How to Winter Sow Native Seed

If the year were a day, I’d say we are at about 3am. I got a bit of a late start on my winter sowing, but I did get some 30 and 60 day cold stratification native seed out there in January, and I think all will be well. I am definitely ready for Spring. I have marked my calendar for when I want to put out my little, short greenhouse/hoop houses. I have my seed ordered and my calendar marked for increments of 2-12 weeks before the last frost. I am ready! All this really depends on how the weather treats us this Spring. I thought winter was a bit strange this year. We had mild temps and then January brought heavy snow and negative cold. Now, with the beginning of February, we are pretty pleasant with 30s/40s. Midwest, you just never know. Sometimes there is snow in May. 

Back to what you can do. There is still time to winter sow natives, especially if nights go below freezing for the next month or two. Be sure to look at your germination needs. Some plant seeds need 30 days, some 60, and some 120. We can still try for the 30 and 60, but the 120 may be a little bit of a stretch. 


Empty salad greens containers, plastic milk/water jugs, or anything plastic that can be converted to a mini greenhouse

Box cutter/scissors

Duct tape

Paint marker


Native Seeds


First- cut around your jugs so that there is a flip lid. If you are using greens containers, this step is skipped.

Second- put drainage holes in the bottom.

Third- fill with damp soil 2-3 inches

Fourth- sow seed 

Fifth- label with paint marker. I also take photos in case the paint marker fades or washes away

Sixth- close up your mini greenhouse with duct tape and secure lid (jug) or place lid on top.

Seventh- place outside in a place that is safe and can get some sun.

Eigth- watch and wait. Check periodically to make sure there is still moisture in the container. Add snow or water if needed. When you begin to see growth, open the lid some and keep moist. Be careful with your little babies duing this growing period. You don’t want to fry them. 

Ninth- when things are getting full inside your mini greenhouse. Open them completely for a day or two before transplanting/thinning to new containers. 

Tenth- transplant to new containers and treat them like you would any new seedling til they are ready for the ground. You want to make sure the transplants are protected in a cold frame or something similar until night time temps are above 40. 

Enjoy starting a little easy gardening with winter sowing.

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