Home » Backyard Garden » A Guide to Winter Sowing {Starting Seeds in Winter}

A Guide to Winter Sowing {Starting Seeds in Winter}

Winter sowing involves sowing the seeds outdoors in miniature greenhouses during the winter, allowing them to germinate naturally in spring.

Various vegetable seeds scattered on a table and ready for planting in a winter sow milk jug.

Results of a recent social media poll showed 96% of people who start their plants from seed do so by following the instructions on the back of the packet. They sow seeds in pots in sunny windows 6-8 weeks before the last frost. It makes sense that you would follow the directions, but what if there were an easier and much better way to get those seedlings started?

Today we are going to talk about Winter Sowing. If you’re starting your first-ever veggie garden, this is the easiest way to get started.

What is Winter Sowing?

The idea behind winter sowing is that you sow the seeds outdoors in miniature greenhouses during the winter, allowing them to germinate naturally during the spring. If you live in a northern climate and have snow, this method works even better because the melt adds all the moisture your seeds need. An added bonus to winter sowing over traditional methods: No period of hardening off plants! My biggest downfalls in seedlings are forgetting to water them or over-watering them and then forgetting to bring them in at night when I’m hardening off the plants. This method is perfect for me.

How to Sow Seeds in Winter

So, how does one winter sow? Easily!  You need a plastic container to put your seeds in. Some things that work well are large plastic jugs (like the ones pretzels come in), 2-liter soda bottles, or clear plastic take-out containers. As long as it will hold 3-4 inches of soil, it will work.

My personal favorite is to use milk jugs.  With their shape, you can squeeze a bunch together and if you save caps/lids, you can regulate watering during heavy spring rains. I will show you how to use a milk jug, but the same rules apply to other containers. First, you need to put drainage holes in the bottom and sides. Being somewhat OCD, I like to do three holes, shaped like a triangle, in each of the four “sections” of the bottom. You also want to place three or four holes about 1/4 – 1/2″ up on the sides. I use the transition of textured plastic to smooth plastic as a guide. There is no set rule as to the size of the hole, but I used a 1/8th drill bit.

I have a helpful hint for you when you are making your greenhouses that my husband shared with me (I’m not sure where he gets his wisdom, but 4 containers later, I was singing his praises). Before drilling holes, fill your container with water and pop it in the freezer or outside until it’s frozen solid. This prevents your container from collapsing when you push the drill bit against it.

Winter sowing involves sowing the seeds outdoors in miniature greenhouses during the winter, allowing them to germinate naturally during the spring.

After you have all your drain holes in place, you need to make a hinged lid. I used the bottom of my handle as a guide, but with any container, you want your lid to be high enough to allow for 3-4″ of soil. Using a sharp knife and plenty of safety measures, cut across the container, leaving about an inch uncut. This will create a hinge.

Planting in Your Milk Jug

Once you have your greenhouse made, all you do is prepare the soil and seeds. Add your soil and wet it well. Let it drain out the holes you made until the soil is damp, but not soaked. Add your seeds according to the packet as far as depth and spacing (though I fudge the spacing and have typically done okay). When you are done, just duct tape the lid closed, remove the cap and label the outside of the carton with the plant name. If you are using a container that doesn’t have a cap, make sure to put some holes in the top so rain and snow can enter the container.

Placing Your Mini Greenhouses

Once you have everything planted it’s time to put on your snow boots and jacket to get your greenhouses to their proper place outdoors. The only considerations for placement are that you want your containers to get rain, so don’t put them where they’re under an overhang, and they will need sunlight come spring, so if you can place them in a sunny place now, you won’t have to move them later. I put them right smack in the middle of the front yard.

Because the milk cartons are white, they hardly show up and after a snow, no one will know they are there. On that note, if you have small children, you may want to mark the area somehow so no one crushes your greenhouses while building a snowman.

When to Start Your Seeds

This schedule is based on my Maine growing zone, 5b.


  • Perennial Flowers
  • Hardy Annual Flowers
  • Brussels Sprouts


  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro


  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Bok Choy
  • Beets


  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Peppers

Click Here for zone-specific planting schedules and answers to several FAQs.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t wait for the last frost. Don’t spend hours counting backward. Go throw some seeds in milk cartons and toss them out in the yard. You’ll thank me in the spring.

