Winter Sown Update #4

Winter sowing brassicas

Greetings, friends! How is it that another week has already flown by? I can hardly believe that we’re already more than halfway through February.

If you’re late to the party and don’t know what the heck I’m doing with milk jugs, other recyclables, and seeds in the middle of winter, you can read this post to catch up on my winter sowing experiment. Otherwise, let’s jump right in!

Last week brought snow and rain, but fortunately all the snow has since melted. On Sunday night I sowed my brassicas: three varieties of cabbage (green, red, and megaton) and some collards (yellow cabbage from Baker Creek). I used some take-out salad containers, a large grape tomatoes container that already had holes in it, and a random food container that I covered with an upside down potato salad container. It was quick work, and my DIY plant tags are already a lifesaver.

Winter sown containers on the deck

We are now up to a total of 19 winter-sown containers. I guess I’m going all in, huh? I’m pretty excited and optimistic, and it’s definitely helped with how stir-crazy for spring I’ve been feeling. As always, you can check out the Winter Sowers Facebook group for inspiration and help if you’re interested in joining the winter sowing fun.

In unrelated news, I took advantage of warmer weather on Sunday to to plant a new rose. My thoughtful husband got me a gift card to a local nursery for my birthday, and I picked out a David Austin “Jude the Obscure” English shrub rose. It’d been hanging out in our garage for a few weeks until the weather warmed up enough for me to plant it, and Sunday proved the perfect opportunity. It seems quite happy in its new home and will have lots of time to get its roots settled before the summer heat begins.

David Austin "Jude the Obscure" rose

And since the weather is getting progressively warmer, I’m just itching to get my dahlia tubers in the ground. I did my monthly check on them last weekend and they seem to be in good shape. However, I’ve come to the realization that I might not have as much room in the garden as I thought — I might have to make a dahlia-specific plot this year for my rapidly growing “collection.”  But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it!

I’ll see you all next week for another update in the exciting world of winter sowing — in the meantime, stay warm!

Winter Sown Update #3

Greetings, friends! We woke up to snow on Tuesday morning, and with a delayed office start time at my work, I decided to take advantage of the plunging temperature and get my poppies sown since they need a period of cold stratification.

I picked up these food storage containers from the Dollar Tree the day before (good timing, right?) and drilled some holes in them. They worked out pretty well, but I definitely want to stick to reusing as much as possible.

The varieties I chose were mother of pearl, Flemish antique, red oriental, and Park’s peony mix. In spring they will be carefully transplanted in clumps since poppies don’t like their roots disturbed.

It was a delight to see all my containers outside with a layer of snow on them! I felt like I was finally a “real”  winter sower! (You can check out the Winter Sowers group on Facebook for lots of impressive pictures of others’ snow-covered winter sown containers.)

And then over the weekend I had another sowing session — with yet more snow! I used a few more of those Dollar Tree containers plus a milk jug — I like these ones from Costco quite a bit because they’re taller than the standard milk jug.

For my second session of the week, I sowed artichoke, Swiss chard (peppermint and regular), and kale (red Russian and curly).

I’m now up to a total of 15 containers on our deck. At this point I’m obsessively sorting and resorting my seed packets, partly because I’m going stir crazy and partly because I want to be as organized and streamlined as possible. I’m hoping to put in my last two seed orders this week and get my collards and cabbages sown. I’m also beginning to seriously think about how I want to start my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants indoors, because it’s getting to be about that time… Lots of exciting things to think about, even if it feels like spring will never arrive.

Well, that’s all for this last week’s winter sown update — I’ll see you again next week!

DIY Plant Tags From Old Mini-Blinds

1

If you’ve been following along with my winter sowing adventure, then you probably know that I’ve been labeling my milk jugs with a Sharpie. I’ve been mildly worried about this since we get so much rain here in the Pacific Northwest — if the rain washes off the marker, I’ll be in quite the predicament come spring when I’m trying to transplant a bunch of mystery seedlings.

