Monday, March 9, 2009

'Winter Sown' Project Begins, Parsnip Eating Does Not.

  A Close up of some of the containers before they have their tops put back on.

Two weeks ago I began my 'winter sown' project.  I had read about it on several other blogs last fall and really wanted to give it a shot.  Wayne at Pathways Horticulture has just started a project with his students.  Winter sowing is a planting that is done in late winter, the seeds are placed in soil in containers, the containers are then left outside.  The containers (in my case huge mayo containers) moderate the temperature of the soil and the air around the seeds.  Night isn't as cold, and day is a touch warmer.  This enables the seeds to germinate earlier than if I had to wait to put them in the ground.  If all goes well I will have onion and leek starts  to transplant into the garden.  Mostly it is an excuse to begin playing with seeds and some potting mix.  
The process is fairly simple, the hardest part for me was picking the seeds I wanted to sow.  The seeds have to be hardy, if they are to delicate they won't survive the freezing and thawing that winter sowing puts them through.  I chose winter giant spinach, fordhook swiss chard, cippolini onions and blue solaize leeks.  These are all cold hardy plants but that doesn't ensure success.  I wouldn't be entirely surprised if nothing came up at all, but the guessing is so much fun. Once you have your seeds chosen the process goes like this:

1.  Choose your container and punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and in the top for some air, then cut it in half.
2.  Fill the bottom half with soil and plant your seeds LABLE the container.  Leeks look just like onions when they come up.
3.  Water thoroughly 
4.  Tape your tops back on, mine didn't all have lids so I used four layers of plastic wrap and rubber bands over their mouths.
5. Place in your garden and cross your fingers.

Containers with their tops back on.
While I was in the garden putting out the containers, it was clear that mud season (a New England season that comes before spring, and sometimes replaces spring) is almost hear, the ground is still frozen, but the top few inches are mud, puddles and old snow.  I tried to rescue some parsnips from the ground but they wouldn't come free.  It was such a tease, I got them half out but the bottoms were held fast.... Either I have to wait or be happy with half sized parsnips.  The other surprise was waiting under my remay.  The fall planted spinach is sending up leaves, although all the tops died back there are new greens emerging!!!!

New green!


chaiselongue said...

This is a great idea. You should get an early start with these seeds. Good luck! We're using a similar system with 5 litre water bottles to start our courgette (zucchini) seeds, but indoors and then we'll put them outside in the bottles when they germinate.

RainGardener said...

Great experiment. I'll have to check back and see how ya do. I think I saw something similar a while back with cut gallon milk jugs. Good Luck.

greendddd said...

Hi Becky,

I was introduced to your blog last year by your grandfather, Russ, after I joined Lots to Gardens, a community garden in Lewiston, ME. We were trying a winter sowing project in a week or so. Your blog inspired it. I'd love to hear more about your experience with it. Can I use parts of your blog at the workshop?

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