Recommended Reading:

Winter Gardening for Beginners by Lindsey Pylarinos
The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

See more milk jug upcycling ideas here and don’t miss one of our most popular upcycling posts, 22 New Uses for Old Pill Bottles.

Winter sowing involves sowing the seeds outdoors in miniature greenhouses during the winter, allowing them to germinate naturally during the spring.

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  1. I love the idea.
    However, there are only so many plastic containers I can put out. What about building some sort of easy/inexpensive greenhouse instead? Similar idea but on a bigger scale? It would be easier. Any plans anywhere for such greenhouses?
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    I live in southern Michigan and my zone is 6. I started my winter sowing at the beginning of February and we’ve had a few really nice days here and in a few milk jugs I’m seeing small bits of green. Yay!! Today, March 20th I planted a second batch of seeds only to find out my weather forecast says we are going to get some really cold nights for about a week or so. So now I’m panicking. Should I bring my jugs indoors on the cold nights that dip below freezing? Michigan springs can be so frustrating.

  3. Hi, I’m in northern Utah, I think zone 6b. I want to first THANK YOU for posting some seed/plant names that are flowers or edible that most people plant. The first time I heard about this method the author only listed seeds that are rare herbal/flower/shrub types of things. So thanks!

    Second, should I use regular potting soil? Or the soil I put in my big raised bed containers, which is heavily composted soil?

    Third, mulch? Or is it not necessary because of the greenhouse effect of the jug?

    Fourth, we only put the milk jug lid on in the event of snow or rain, then take it off afterwards?

    Thank you so much!

  4. Do you have to transplant from the milk containers when the ground is warm? Will something like Brussel sprouts grow to full size in that small space?

  5. Heather V. says:

    Hi Jessica! Was just reading through your article and I saw the spot where you said the planting schedule is based off your growing zone (5b – same as me). It proceeds to list out certain plants under specific months. Just want to clarify that the plants/month specification is when they get “winter sown” outside in the plastic make-shift greenhouses. Example: March: Lettuce, Carrots, Basil, Parsley, Bok Choy, Beets; and April: Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers. I’d love to do this to start my garden this year. I’m a complete newbie and want to be as successful as possible. Appreciate your guidance!!

  6. I used this method years ago with great success. I thought of it again last winter and started some annual flowers this way. Milk jugs are always my go to and it still surprises me how easy and effective it is. 100% success rate and glad you shared it so more people give it a try!

    1. claire Wallick says:

      Do you have a suggestion for something other than plastic milk jugs? I don’t use these or buy milk (in gallon containers). could i use plastic bags? old plastic plant containers?

      1. I gathered a bunch of milk jugs from my transfer station the other day. From what I understand, the milk jugs are strong enough to hold up if you get a heavy snow.

      2. Do you have family, friends, neighbors who do have these jugs available? Most would be thrilled to share!!

  7. I’m going to try this. I grow a garden every year, but having a head start will be great! Thanks!

  8. David goldenberg says:


    I’m new to winter sowing I’m in zone 6-7… I wintersowed 42 gallon jugs since Late dec.
    Cornflowers, delphinium, monkshood, morning glory, larkspur , hollyhock etc…
    It’s now early feb I looked in them from above today and it appears that the cornflowers are starting to sprout ??
    What do I do now? Just leave them be? Take them out? Will they die? There’s still a few months of winter.


    David G

  9. i have also used milk jugs but not for winter sowing..im planning to try that right now..
    my husband came up with a much more efficent idea for putting drain holes..there is no need to fill containers w water & freeze them
    i take a metal BBQ skewer ( like for kabobs) and heat that on the stove it punches the holes much easier..I also heat a knife to cut them.
    a little heat saves alot of work

    1. I use my glue gun to melt holes in the containers. It works very nicely.

  10. With as much milk as we go through I can definitely start saving jugs today so I can give this a whirl! Thank you.

  11. This will be my Second year trying Winter Sowing , and I can’t Wait ! Last year I used Gal.empty Water Jugs X 4 , planted Perenial Flower seeds and had Great Results ! I’ve saved 10 Jugs so far and will start this week, placing them on the Sunny Side of the House . Forgeting about them last Winter , then discovering them in the Spring was such a Pleasant Surprise !!!

    1. Guess I don’t understand, where do you place the jugs?

      1. Anonymous says:

        Bury them in snow on a sunny side

        1. I’m confused! How do you keep the plants from freezing?

      2. Jessica Lane says:

        Hi Lori! You put the jugs outdoors, right in the snow (if you have snow in your area). They don’t start sprouting until the weather warms up and then they act like little greenhouses to keep the seedlings from getting too cold.

