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newbie question regarding the best time for sowing

I live in Chicago and I wanted to know when can or should I winter sow my veggies. I have tomatoes that I was going to start early in May and I have cucumber and zucchini seeds. Should I direct sow them or can I winter sow them in May? I have done some annuals already and they are just hanging out in the yard. I have been reading back through the forum for years of advise but there is not much help. I don't understand why people are talking about indoors and hoop houses when I thought this project all takes place outside with jugs, potting medium, seeds and the sun only with no covering or moving them in and out.??

Comments (12)
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    You are right. Winter sowing refers to sowing seeds of hardy plants outdoors and leaving them to germinate in their own natural time. Tomatoes are not winter hardy and are usually started indoorsand then planted out after last frost.

    Sowing in May isn't winter sowing so not really relevant to this forum. There is a Tomato Forum, a Seed Sowing Forum and a Vegetable Forum here on GW where you can get info on growing tomatoes from seed.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked mnwsgal
  • mnwsgal

    Dang the rest of my post disappeared. Must have hit it wrong while editing to add the link above. If you search in the box at the top of page you will find many links with posts about ws tomatoes in your zone. I will ws mine in a week or two but you can do it now. Some in your area sow tomatoes in late Feb-March.

    i direct sow cucumbers and zucchini when the soil warms here in late May as they germinate easily and grow quickly.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked mnwsgal
  • Campanula UK Z8

    I sow my tomatoes in spring (March 14th to be precise)...and do not consider this to be 'winter sowing' since they will remain under glass until around the second week in June. I also sow many, if not most, of my hardy plants when I get them...which, if saving for myself, can be as early as June (green primula seeds) and can be sown in every month of the year except for July. My most common mistake relates to summer watering...a bit of a nightmare with hundreds of 1st year and second year seedlings plus freshly sown seeds so the whole gamut of generous daily watering to keeping dormant seeds barely damp.


    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked Campanula UK Z8
  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a

    This is my first year sowing so I did put some annuals in jugs outside so I will consider them my winter sowings. I am going to continue to put seeds in jugs and put them outside in my yard so that I do not have to harden off any plants that grow and my seeds will be protected from the birds and squirrels in their little greenhouses. I would love to do the set up that some do here in their homes with seeds and lights but I do not have the area or sunlight in the basement for that at this time. I just want to see what grows and how many flowers that I won't have to buy this year. I will do direct sowing of my vegetable because it seems that is the best way for the ones i am planning to grow. Good luck to all!!

  • Campanula UK Z8

    Lovely post Patti. Have a hugely enjoyable adventure in gardening. Raising plants is life affirming and thrilling...however we do it.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked Campanula UK Z8
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    Just one other point, Patti, Campanula and I garden in a place where few home gardeners have lights or fancy setups. You can sow tomatoes indoors and then grow them to transplant size on a sunny windowsill or in a glazed porch. Brits do it all the time to get around our long cool springs. I have zucchini, basil and tomatoes germinating in my kitchen right now.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a

    Floral - I think I will try some tomato and zucchini seeds this weekend inside and see how they do. The worse thing that can happen is that they wont germinate. I have never grown from seed because in Chicago we have a short growing season but this year I decided to try. I have been reading so many folks input from all around different areas on the forum for a few years now so I think I have the knowledge to try growing from seed. I love gardening and I hope to share some flower seedlings and veggies with my sisters for their homes and families. Thanks for the input.

  • mnwsgal

    Starting seed inside 4-6 weeks before transplanting outside works well for me.

    re annuals ws now, they should germinate and grow well though the blooming time will be later. Some prefer early blooming so start some annuals inside. One of the first years I ws annuals in April and planted out late May. Then I was gone for a month and returned to mature plants full of blooms. Being gone I missed that in between time of no blooms. Other years I started some annuals inside so there was bloom during June. Since summer is so short here one hates to have a month of little or no bloom at the start.

    As this is your first year winter sowing celebrate sowing, germination, transplantation, growth and bloom and note timing to make changes next year.

    I kept a record of sowing and germinating results. Most everything had germinated by May 15 year after year.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked mnwsgal
  • xiangirl zone 4/5 Nebraska

    Please post your results, too. I'm in zone 5. My wintersowing has never been spectacular--more error than celebration. The good results are wonderful, though.

    I can't imagine a zucchini seed NOT germinating!

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked xiangirl zone 4/5 Nebraska
  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a

    I will keep track of my success, if any. So far no seedlings have appeared yet in any of my bottles outside. The Chicago weather can be crazy and it didn't help that we have had snow the last 2 days here in Chicago. All the bottles are full of condensation so they aren't dry at all. Everyone in the city is patiently waiting for come spring weather. Boots and winter clothing have become the norm. I cant seem to find the time to start my indoor seeds but I have promised myself I wont go past this weekend without getting them planted. I never have enough hours in the day...

  • caryltoo Z7/SE PA

    I'm zone 7 (borderline 6) and I put my tomato seeds (in their jugs, of course) outside in late Feb. or early March. They'll come up when it gets warm enough. One year when it was particularly warm they came up in March. This year (cold) only a few have sprouted as of this past week. I've got all kinds of sprouts for marigolds, petunia and the perennials like hollyhock and lupine as well as cabbage and lettuce.

    Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a thanked caryltoo Z7/SE PA

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