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Winter Sowing Kits

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
February 25, 2015        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns. Benton & Morrison Counties


Winter Sowing Kits
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (02/25/15) — This winter has certainly been a roller coaster ride. It definitely goes to show Mother Nature is in charge and if she wants January to be a balmy 40°F and February to be -20°F, that’s what it is going to be. This time of year, those with a green-thumb are starting to get the itch to start growing plants. There are several ways a flower or vegetable grower can appease that itch; the first is starting seeds indoors and the second is getting a jump start outside with winter sowing kits.

Methods to get plants started early outdoors can be very basic or elaborate. One simple, inexpensive way gardeners can get a jump start is doing winter sowing kits.   Winter sowing kits consist of using recycled containers such as milk jugs or pop bottles and turning them into ‘mini’ greenhouses.

The steps to construct a winter sowing kit include:

  1. Clean desired tall, large, plastic recyclables such as milk jugs or 2-liter pop bottles
  2. Carefully cut the container, leaving at least three inches on the bottom half for potting soil, and a small portion of the plastic intact to act as a hinge
  3. Cut or punch holes in the bottom of the container for drainage; discard jug cap to provide air movement and allow moisture in
  4. Place a minimum of three inches of clean, sterile potting soil in the container
  5. Water the soil, and let drain
  6. Sow seeds at appropriate depth according to seed packets
  7. Good seed options include vegetables such as lettuce, kale, radishes, and kohlrabi, or  annual flowers such as alyssum, pansies, and viola, or hardy perennials that need a ‘chilling’ period to germinate such as Echinacea, flax, and yarrow
  8. Lightly water seeds in
  9. Label your container with a plant marker on the inside or on the bottom of the container; be aware that even permanent marker will fade and may need to be reapplied
  10. Close and tape container shut; heavy duty, clear duct tape is a nice option
  11. Place winter sowing kits outside in a sunny location
  12. Monitor for moisture, temperature, and growth
  13. Remove tape and open container once temperatures have warmed and/or plants have outgrown space
    • Due to fluctuating spring temperatures, tape may need to be removed and lid partially or completely opened during warm days and closed again for cool nights  
  14. Transplant to desired garden or container once temperatures and permanent site are prepared

Get a jump start on spring, and start some plants in your own mini greenhouse. For more information about gardening visit


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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