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Keeping containers moist.

Jay 6a Chicago
August 4, 2018

Hi everyone, I have't winter sowed before, but I'm planning on doing it this fall. I read a lot about what containers to use, and how much soil, but I see very little information in how to keep the soil moist. Like, if you use a milk jug and have it taped, do you have to remove the tape to water the soil, or can you just remove the cap and pour water in. I'm thinking that even though the soil is moist when you put the containers outside, that it could still dry out, because of the holes for ventilation.

Comments (15)
  • Skip1909

    My milk jugs didnt dry out at all after the first watering. All the rain and snow took care of them.

    Jay 6a Chicago thanked Skip1909
  • Jay 6a Chicago

    I was hoping that was the case.

  • PVick

    ditto what skip said. but ... if you put holes on the bottom of the jug, you could bottom-water if the need arose.

    Jay 6a Chicago thanked PVick
  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Duh, that would do it wouldn't it. Thanks! Problem now solved thanks to skip and PVick! :)

  • PVick

    Jay, just noticed something in your original comment. With winter sowing, caps are OFF!

    Jay 6a Chicago thanked PVick
  • Jay 6a Chicago

    You mean with milk jugs? Do you still need to punch holes on the top, or will the cap being off provide enough ventilation? Just want to make sure I'm doing things right the first time. I've cooked plenty of seedlings in germination trays that I set outside. lol

  • PVick

    Yup, with milk jugs. The cap is off. You don't really have to put holes in the top (your choice), only on the sides/bottom. But caps are definitely off!

    Here's a link (if you haven't already seen this):

    Prepping Milk jugs

    And another:

    Prepping Milk jugs 2

    PV

    Jay 6a Chicago thanked PVick
  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a

    I winter sowed for the first time this year and I will say that I never had to water the seedlings until late spring when the plants are growing. I do not think I put enough seeds in the gallon jugs though. I thought I would get better plants by only putting four or five seeds to a gallon. I should have started earlier too but due to my hubby’s stroke I had no time. I will try again. It was a great experience. It is just remarkable to watch them grow. I had trouble with geraniums, they were so small and the begonias never did come up but everything else is just thriving. The coleus is beautiful and so are my salvia.

    I planted them in a foil pan and by the time I transferred them to pots I was too afraid to separate them.

    Jay 6a Chicago thanked Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a
  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Patti, thanks for sharing your experience. It means a lot because we are in the same area. I have a question. Your beautiful Coleus seed doesn't need cold treatment. Did you winter sow them in fall, with any seeds that do need cold treatment, or did you winter sow the Coleus at a later date? I don't have a clue as to what you're growing, could all be tropicals for all I know. Does anyone know of any tropical plant species that produce seeds that should not allowed to have cold, wet conditions?

  • Patti ~ Chicago Zone 5/6a

    Jay, I did not do anything to the seeds, just planted them in seedling mix. I also think I should have used a bit more mix in the gallons. I was careful to follow directions from the internet on the gallon jugs. I only did annuals this year. Next year I will try to get them done sooner so that the plants are sturdier when transplanting. I never watered all winter. When I did water in the spring I tried to water from the bottom so not to disturb anything. I did not tryto sow any tropical plants if that is what you are asking. Give it a try this winter and see what you think. Of course when I ordered seeds I ordered enough for my entire block to plant so next year I will try the ones I didn’t get planted this year. My only question is how long does the seeds last? I may have to donate them if I don’t get them used.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    It's best to store your seeds in the fridge. They last a lot longer that way. I saw your Coleus, and I consider those tropical because they come from tropical South America. A lot of garden annuals come from more tropical areas, and a lot of them would behave as the true perennials they are if growing in warmer areas like Florida. Thanks for all your info Patti, it really helps.

  • PVick

    Jay - tropicals (such as coleus) can be sown using the "WS method", but in the warmer spring months; you would have to be more mindful of heat build-up and/or drying out of the soil. I (used to) garden on a high-rise terrace, in containers. One tropical I grew from seed was albutilon - flowering maple. I believe I sowed the seed in April, and saw the first flower bud in early July.

    Flowering Maple

    I started winter sowing in 2001; I've grown all kinds of plants - flowers, vegetables, trees, annuals, perennials - using the method. The ease of it can lead to obsession. Poor health curtailed my gardening, but I do still have a few things out there that come up reliably every year.

    If you have some time to kill, take a look: Flickr albums

    The best advice for winter sowing - don't overthink it.

    PV

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    PV, I'm experiencing the poor health, curtailed gardening thing too. That's why I want to winter sow. My beds have so many weed and flower seeds stored up in the soil bank, that any seeds I plant will have to compete with a bunch of other things and I'll end up with hardly nothing. Anyways, you just confirmed, what I was thinking was the way to do tropicals, zinnias, cosmos, mexican sunflowers, ect. I have a powerful indoor lighting system. There are some plants I'll be growing under those, starting in November. Thanks for the tip about making sure they get enough water. That will stick in my head. I always thought Abutilons would be trouble starting from seed. There's a couple plants that I've failed with in the past, that might do better if early spring sowed. Eccremocarpus, and Assarina. For the hummingbirds.

  • deannatoby

    Also, not sure if this was clear above, but ALWAYS put holes in the bottom of the jug. Caps off, holes in bottom. I had a couple of jugs that I forgot to put holes in and the water pooled up inside the jug. Big slushy mess. Holes can be any size as long as they are big enough for water to drain easily. Bottom watering is excellent when seedlings are young or seeds aren't sprouted. I often put more than one seed in a container, such as a different type in each half of the jug, and if one sprouts first, bottom watering allows the first seedlings to get water while the other seeds are waiting to sprout without washing away the unsprouted seeds.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Yes, drainage holes in the bottom of all containers, is pretty much a no brainer for me now. I've rotted enough seeds and seedlings to learn my lesson. :)

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