This is the fourth in a series I’m doing to address some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about winter sowing. By now, you’ve probably been seeing sprouts in your containers, and you might be wondering what to do.
- How do I water the containers?
- Some of my containers have started sprouting, but others have not, should I be worried?
- Some of my containers have sprouted. What should I do with the seedlings if it’s going to freeze?
- When do I transplant my seedlings to the garden?
- My seedlings are getting tall. Should I take the tops off or leave them on?
|Winter sown containers with sprouts|
Q: How do I water the containers?
A: If you notice that the soil in your containers has started drying out, there are several ways to water them. If the containers are flat on top, I just throw snow on top of them, or pour water over the lids. This way, the water will trickle in through the vent holes. For milk jugs or similar containers, you can tilt the jug slightly and slowly pour water in the top so it will trickle down the inside of the jug. If you pour water directly into the jug, you can displace the soil and sprouts. If the lids are easily removable, you can open them and water like you usually would water seedling flats. But, this can be a big chore when you have lots of containers.
Q: Some of my containers have started sprouting, but others have not, should I be worried?
A: Don’t worry about the seeds that haven’t started growing yet, I haven’t seen growth in most of my containers yet either. This spring has been much cooler than last spring, so expect to see sprouts later than last year. It will vary every year. Give it time.
Q: Some of my containers have sprouted. What should I do with the seedlings if it’s going to freeze?
A: With winter sowing, the seeds that start to sprout first are the cold hardy plants. They can tolerate cold temperatures, and shouldn’t need to be protected in the spring. Just keep the lids on your containers overnight. It’s the warm weather plants (like tomatoes, zinnias, peppers…etc) that you’ll need to worry about. Once they start to sprout, and the forecast calls for below freezing temperatures, you might want to give the containers a little extra protection to be safe. You can simply cover the containers with a blanket, or move them into the garage or shed if you want. Last year I had all my lids off and everything was growing great, then in May we had a night where we were supposed to get frost. The seedlings were too tall to put the lids back on, so I covered them with a blanket and they were fine (sure enough, the blanket was covered with frost the next morning).
|Winter sown vegetables|
Q: When do I transplant my seedlings to the garden?
A: Transplant winter sown seedlings at the same time you would plant anything else in your garden. Here in Minneapolis, cold hardy vegetables can be planted into the garden on April 15th (on average). Warm weather plants need to wait until after the last frost date, which is May 15th (on average) here. (check the dates for your gardening zone)
Q: My seedlings are getting tall. Should I take the tops off or leave them on?
A: You can leave the lids on as long as you want, or take them off whenever you want. Some people leave the lids on until the day they plant the seedlings into the garden. I take the lids off when the seedlings are outgrowing the containers. Sometimes I’ll take them off on a sunny day if I feel like it (which is not required), then I put the lids back on at night. There are a few things to keep in mind once you remove the lids. If the seedlings are small, you may want to protect them from heavy rain and hail. Once the lids are off, the soil will dry out much quicker, so you’ll need to check the soil at least once a day and keep them well watered. (see Q#1) If it’s going to get below freezing, you’ll want to protect any warm weather seedlings. (see Q#3)
Have a question that wasn’t answered here? Check my last few FAQ posts to see if it was answered there…
Winter Sowing FAQ – Getting Started
Winter Sowing FAQ – Winter Maintenance
Winter Sowing FAQ – Early Spring
If you have any questions that haven’t been answered yet, you can ask them here in the comments and I will answer them.