This Imbolc, we honor Brigid by welcoming spring even if the groundhog does not comply! Imbolc traditionally marks the beginning of Spring, as it is the halfway mark between Yule and Ostara (the Spring Equinox).
Our favorite Imbolc ritual is the early planting of seeds. We typically start seeds that have slower germination and growing cycles or seeds that need special conditions in order to sprout, like stratification or scarring. We start perennials, flowers and herbs now and save the tender annuals until later.
This year, we decided to try something new. Winter sowing! Following Mother Nature always feels like the right thing to do and this is no exception. In nature, plants will fruit or flower, then produce seed which will fall to the ground, overwinter under the leaf mold then germinate at it’s natural time in the spring. In the ground outside, they will experience many freeze/thaw cycles, which will naturally prepare the seeds for germination. When the soil temperature warms, the seeds burst open with new life! This is the way nature will “stratify” seeds. With winter sowing, there is no need to stratify or nick seeds to force them to germinate.
There are different ways to winter sow. This year, I tried 2. In the fall, I sowed seed directly into my flowerbeds, tucking them in under the leaf mulch for the winter. Today, we sowed indoors. This is what we did!
- Cut old water bottles in half, leaving a small part connected. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage. You may also use flats or other plastic containers, I used some mushroom boxes as well. You still need to drill holes in the bottom for drainage, and cover them with plastic and poke air holes.
- Moisten your soil (I used Fox Farm Ocean Floor Blend) and add about 3 inches to your jugs. You want your soil to have the moistness of a wrung out sponge. I used Fox Farm potting soil because it was what we had on hand. You can use any type of potting soil you want. Ideally, you would use your own garden soil; this would ensure the least amount of transplant shock. Although seaweed water will help with that (transplant shock) as well as a spritz of rescue remedy…
- Sow your seeds, cover lightly with soil (following depth on your seed packet) and tamp down gently.
- Water lightly.
- Insert your plant marker so you remember what you planted. I used popsicle sticks and a sharpie. Be creative!
- Seal your container with duct tape.
- I wrote in sharpie on the outside, too. This will likely fade by the time I go to plant them.
- Leave the lid off for proper air circulation.
- Place containers outside in an area that gets good morning sun but will not catch the run off from your roof or be vulnerable to animals.
- Check on them when you have your first good thaw. They may need water.
You can see, it is a fairly messy project! We love to play in the dirt here, so plan accordingly for your own comfort!
I followed instructions for this project from the winter sowers facebook page. They hold a wealth of information and are extremely helpful! Trudi Greissle Davidoff, from Winter Sowers says “amazingly, just when Winter is about to break, and you’re still getting nightly freezes, the first of your flats will begin to germinate. When I saw this I thought that the seedlings were goners, but they thrived. The seeds know when it’s safe to come up; it’s part of their genetics.”
That’s it! I will let you know in the Spring if we were successful! Share your experiences with winter sowing! Perhaps if we all hold spring in our hearts, we can over rule that mean groundhog!