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Winter Sowing in Zones 3 & 4

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

What Is Winter Sowing?


The term "winter sowing" generally involves planting seeds in clear or semi clear containers (most commonly used is milk jugs) early in the spring (generally February or March) and leaving them outdoors until it's time to transplant them. Winter sown plants stay outdoors through frost, snow, and cold. The container works as a sort of mini greenhouse, protecting plants from wind and causing them to germinate sooner.


The winter sowing method works best with cold tolerant plants. See below for a list of the best seeds for winter sowing.



Why Use The Winter Sowing Method?


There are many benefits to winter sowing seeds. Winter sowing has become more and more popular in the gardening scene over the past few years for a number of reasons:

  • Winter sowing doesn't require any extra equipment like grow lights, heat mats, or fans

  • Winter sown seedlings require very little care

  • Pests and disease tend to be less of an issue in winter sown plants

  • Winter sown seedlings don't need to be hardened off

  • Winter sown seedlings tend to be strong and heathy

  • No indoors space is required to start seedlings using the winter sowing method (Your spouse may be especially appreciative!)


Check out this video on winter sowing by my friend Deanne from Four Sons Homestead.


The Best Seeds For Winter Sowing


The best seeds for winter sowing are seeds from plants that have some tolerance to frost. Here is a list of flower and vegetable seeds that can be started outdoors using the winter sowing method.


Cold tolerant flowers for winter sowing include:

  • Asters

  • Bells of Ireland

  • Calendula

  • Cosmos

  • Dianthus

  • Foxglove

  • Iceland Poppies (these do not always transplant well but tolerate cold well)