My winter gardening in zone 5 consists of windowsill gardening, a pallet garden that hangs on the wall and starting my first seeds for my spring and summer gardens. These would be vine and perennial seeds.
When I set my indoor garden areas up I try to plan for spring with the thought of moving as much of my winter gardening outdoors when the weather improves. It’s easy to move containers and the pallet garden to a protected porch but the small seedlings need to grow and gain strength before I move them to a cold frame or garden area.
This years windowsill garden is mainly herbs and a few greens. I have just cut the lettuce crop back and plan to start a few new varieties. A few Pok Choy seeds were just started and I plan to re-root the basil. I cut back my basil plants every 3 weeks and if they get scraggly looking I re-root a small section of the plant in water and create a new healthy plant.
The pallet garden was a mix of flowers in the early fall, herb and greens. As the winter season moved along I switched to radishes, onions, herbs and greens. I am just adding new varieties of herbs to the pallet and in about three weeks I will be able to move the gardening outside. I plan to place it on a table frame and cover it at night. The herbs should handle the cooler night easily but to cut back on climate shock I will tent the pallet with plastic about 5 pm and leave it covered until morning. Hay or straw will be placed under the pallet table to prevent air currents and add additional heat.
Cool Season Gardening tip: I use clear milk jugs filled with water to add more heat to a covered garden area. Set the milk jug about 3 inches into the soil to help get heat from the ground. The sun will capture heat during the day and warm and this additional heat source will add enough heat during the night to keep your plants warm.
And my final gardening with seeds is two fold.
I use the plastic jug method for older seeds where I am not sure of their viability. I place sterile seed starter soil in a milk jug that has been cut in half. I water the soil lightly , plant the seed and mark the milk jug well for variety. The milk jug is taped together then I set it outdoors in northern lighting and ignore it. Being sealed the seed has additional heat and is almost in a mini greenhouse environment. Nature plays it part and when its warm enough the seeds will sprout. This method will use less soil and space for seeds that may not sprout as well. Depending on the age of seed my success rate is 30 to 80%.
My other seeds are started by standard rules of gardening. Vines 3 to 6 months ahead of the last frost, annuals 8 to ten weeks ahead and veggies 4 to 8 weeks ahead. Your best guide is to read the back of the seed packet and follow their directions.
PS: For tomato plants I break the rules. This is only because I want monster 2 foot plants to set out in the spring. If you interested here is is my method, the gardeners rake re-potting method. Only use it if you have good lighting and plan to spend more time on your plants. Tomatoes are usually started 8 weeks before the last frost.
Have a great new gardening season, Denise from The Gardener’s Rake