        1. Kelley Minor says:

          How do I adjust for zone 4b weather?

  12. How can you transplant root vegetables like carrots and beets so that they will still grow straight.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You are moving them early enough in the seedling phase that it doesn’t tend to be a problem. At that stage of growth they will redirect their roots down. Just make sure not to smoosh the root.

  13. The area where we live is horribly windy, especially in winter and spring. I’m concerned that the containers will get blown away or just blown over. There are no good protected areas, either. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      It may be too windy for this trick, but I’ve lined the bottoms with rocks before adding soil. That helps with drainage as well. If you are worried that won’t be enough, can you get a hay bale or something to create a wind block?

      1. SHARON MOAKE says:

        I have this concern as well but plan on putting the milk jugs in my raised beds 🙂

        1. I have mine against the side of my raised bed. They are sitting still in this morning’s 20mph plus winds!

    2. put four milk jugs in a plastic milk crate (or any appropriate-size container with plenty of holes to drain water). Easy to move around and keeps the jugs from being blown around.

    3. How about sticking a long dowel through the top down into the ground to hold it on place

  14. Maria Swetz says:

    I tried this in my raised beds with 2 liter pop bottle cloches and had no luck at all. Was it because it needs to be a closed system do you think

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Yeah, cloches aren’t quite as protecting. I think it’s important it be contained.

  15. Cynthia Schuster says:

    I’m confused as far as transplanting the plants. Do you? And how do you?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Yes, we transplant just like you would with traditional starts. You can use a small garden scoop to remove them. I find it easiest to just use my fingers to pull out the seedlings.

  16. What is the coldest temperature this will work with – I live in Zone 3b so need to know how soon I could try this 🙂

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I have a feeling it would work in 3b, since seeds don’t germinate until they get the “spring” cues from nature. I don’t know enough about growing in your area to say confidently what your planting timeline would be.

  17. Carmen Ross says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have read a lot of tips from other website, but yours is one of my favorite. I am in zone 9b glendale Arizona , i dont see the schedule here.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’m sure you can winter sow in such a warm climate, but I don’t know enough to give actual dates and planting guides. I tried googling for information for your area, and came up short.

  18. Could you use 1/2 gallon paper milk cartons the same way? I think it might work as well

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You could use those for indoor seed starting, but not winter sowing. They are opaque and wouldn’t allow the sun in.

    2. Actually I’ve seen what Susan is talking about. The way I’ve seen these done is by laying the carton down on its side, cutting the top out and cover it with the plastic from a ziploc bag. You can tape that on just the same, but you’ll need vent holes. Might be worth a try for me too because we never have any gallon milk jugs. But I think vinegar jugs are good too.

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        Okay, that makes sense. I was imagining cutting it the same way and couldn’t see how that would work. I love the idea of a vinegar bottle. That would hold some good sized seedlings.

  19. anna@greentalk says:

    This is brilliant. I was going to sow seeds into my raised beds early winter especially for those seeds that need a chill. I like your idea better since I won’t have to hunt for the seeds in the spring.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You are going to love this technique. It’s almost completely fool-proof.

  20. This is a great idea! I’m going to do this for next year!

    Thanks again for sharing with Green Thumb Thursday!


  21. Hmm this is very interesting. I’m definitely going to give this a try. This would be great since I often run out of room under my plant lights inside! Personally, I don’t like transplanting from pot that has more than one or two plants in it. I’m afraid to break all of the little roots that are all tangled together. Do you think that using little individual pots inside the milk carton would work?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You certainly can. The concept is to create a mini greenhouse. My only small concern with plant pots is that cold air can seep around the soil, opposed to when it’s a block, it warms a bit faster. It may cause delays in your seedlings, but not by any major amount.

    2. try using toilet roll inner tubes inside milk cartoons
      folded flat then flat again so there square then cut in half
      so u have 2 square pots easy to sow and replant into the garden in spring
      no disturbing roots cardboard composts away

    3. Colleen Jerns says:

      If you want to keep you plants separated for easier transplanting, why not insert cut toilet paper tubes. Cut each tube in half and insert in the soil in the jug. Sow your seeds in each tube. Place two or three seeds in each tube. You can thin when you transplant.

