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FAQ's about Winter Sowing
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FAQ's about Winter Sowing

Answering your most frequently asked questions about winter sowing❄️


  • What seeds are good for winter sowing and when should I plant? 
More than you would think! Here's what Matthew suggests - 
January: All hardy perennials and natives
February: Hardy annuals, perennials, Cole crops (brassicas)
March: Tender annuals, vegetables and whatever else you want to experiment with!

Best to start your winter sowing some time after January 1st in all planting zones. Winter temperatures fluctuate a lot lately but you can use your final frost date as a ‘loose’ guide. Just remember, this method tends to lengthen the time it takes to reach harvest or full bloom so choose the seeds you have patience to watch grow!


Find our full list of seeds for winter sowing HERE


  • What seeds should I avoid if choosing to winter sow?

We do not recommend winter sowing anything in the cucumber or squash family. They tend to not germinate well this way and they don’t like their roots disturbed, so they’re best started indoors.


  • The idea is a seed will get a head start?

Winter sowing means that the seeds will germinate on ‘Mother Nature’s’ clock. If you want to give plants a head start or have preferences on when things will bloom or produce, we recommend starting your seeds indoors.


  • Should I be checking on them periodically to see if they need watering?

As long as you gave the soil a good soaking when prepping you should not have to add water to them until your evenings are consistently above 40 degrees.

The milk jug containers have an opening at the top to let rain/snow fall through. You can choose to add holes to the top of the salad container lids as well. In most cases, the containers will have sufficient water to last them until Spring - just check on them once in a while, if they feel particularly light give them a drink!


  • Should I use potting soil or seed starting soil?

You can use both! We usually use some combination of potting soil and seedling mix. The soil should feel light in your hand; light enough for the seed to not be suffocated and the water to drain out efficiently.


  • What happens if a snowstorm hits and they get buried?

Let them get buried! This is a great blanket to keep them even warmer and they will get a great drink of water as the snow melts. 


  • Won’t the closed containers get too hot when it gets sunny?

On the days where temperatures stay above 50 degrees, open up the tops of your containers to let them breathe. Close them when the sun goes down. You want your overnight temps to stay above 40 degrees before leaving them open full time. The salad container plastic is thinner than a milk jug so they will heat slightly differently. Punching a few holes in the tops of either container will help with air circulation and temperature regulation.


Got more questions? Leave a comment below and we'll get back to you in no thyme🌿

16 comments on FAQ's about Winter Sowing

  • Pinetree Garden Seeds
    Pinetree Garden SeedsFebruary 06, 2024

    Hi, Emma! While you could certainly try and, depending on your zone, it might work, it likely won’t be as effective as a milk jug/ plastic container. Sealing the container, having good ventilation, and providing a greenhouse effect is what makes winter sowing in this way so productive, and a pot may not provide that same effect as it will hold moisture differently than a fully plastic vessel. Ultimately if you have extra seed and want to experiment with this method though, then it definitely could be worth the try! :)

  • emma

    Can a put a pot with seeds under a cloche and provide enough protection for the seeds?

  • EL

    I’ve always planted my peas in the winter. I don’t even put them in a container. I simply wait for enough of a thaw to get them in the ground about 1/2” — 1” and then plant. Generally it freezes again and hopefully snows. They come up when things start to warm up. They always germinate well.

    Many of my friends plant lawn grass by scattering the seeds on the snow in early spring. The seeds have a ready water source to help them get started and seem to do better than a later spring/summer sowing.

    Columbines need light to germinate, so I scatter them on the top of the soil where I want them and let them overwinter (I guess that would be late autumn/early winter sowing)

  • Pinetree Garden Seeds
    Pinetree Garden SeedsJanuary 12, 2024

    Hi, Lucy!

    The number of seeds per carton/vessel primarily depends on what you’re looking for. A good cut off point for smaller seeds is around 25-30, whereas larger seeds we would cut off around 15. As a general rule of thumb though, we recommend planting 5 or so more per than the amount you’re hoping to grow per vessel. For example, if you’re only wanting to grow 5 or so of a variety, then plant 10 to help ensure that the amount you want germinates.

    As for seedling transplanting, we don’t have too much trouble, but a good transplanting tool always helps. A widger, for example can wiggle underneath the roots of a seedling and pull the whole plant up without as much damage as alternative methods. We offer a double-sided widger that’s helped us out a lot! You can find that here: We always use our winter sowing containers up until transplanting to our gardens as well, which helps greatly with transplanting, as the seedlings are more developed upon being moved.

    Hope this helps!

  • Lucy
    LucyJanuary 11, 2024

    I was wondering how many seeds you suggest putting in each container and how easy is it to transplant, when they are seedlings? That always seems to be where I have issues, because they are so fragile…..

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