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What is the best method for winter sowing vegetable seeds in containers outdoors?


Question details

I have seen some information on starting flower seeds in containters outside in the winter, but not a lot on vegetables. My house is not conducive to starting indoors, and I wanted to know if anyone had experience with this method of winter sowing before? I'm looking to plant Cucumbers , Herbs, Lettuce , Onions, Peas , Peppers , Tomatoes.

Check out for interesting information about sowing plant seeds in winter.  I've only winter sown wild flowers and enjoyed many volunteers in the garden, but thanks to your question I will sow some vegetable seeds in containers tomorrow.  I plan to grow more plants in containers this year. Stay natural, David
Most seeds won,t germinate until the soil temperature rises. When the soil is too cold the seeds just sit and rot. So sowing seeds outside in cold weather is a waste of time and money mostly. There are a few types of lettuce that will germinate when quite cool and maybe a few chinese leaves, but not much else that i can think of. I once read that the best way to tell if the soil is at the right temperature is to nestle your bare bottom down into the soil. If it feels comfortable then you know it is time to sow. I know i have mentioned that one before but the image in my mind just makes me smile. I,m waiting for late March / early April, thats about the earliest time to sow outside in our area. Even then i like to warm the soil by covering it for a week or two. The only other way to start earlier is to generate some heat through natural compost fermentation. Jessica has highlighted these methods citing 'Jean Pain'. If you type Jean Pain into the search box at top right then you will find her links that are a lot better than the one above. Glenn
It really depends on where you live. If you're in the southern to tropical latitudes, your sun and temperatures should be fine for germination. Otherwise look up your average annual last freeze date and plan around then. Some crops can go in earlier than others.. peas, chervil, some lettuces. Some must wait 'til temperatures modify and nights are above 50 degrees or so. Some can go in your pots early if you tent with clear plastic. Gardening is an experiment with many failures and successes, but research and others' experience can put the balance on the side of success. Remember that when planting in pots, the trick is not to crowd plants, and water thoroughly and regularly.
In addition to all these good comments - i would say that timing for planting outdoors in containers is not much different than planting in an outdoor raised-bed garden that you tend carefully. With respect to temperature, some vegetable seeds are so cold-hardy they can be planted in the fall & will come up in spring before the last frost & grow well. Those would include peas, beets, spinach, chard, kale & the lettuces, which I have read "will sprout on a block of ice."  One refinement I would want for planting in outdoor pots would be to make a wind & sun barrier to lay on the pot-soil after planting & until seedlings emerge & grow up a bit. You want something that is translucent & will breathe - at the same time it protects the top of the soil from drying sun & wind - and birds might like the new seedlings. You could cut a piece to fit from frost-cloth or an old sheet. i would cut the piece with ~ 6" diameter to spare, so when the seedlings start to emerge, you can prop the cover a little higher with twigs stuck in the soil & have enough material to secure it from blowing away. Save the cover-piece to use again. Today I couldn't find my description on KGI search -  of how to plant peas earlier than the last frost. If I find it in my files this evening I will post it here tomorrow.



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