  22. I would love to use this article as a link. We are homeschoolers, and are trying this method for our gardening unit. Pretty please, may we link?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Absolutely! Thank you so much Jodie 🙂

  23. laura mccubbin says:

    Love this idea! Question, do you keep the cap on or off?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Cap off so the rain can water them 🙂

      1. laura mccubbin says:

        thanks! I have a ton of these jugs,so I’ll be busy making these this week!

  24. Great idea, thanks! I do have one question. Do you lift the lids on warm days, or leave them taped shut until you’re ready to transplant?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I leave them taped up until I’m ready to put them in the ground, but I do move them in the shade if they seem to be getting a bit toasty.

  25. Teresa Snyder says:

    I used my hot glue gun without any glue to melt the holes in the milk jugs. Worked like a charm!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      That’s a great way to get holes in your carton without hurting yourself. Thanks for sharing!

  26. What a good idea! My seeds normally get killed off because of the cold whether and nothing germinates. Thanks.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You are so welcome!

  27. I live in montana and one day the weather is 60 then is 20 below. My question is : wouldn’t the constant warm and cold trigger germination? Also second question. Can you use these for sweet peppers that need to be in Soil that is 75-80 degrees? Thank you.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Your best bet would be to wait until close to spring, but winter sowing should give you a bit of a head start and you won’t have to worry about hardening them off.

  28. I saw you’re a Maine girl, I am too! 🙂 Shared this on my facebook page.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Welcome Mainer friend! And thanks for sharing 🙂

      1. Shayne Zarkowsky says:

        I am too! Cant wait to try this! So excited to see we can do this here. I want to garden economically and it doesnt get much better than this!

    2. Shayne Zarkowsky says:

      I am too! Cant wait to try this!

  29. I am not sure that planting in plastic is safe because of the leaching out of the chemicals. I usually start my plants in peat pots. Do you have any information on this subject?

  30. I assume that the milk jugs need to be the clear (soda type), or semi transparent sort (water type), not the white ones (milk type), correct?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      As long as it isn’t opaque, you should be find. You are correct, though, that those light-block bottles won’t work.

      1. So we cannot use the regular milk jugs then? They need to be mostly clear? Also so the seed just freezes in the wet soil and then in when it starts to warm up, it thaws like the ground outside does?

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Correct and correct. Light block bottles won’t work since they do just that, block light. Standard “milky” milk bottles work just fine though. As far as the seeds freezing, that’s okay. The idea behind this method is that the seeds take their cue from nature and begin sprouting when nature says it’s time. They start sooner than they would normally because your container heats up like a mini greenhouse.

  31. LOVE the idea!! Will work excellent here in cold Norway. 🙂

    1. I don’t know much about gardening in Norway, but cold and snow are no problem with this method. Make sure you swing by on Thursday when I talk about how to winter sow for the various gardening zones. I’m not sure if yours work the same way or if they are a US thing, but it should give you some direction.

  32. The easy way to make holes in plastic is poking it with hot soldering iron. That’s what I do anyway.

    1. Why did I never think of that. Great idea!

      1. Or the tip of a hot glue gun.

  33. narel hebb says:

    how many seeds do you, put in the milk jug and what time of the year would I plant, we live in Thomas,Wv

  34. I was wondering how difficult it is to transfer The plants from the container into the garden without damaging them? Have you ever tried peat cups to plant in?

  35. How many seeds per milk jug? Do I use the whole packet?

  36. <3 this idea!! I've decided this year to just grow heirloom veggies so I can save the seeds and know there are no GMO addititves. I plan on getting the containers I've been saving for cloches and use them now to start my seeds. What a wonderful site! Thanks for sharing and answering all our questions. 🙂

  37. I really think im gonna give this a try. Sure would take alot of stress off of me! Thank you! Sooo glad i found you

  38. I really think im gonna give this a try. Sure would take alot of stress off of me! Thank you! Sooo glad i found you

  39. Erin Schmidt says:

    This will help so much as I have cats that eat all my seedlings that I start inside. I love that you dont have to harden the plants. I also deal with high winds most of the time. Going to have to get creative on how to keep them from blowing away. I need to look up my zone. Central KS. Ill be checking back on Thursday! Thanks!

