started at least 4-5 weeks before the temperatures rise above freezing.

However, if seeds do not require that chill period, then you can sow them later.

I’ve been so busy renovating the dining room and sunroom that I’m just getting my act together now, so it’s not too late to begin!

recycle milk jugs and rotisserie chicken containers to winter sow seeds outdoors
Recycle containers and milk jugs to winter sow seeds outdoors.

Can You Winter Sow Anything?

Not everything can be winter sowed outdoors.

In general, herbs, perennials, cold-hardy annuals, and cold crop vegetables are the best types of seeds to winter sow outdoors.

I’m not starting vegetables from seed this year, so I’m going to start a few cold-hardy annuals to see how they do with this method.

You won’t know until you try!

Gardening is one big experiment.

Either it will work or it won’t.

I’m starting some of the same seeds indoors too so all will not be lost if this method doesn’t work.

Cut milk jugs in half to create a miniature solarium to start seeds.

What Seeds Are Good For Winter Sowing?

There are lots of options out there to winter sow.

Here are a few types of seed to consider trying:

  • Butterfly weed
  • Foxglove
  • Calendula
  • Larkspur
  • Poppies
  • Coreopsis
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
Poke holes in the bottom of the milk jug containers for drainage.

Supplies Needed for Winter Sowing

Sowing seeds outdoors in winter requires much less than doing them inside.

Plus, it’s a great way to recycle items from around the house such as milk jugs and rotisserie chicken containers.

Thus, winter sowing is very eco-friendly!

drainage holes in bottom of milk jug for winter sowing seeds

Here’s What You Need

  • Recycled container to start seeds
  • Organic potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Tape
  • Sharp knife or blade
Adding organic potting soil to milk jug to winter sow seeds outdoors

Where to Buy Good Quality Seeds

There are lots of places you can purchase good quality seeds.

I prefer ordering from:

How to Winter Sow Seeds Outdoors

While we are winter sowing seeds outdoors today, you can still start seeds indoors too. (Depending on the type of plant you want to grow, it’s not too late to get started. Just follow THESE tips.)

But wait until you see how easy winter sowing is to do.

  • Gather the supplies.
  • Add drainage holes to the bottom of containers so moisture can drain out.
  • If using a milk jug, cut the jug in half so it can be filled with organic potting soil and planted. And remove nutrition labels from lids or covers so light is able to reach seeds.
  • Fill the bottoms of containers about halfway with pre-moistened potting soil. (You should be able to make a ball out of the soil without it falling apart.) To keep things neat in my workspace, I used THIS tray to hold the potting soil and THIS tray beneath my containers.
making hole to drop sweet pea seed in to winter sow
Sowing Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse
  • Then sow your seeds with THIS method.
  • Attach the cover and tape it closed.
  • Label the containers well so you know what’s planted.
taping top and bottom of milk jug after sowing seed to close up the solarium
  • Remove the cap or add a few holes at the top of the container to insure good airflow.
  • Then move to an outdoor location that receives sunlight and rain, but is protected from harsh weather. And if you live in a warmer climate, set them in a shadier spot where they’ll receive moisture but don’t cook in the heat.
  • Check weekly to make sure they are moist.
Setting the milk jug with sweet peas outdoors with cap off so it germinates

3 Quick Tips for Winter Sowing

  • Sow one type of seed per container – do not mix varieties.
  • Label well with plant variety and the date sowed. Keep seed packets for easy reference.
  • Check them once a week to make sure containers stay evenly moist.
flowers in my garden Bricks 'n Blooms Weekly

What I Am Winter Sowing

This year, I am winter sowing sweet peas, larkspur, calendula, and some snapdragons.

I’m also starting those same seeds indoors, but want to see how well they do when sowed outdoors in winter.

Larkspur in my Jersey Garden
Larkspur that I started from seed in last year’s cut flower garden.

I’ve only started these seeds indoors before under the lights, so I’m curious to see how they do using the winter sowing method.

Although I’m a little late getting started, there’s still plenty of winter left here in New Jersey to get these seeds started.

Let’s hope they germinate!

Sunflower 'Panache' in the cut flower garden
YouTube video

Looking for More Gardening Tutorials, Tips, Tricks and Inspiration?

Check out these informative posts.

My cut flower garden - How to Save Money at the Garden Nursery

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Stacy Ling

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    1. I had to try this! I started some sweet peas and this week I’m doing more. Speaking of sweet peas, my seedlings sprouted in the sunroom already. Yay!

  1. Stacy
    I’m going to try this. I didn’t have good luck inside last year but this might work for me. Thanks so much!

  2. This is such an informative post. I have never heard of winter seeding. So hood to know. Thanks for sharing!