Spring is finally here, and the end of your winter sowing adventure is drawing near. Your first seeds are breaking through the soil and you can see them slowly rising inside your containers. Are you ready to spring your plants?
WINTER SOWING INTO SPRING
STEP 1: Dig Containers into Soil
Once the soil softens enough for digging, secure the containers a bit more by digging them slightly into the soil. I surrounded the containers with rocks to insure they stay upright. Little did I realize, this would have another important benefit…
STEP 2: Water Your Containers
Your emerging seedlings need water when there is no visible condensation on the clear parts of the containers. When you water, water into the hole you just dug the container into, and not the top opening of your containers because that will disturb the soil.
The unexpected benefit is that the container will absorb more water through the bottom holes, because the dug out region will retain more moisture than the other surrounding soil, acting as a reservoir.
STEP 3: Cut off Duct Tape and Remove Container Top
Do this after your average final frost date. If you do uncover earlier, make sure to recover your seedlings on freezing nights, or bring them inside the garage.
STEP 4: Pinch off Weak Seedlings
If you pinch off the weakest seedlings, you’ll prevent overcrowding without disturbing the roots of your remaining plants. Since the seedlings are small, it’s also possible to remove some and replant elsewhere, if your green thumbs possess surgeon-like precision.
STEP 5: Continue Care
Making sure the containers don’t dry out is your number one priority. That being said over-saturation can also kill seedlings…especially if you have a torrential rainstorm and the container floods.
STEP 6: Spring Your Seedlings
When removing seedlings, make sure to dig deep enough to salvage the entire root. It shouldn’t be too hard to achieve this with young seedlings. So, how long should you wait before you remove them?…
I am not sure there is a correct answer to this question. You can transplant them as small seedlings or you can wait until the seedlings’ roots intertwine to create a fibrous mass throughout the container.
I found it quite easy to pull the seedlings apart (without harming them) after the fibrous mass had formed.
If pesky critters are the bane of your butterfly garden, perhaps potting a few plants to direct plant in fall would be good insurance.
Unbeknownst to many, rabbits and deer will quite happily munch on milkweed…especially young seedlings!
Winter Sowing Lessons Learned?
- The soil in the two-liter pop bottles seems to maintain a healthier moisture level than the over-saturated opaque milk containers. Perhaps because the two liter bottles absorb more light and heat? Two years straight I’ve had gallon milk jugs with moss growing inside…not a good sign for soil health or seed germination.
- Moss-filled containers can recover (somewhat) after the lid is removed and they’re placed in direct sun. Still, this container is a major disappointment.
- Scatter the milkweed seeds generously when creating your winter sowing container…it’s easy to pinch off overcrowded seedlings and it increases your odds of giving birth to a full patch.
- Never rely on one method to germinate seeds. Our oversaturated milk jug had purple milkweed seeds with a 0% germination rate before the 3 late-bloomers generously raised it to 15%. The germinate rate from starting purple seeds indoors was 75%.
Remember that winter sowing milkweed seeds is just one of many methods of propagating milkweed plants. As I always say, never put all your milkweed seeds in one basket. Happy sowing…and growing!