Now that you’ve gathered your containers and secured your milkweed seeds, it’s time to set your seeds to soil. Follow these 11 simple steps, and then patiently wait for Father Winter to take a Spring Break.
After researching containers from the last post, I’ve decided to use distilled water jugs for containers. I chose this option because they are roomy, cheap, recyclable, and easy to cut through.
We are using more 2 Liter Soda Bottles and similar clear containers because the opaque milk jugs have had some issues with mold and moss in wet springs. The process for preparing the containers is the same…
You also won’t need to cut air/moisture holes in the top of these containers. Just throw away the cap and you’re set! Gallons of distilled water are widely available at many stores for less than a dollar.
If you’re using another container type you may need to make some minor adjustments. Let’s get sowing…
WINTER SOWING DIRECTIONS
STEP 1: Rinse Your Containers
Thoroughly rinse out your containers of any remaining food or beverage.
STEP 2: Label Your Containers
Use a permanent marker intended for outdoor use so your label won’t smudge or rinse away. Mark on at least two sides.
STEP 3: Drill Your Holes
Drill 4-8 holes (use a drill bit for plastics) on the bottom of your container for drainage. The holes should be approximately 1/4″ in diameter. Drill more if the holes are smaller.
We are doubling the number of holes in the opaque milk jugs and using a lighter seed starting mix to increase drainage. This will (hopefully) prevent future mold and moss issues.
No drill? Try using a box cutter/scissors/knife to puncture the plastic and then stick a phillips screwdriver head through each hole.
If you use containers with lids (e.g. plastic fruit containers), you will also need to cut a few holes in the lid.
STEP 4: Trace A Line
Use a marker to draw a line around the entire container. The line should be drawn at least 4″ from the bottom of the container. Use a ruler if you need one.
STEP 5: Cut Your Container
Use a box cutter or scissors to cut along the line you just drew. Cut just three sides, leaving the remaining side to act as a hinge when opening/closing the container.
Don’t use the ‘handle’ side of the jug as your hinge. It’s harder to keep the container open and to tape it shut.
If you’re using 2 liter soda bottles, leave about a 1″ hinge when cutting the container:
STEP 6: Add Potting Soil
Use a regular potting mix that’s also intended for starting seeds. Do not use a moisture control mix that could negatively affect germination. Add at least 4″ of soil.
STEP 7: Wet The Soil
Saturate the soil using a lighter sprinkler setting with a hose, watering can, or even the hose attachment on your kitchen sink. Using a high powered hose can compact your soil. Use trays or pot saucers to capture water coming through drainage holes.
Notice the plant label inside the container. When the lid is closed this fits up inside the handle. This is insurance in case your other labels get smudged beyond recognition.
You can also use the label when you plant your seedlings next spring. (Be sure to write on the label with your weatherproof marker!)
STEP 8: Sow Your Seeds
You can either place, sprinkle, or broadcast them depending on how many seeds you have. After they are sown, lightly press each seed into the wet soil so it stays in place.
STEP 9: Scatter More Soil
A light coating of soil over your seeds will suffice, around 1/4″
STEP 10: Close The Container
Make sure you secure the entire seam with duct tape. If the container is compromised your winter sowed milkweed could become an epic fail!
STEP 11: Set Your Container(s) Outside
Put containers in a spot that gets at least a few hours of sun, and won’t be disturbed by pesky animals or rambunctious kids. Leave the caps off your containers so the milkweed seeds get natural watering from mother nature.
Are They Secure? If your containers are in an area where they could blow over:
- tie the handles to the fence with long cable ties or twine
- put rocks, bricks, or pavers around the containers
- put a plastic/metal stake through the handle into the ground
You won’t need to water over the winter. However, once your seedlings start growing in spring you should make sure there is visible condensation when looking at the jug. If not, lightly water through the open hole.
In spring, dig the container slightly into the soil. Then, water the soil so that water can come up through the bottom drainage holes.
Barring disaster, when spring comes it will be time to remove the top half of your container. You may also need to move the container to a different spot for more/less sun exposure. Until then, enjoy your natural cold moist stratification!