Choosing Containers For Winter Sowing Seeds

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Choosing Containers For Winter Sowing Seeds

Winter sowing is a technique that is used to start seeds outside during the winter. The seeds are sown in miniature greenhouses made from recycled plastic containers. In this post, I will talk about which types of containers can be used to winter sow seeds.

Learn how to winter sow seeds in this post: Winter Sowing Seeds – A Step By Step Guide

Winter sown containers in the snow
Winter sown containers in the snow

Choosing Containers For Winter Sowing Seeds

There are many different types of containers you could use for winter sowing. Winter sowing containers can be made out of items you throw out every day; containers like milk jugs, 2 liter bottles, restaurant/deli/bakery food containers, ice cream buckets…etc.

Choose containers for winter sowing that…

  • Are made out of plastic
  • Have a lid that lets light through (i.e.: the container is not completely opaque)
  • Are deep enough to hold 2-3 inches of soil
  • Are tall enough to accommodate the height of the seedlings as they grow (allow a few inches of headspace)

Some of my favorite types of containers for winter sowing seeds include:

  • Old food storage containers (tupperware, glad/ziploc disposable containers…etc) – you can find these in the free bin at garage sales all the time!
  • Ice cream buckets
  • Food take out containers
  • Food containers from the grocery store deli
  • Containers from bakery goods
Examples of containers for winter sowing seeds
Examples of containers for winter sowing seeds

When it comes to choosing which containers to use for winter sowing seeds, it boils down to what you prefer and what types of containers are available to you. The types of containers I prefer to use are ones with lids that are easy to take off and put back on, like ice cream buckets and food containers. Milk jugs also work very well and are readily available.

I especially like containers that can withstand the heat of the dishwasher without melting. This makes the task of cleaning hundreds of containers much easier. I’ve noticed that if they can stand the dishwasher, they usually last longer and these are the containers I can use for more than one year.

Some containers will hold up to the elements better than others. I have had containers that start to disintegrate after only a few months of being outside. I’ve had others that hold up very well and I can use them for multiple years.

Winter sown containers buried under snow
Winter sown containers buried under snow

One thing to note is that some “plastic” take out containers are now made out of corn, which is great for the environment….but not great for winter sowing seeds, unfortunately. (and these will disintegrate in the dishwasher)

It’s best to experiment with containers and see what you like. Sometimes you have to take what you can get, and then you’ll know what containers to choose for next year.

Making Modifications to Containers to Use for Winter Sowing Seeds

What if you have the perfect container to use for winter sowing seeds, but the container doesn’t have a lid… no problem. You can make some easy modifications to turn it into the perfect container for winter sowing seeds.

Container without a lid

Simply cover the container with a plastic bag and secure it at the bottom with a twist tie, then poke a few holes in the plastic to allow moisture in and to vent the container. Make sure to pull the plastic as tight as you can so it won’t blow away.

Cover tightly with a plastic bag

If the container that will fit into a gallon ziploc bag, you can put it in and zip it up… but make sure that you poke holes in both the top and the bottom of the bag, as well as in the bottom of the container.

What are your favorite containers to use for winter sowing seeds?



 

Comments

  1. says

    This is a very cool idea, I attempted an outdoor winter seeding of crocosmia lucifer and seeded in october. The problem was small sprouts appeared in mid december and were nuked by the frost. Who knows what might pop come spring but putting a lid on things might give them that extra warmth to survive. Great post!

  2. says

    Hi Nat! It is pretty cool isn't it. I was very excited when I discovered this technique too, and it has become very popular over the last few years. I was nervous to try it out, but it's so much easier than starting seeds indoors. I hope you will try it and share your progress with me. I will be starting my winter sowing sometime in the next few weeks and sharing my progress.

  3. Anonymous says

    Hi Amy
    I have been putting aside some old containers. I can't wait to try this out. Do I use regular gardening soil or should I use the seed starting soil?

  4. says

    Hello Anonymous! It's funny, someone else just asked me the same question yesterday. I use the same type of potting soil in my winter sowing containers that I use when starting seeds indoors. I buy the seed starting soil mix that is specifically made for starting seeds. It's a little more expensive than other soil mixes. You could probably find a recipe online to mix your own seed

  5. Tara (your neighbor) says

    Thanks for the update. Before I submitted my post it said "Tara said…" I am not sure why it changed to anonymous. Love your blog Amy and I reference quite often. I will be trying to do as you do this year so I am not so far behind and still waiting for veggies in the fall. I am pretty excited to try out winter sowing. I have some seeds that I bought last summer, but I am going

  6. says

    You say you start sowing in February. This winter seems to be exceptionally cold – will you still be starting them this month? Also, I don't have a deck or patio – but I would put the containers on my outside table for the morning sun – or is it okay to put them on a sheet of cardboard or some such thing directly on the snow?

  7. says

    @Tara – howdy neighbor! Glad to hear you're going to give winter sowing a try this year. Can't wait to hear all about it! I usually buy my seeds at Bachmans… but this time of year, you can pretty much find them at all the big box stores too. There are tons of companies that sell them online if you want to price compare. Shop now for the best selection.

    Hi SecondhandKris – Yes

  8. says

    Hello! Love the information! I have been researching winter sowing on and off over the last couple of weeks and just had a quick question about containers. I like the idea of using containers that you can just stick directly into the ground (peat pots, TP rolls, egg shells etc.) – I know two of the "rules" of winter sowing is to having a container that is deep enough for the 2-3"

    • says

      Hi Allison – I have heard of people using their normal winter sowing containers with the TP rolls/peat pots inside. They fill in between the rolls/pots with soil to help retain moisture. The biggest concern with using this plantable materials is that they can act as a wick and draw moisture out of the soil faster than normal. I think your method sounds like it should work, but keep a close eye on

  9. says

    I am planning to try out winter sowing this winter. I never tried it out before. Your post was very helpful for me to get to know some useful tips on it. Hope, i succeed in it with your useful tips.

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