    1. Cats and small children are the reason I was instantly drawn to this method.

    2. I would put some rocks in the bottom of the milk cartons, and then the soil, to help keep them stable in the wind!

  40. Stephanie says:

    What kind of soil do you use? Do you purchase a bag from the store? My ground is too frozen to dig anything!
    I’m excited to try this!

    1. I buy starting soil from Home Depot. I keep planning to store soil from my garden and creating my own mix, but I haven’t done it yet.

  41. Want to try this but live in southwest New Mexico. Any ideas on my zone.

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  42. What about super cold nights? In February, we normally have a few 20 below zero or colder nights – won’t this kill the seeds before they can germinate?

    1. They are protected in their little greenhouse. Before they begin germinating (which is triggered naturally by the warming weather), they are dormant, so no harm will come to them.

  43. I live in Northern BC zone 2b . I am wondering if we can do this here as well. Our winters are pretty cold and smow is usually gone by May. We usually don’t plant until Mid May.

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  44. you never really explain what to do with the lids. could you please elaborate?

    1. Sorry I didn’t elaborate. You remove the caps to allow for the rain and snow to water the soil inside.

  45. Last Fall, I made a hoop tunnel garden (3′ x 15′ x 20’+). What would you suggest for planting seeds in this?

    Last season, I had volunteer tomato plants in my garden, that sprouted the same time I was planting purchased plants from dealers. Both plants produced tomatoes at the same time, making me wonder why I spent $$$ on the larger plants. This year, I will plant more interesting tomato seeds. I am so looking foward to planting your way. Thanx much!

    1. You can certainly start plants and seeds earlier when you use a plastic hoop setup. Not knowing the specifics of your growing area, I can’t tell you for sure when a good time to start would be. I would suggest sticking a thermometer in the covered area and tracking the temperatures for a bit.

      1. Liz Davey says:

        I have been doing this for years and it does work well. You can skip the ice and drill if you use an ice pick or awl to make the holes in the top and bottom of your jug. I have also used 1/2 gallon oned, but did not have good luck with quart size as they tip over too easily.

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Great tips Liz! Thanks so much for sharing.

  46. I live in central Mississippi, zone 7 I think. Would like more info. on Winter Sow planting for my area, especially what can be planted and when. Thanks.

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  47. This is awesome!!! We are so very busy with two toddlers and this would eliminate so much stress for us. Two questions:
    1) Can we put all seeds outside at the same time, even though the chart shows different months for different plants? I’m thinking it just means when they could possibly begin germinating, but not sure. (we are in northern NH, so possibly a different zone than yours!)
    2) Can we do this with any seeds? We like a variety of veggies!


    1. Hi fellow New Englander!

      1) You should be safe using the same schedule as I use, since we’re practically neighbors.
      2) You can certainly experiment with different veggies and maybe even fruits. The ones I mentioned are the ones I’ve had success with myself.

  48. i live in NW Georgia. Could I do this? And what and when could I start?

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  49. Does the soil in the carton need to stay damp and be watered occasionally or do you just let it sit and get dry?

    1. Until germination, you don’t need to worry to much. Once the seeds have begun to germinate, you may want to keep an eye on things to make sure they aren’t drying out. The neat thing about this system is that the container maintains a lot of moisture, like a greenhouse.

  50. Make the hinged lid first and then drill through the bottom from the inside while container is sitting on a block of wood. Saves time and trouble with freezing the water.

    Unfortunately, we don’t drink milk nor know anyone who does.

    1. You could use juice containers, take out containers, or even try it with a clear plastic tote or container.

    2. Debra L McLaughlin says:

      You can also use water bottles or soda bottles.

  51. Lisa Samson says:

    I live in NE South Dakota where we are freezing until the end of March, when do you suggest I start here? We don’t plant outside until the middle to the end of May. I really would like to try and plant my own plants but have never done it.

    1. We usually start planting outdoors in the soil around Memorial Day weekend here in Maine. You probably are okay to use the same planting schedule as I do.

  52. I love this idea! One question..we sometimes get really windy days here in Ohio in early spring. Have you had any issues with the containers blowing around? I am trying to envision how I might hold them down. BTW, I love Maine. Was stationed at Brunswick in the early 90’s and my oldest was born there 🙂

    1. You might want to contain them in a plastic milk carton (you know those black heavy crates) if blowing away is an issue for you. I keep mine in a fairly sheltered area, so I haven’t had a problem.

      Maine is pretty awesome. I moved away for 5 years, but I missed it and came back.