As many of you also know, I absolutely loathe buying anything brand new — and gardening gear is no exception. So when I was scrolling through posts on the Winter Sowers Facebook group and I saw someone mention making plant tags out of old mini-blinds, I knew I had to try it.

So I hopped on over to our Habitat for Humanity ReStore and promptly found a box of vinyl mini-blinds for $6. Score! And just in time for my second batch of winter sowing.

23

Being careful not to cut the string (so the slats wouldn’t come tumbling off), I cut off 5-inch sections of vinyl slats, then cut a point on one end. I got 5 tags from one slat, and with 74 slats total, I calculated that this one mini-blind will yield 370 plant tags. What a deal!

Label these with a pencil, and the water won’t wash the writing away. You could even reuse these for other plants in the future — just use an eraser and then relabel with pencil. I plan on making a bunch of these to label my dahlias as well.

And there you have it — an easy project that you can do while watching TV in the evening! If you’re in need of some plant tags, I hope you give this a try — and let me know how they turn out if you do.

Happy sowing!

Winter Sown Update #2

1

This last weekend’s batch of winter sown seeds included milkweed, rhubarb, delphinium, miniature roses, and foxglove. I’m hoping this method will give me a plethora of perennials for the side garden, which I’ll be giving a major cottage-style overhaul this spring and summer.

As you can probably spy in the picture, I also have some plant tags now! In my last winter sowing post, I mentioned I was hoping to DIY some tags from mini-blinds, and I was able to find a box of blinds at the Re-Store last week for $6. I’ll share the details soon!

The plant markers went into the containers before taping them shut, and my current winter-sown group now looks like this, for a total of 11 containers:

2

Sorry for the poor light; I didn’t realize how late it was getting (and cold — once again I could barely feel my fingers by the time I was done). We got a little snow already this week and might get a little more in the next few days. It’s is pretty rare for our zone, but it shouldn’t affect the winter sown seeds. I’ll see you next week for another update!

The Red Wigglers Have Arrived!

1

If you know me in real life (outside the Internet), then you’ll know I’ve been talking about my worm bin nonstop for the past couple weeks. Composting is something I’ve become rather passionate about over the last year or so, and after mulling it over for a while (and devouring Mary Appelhof’s Worms Eat My Garbage), I decided it was finally time to take the plunge into vermicomposting.

But, why?

Well, many reasons. Namely, our current compost setup is an open pile, and it’s harder to manage in the winter. I don’t really like going out in the rain (in the dark, after work) to bury the compost and turn the pile, and so the compost ends up piling up in containers in our kitchen. Also, an open pile can attract pests (which is why I always bury the compost, but it’s still something that nags in the back of my mind).

So last weekend I got to work assembling a worm bin. I’ve lugged these two Rubbermaid bins around for years — dorm room after dorm room, apartment to apartment, and now our first house — that I thought it was time to use them for something more than storing miscellaneous things.

The blue bin is 20 gallons, and the lower one is 18, so the blue one nests snugly inside the gray one, keeping it slightly elevated off the ground. In the blue one, I drilled holes around the rim, in the lid, and some in the bottom for drainage. The gray bin will collect whatever moisture accumulates.

And the best part… it cost $0 to make. The only thing I paid for was the worms, which I ordered through Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. I ordered a pound of red wigglers, which is about 1,000 composting worms. It seems like a lot, but the bag was surprisingly not that big when it arrived!

3

I originally set the bin on our back porch, where it would be easily accessible and in a sheltered location. But with the temperature getting low at night, I worried about the worms dying, so the bin is now in one of our spare bedrooms until outside temperatures begin to warm up.

I’m having a hard time not checking on the worms every day just because I’m so excited, but I’m trying my best to leave them alone so they can get settled — and get to work turning our kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings for my garden. Hooray for vermicomposting!