Gardening Answers

Winter sowing

Chloe_Moderator | Posted in Northeast Gardening on

Have you tried winter sowing? I like it because it opens up the variety of plants I can grow, especially native perennials I can’t find in garden centers. It’s also an easy way to break seed dormancy because it provides the cold, moist stratification many perennials need. Plus, I get to get my hands dirty at the time of year when there isn’t much to do outside. There are a few methods, but I like the security and control of using recycled plastic containers to protect the seeds.
If you’ve tried it, have you had good success? What seeds have worked or not worked?


  1. user-7643737 | | #1

    I sow directly on the spot of their permanent home in February in zone 5. I was able to start a n 80 ft x 5 ft border this way with wildflower seed (coneflower, liatris, blanketflower, lupine).

    1. User avater Moderator
      Chloe_Moderator | | #2

      Wow. That must be lovely. I'd love to see pictures! In my yard, I'll direct sow if the weed pressure in the spot isn't too heavy or if the species I'm sowing is suitably resilient or aggressive. I haven't tried a swath as large as yours.

  2. User avater
    cynthia2020 | | #3

    Hi, Chloe - I recently looked through the University of Maryland's Extension link on "All the Dirt on Winter Sowing" - it has simple instructions for e.g. using gallon milk jugs and has lots of photos. I am in Chicago and would like to try winter sowing this year in late February.
    Re: 80 ft x 5 ft border
    I wish I had enough sun for that - sounds gorgeous!

  3. User avater Moderator
    Chloe_Moderator | | #4

    Hi Cynthia,
    Milk jugs work well and really any plastic container with drainage and top holes that allows 2" of soil and a few inches of headroom. I really like this method and I start a variety of hardy annuals and vegetables, in addition to the perennials. The plants start out small, but I appreciate that I don't have to harden them off and don't generally have to water them until spring really gets underway. Good luck and I hope you post your results here!

    1. User avater
      cynthia2020 | | #5

      Chloe - thank you for sharing your experience. I hope to remember to come back with some good results!

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