Colleen Vanderlinden


I confess to being somewhat of a traditionalist: I enjoy starting my flower, vegetable, and herb seeds indoors, under lights, where I can baby them to my heart's content. But lack of space forced me to seek alternative ways to start plants from seed, and I'm glad it did. Thanks to my space conundrum, I learned about wintersowing, which is a method for starting seeds outdoors during the winter. It's not a method that works for every type of plant, but you can start hardier plants outdoors using wintersowing, and grow your tender plants (peppers, frost-sensitive annuals) indoors under lights. And, best of all, you save resources using this method: you reuse plastic containers and cut your water use. Want to learn more?

What is Wintersowing?

Wintersowing is a method of starting seeds outdoors, allowing nature to do its thing. Many perennial plants, cool-season annuals, herbs and even veggies do well when wintersown. Here's a simplified version of the method. Depending on where you live, you may be starting your wintersowing as early as December. You can find more details about wintersowing at

The WinterSown Method

1. Collect containers from around the house. You're making miniature greenhouses for your plants. They need to be deep enough to hold at least three inches of soil and provide enough head space for the growing plants. Plastic milk jugs, two liter soda bottles, deli takeout containers, and plastic zip top bags all work well. Don't go out and buy this stuff - raid your recycling bin instead!

2. Prepare your containers by adding drainage holes and holes at the top to allow for precipitation and air flow. If you are using a milk jug or soda bottle, you'll have to cut around the middle of your container and tape the two pieces back together later.

3. Add at least three inches of soil, and soak it thoroughly. This will most likely be the only time you water until spring.

4. Scatter your seeds on top of the soil and press in gently.

5. Close the container, and set outside. Come spring, watch for sprouts, and monitor the container for moisture and to make sure it doesn't get too hot in your mini greenhouse.

6. Plant the tiny seedlings out in the garden and watch them grow. I start most of the perennials and annuals for my garden by wintersowing now, and save my indoor space for my beloved tomatoes. For lists of plants that do well, as well as detailed instructions, visit the WinterSown site. Learn How to Make Seed Bombs on G Word!