Planting Seeds in Winter

Overview

Learning how to work with the rhythm of nature will increase the chance of successfully planting seeds in winter. Gardeners often sow seeds indoors under lights in late winter and early spring. Some seeds, however, can be direct sown outdoors in cold frames or sown directly in the garden to germinate on their own in spring.

Garden Under Cover

Cold frames are un-heated outdoor structures, typically made of plastic, that protect plants and young seedlings from potential damage due to animals, frost or extreme weather conditions. Direct sowing seeds inside of a cold frame will allow the seed to germinate on its own when the weather conditions are optimum.

Grow Lights

Gardeners with limited outdoor space who are interested in planting seeds in winter will want to invest in a few grow lights. Starting seeds indoors and growing them into young plants using a lighting system designed for maximum plant growth, will ensure gardeners healthy plants once spring arrives.

Direct Sow Vegetables

Some vegetable seeds can be directly sown in the garden under cold frames as early as January in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 5 and higher. Direct sow seeds of lettuce, mache, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, spinach, peas, radish and kale.

Half-Hardy Annuals

Half-hardy annuals typically re-seed in the garden from year to year. Direct sow seeds of these plants in mid-March right before a light rain or snowfall. Examples of half-hardy annuals are larkspur, cosmos, alyssum, poppy and morning glory.

Winter Sow Perennials

Gardeners often plant perennial seeds, such as columbine, dianthus, salvia or coneflowers, outdoors in cold frames in late winter. Perennials are plants that come back every year, so planting seeds in winter exposes them to cold weather, which helps the seeds to germinate. WinterSown.org advises that if you are unsure about how a perennial may fare over the winter, save back some seed and wait until near the end of winter to sow it outdoors.

References

  • "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening;" Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson; 2010
  • "The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses;" Eliot Coleman; 2009
  • WinterSown: Common Perennials for Winter Sowing

Who Can Help

  • U.S. National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: planting seeds in winter, direct sowing, cold frames