  53. I will try this. Do you put the cap back on the jug? And what about watering?

    1. I leave the cap off so that snow and rain can water the soil. Moisture isn’t really an issue until germination begins and the containers are pretty good at maintaining the moisture levels.

  54. I live in central TX

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  55. is it too late for me? im in northwest florida! like 45 minutes from the beach if that helps but near the alabama line

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

    2. Anonymous says:

      In Florida you should be able to sow seeds outdoors all year without a greenhouse or any weather protection.

    3. In the panhandle here, and this time table doesn’t work for us at all. For example, we can grow spinach, kale, chard all winter. Start tomatoes inside early February. Also radishes, peas, and a couple others can go directly in the ground now. Not sure how that translates with this process, but I hope that helps some.

  56. This sounds really neat. I want to container plant tomatoes. Tried last year with store bought plants. Had lots of plant but very few tomatoes.I live in NE WA. Della

  57. Sandy Norris says:

    Excellent! I was looking for a planting project for my granddaughters, this fits the bill. Thank you so much.

    1. You are so welcome Sandy. I hope the granddaughters enjoy it.

  58. I am new with gardens. I live in Vt now so cold season last longer. Can I still use your planting list? Also how many plants in a milk container at a time? Thanks

    1. If you are zone 5, you can follow the same schedule I use. As far as spacing, I follow the directions on the packet. For tiny seeds, I just sprinkle lightly. I’m pretty casual about these things 🙂

  59. Heather T. says:

    Wow, really, just put them outside? My mind is blown in my way of thinking, and here I just bought a grow light, argh, seriously two days ago! I have been saving milk jugs to use as a cloche to put over the plants once in the garden but wow! Do you do this will all your plants? Also I am in WI and am a 5 as well so this guide should be a great help, not sure 5a or b, does it make a huge difference?

    1. There is only a small difference between 5a and 5b. In fact, until recently they didn’t do As and Bs in the zones.

      I don’t do all my plants this way. I’m lucky enough to have a responsible mom with a fabulous greenhouse. I usually split flats of seedlings with her.

  60. I was wondering if you can put the seeds in your raised bed and just put the tops of the milk containers over them?

    1. If you live further south than me, it might work just fine. You might even want to lay straw around the carton to keep the soil warmer.

  61. Margie Closson says:

    How many seeds do you start with?

    1. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  62. Can I start with any seeds or are there some that I should plant closer to spring? I live in Oregon I think zone 1?

    1. Maybe I’m in zone 7…

      1. Jan Stanley says:

        iI you have a lot of jugs,tape them together, then the wind won’t get them. Walmart sells these plastic containers that fit under a bed. could you use them for winter planting? They sell. Them for putting sweaters away for summer. Under the bed.

    2. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  63. What about if I live in a place without a lot of snow?

    1. Snow isn’t a requirement. It will work no matter where you live. If you tell me your zone I’ll hunt down some info specific to your area.

      1. I’m zone 9-10. Our weather is so weird. 55° one day and 85° the next.

  64. Kattrinka says:

    This is my first year trying this method. I’ve got 11 jugs out 🙂 I used a heated Philips head screwdriver to poke thru the bottom for drainage holes. I have one question; do you ‘pot up’ the seedlings or wait until they are large enough to set out directly?

    1. I usually leave them right in the container until they are safe to put on the ground. Only a few times did they outgrow the container before it was safe to plant (tall flowers and such) and I just moved them into a clear tote set up the same way.

      1. melanie wevver says:

        do u leave the cap on or off

        1. I leave the cap off to allow rain and snow to water the soil.

  65. Why don’t you just drill all your holes from the inside once you cut the jug open? That seems to me to be much easier than waiting for water to freeze…

    1. You certainly could do that, but I found the fragile plastic shape still collapses, even from the inside.

      1. Ginny Bergman says:

        If you drill through the jug from the inside and into something like a piece of wood for support it should work. Great idea for winter sowing. Thank you.

      2. I was thinking about hinging it first too; only I thought that a scrap of wood (or drilling ‘table’) under it and drilling from the inside out into the drilling scrap wood. That would stop the milk jug caving in and not having to to wait for it to freeze. Freezing is not an option for me as I don’t have the extra freezer space.

        1. Yeah, freezing was no inconvenience here since I can just put them out on the deck and they freeze within an hour.

    2. Brenda Roedl says:

      Just use a soldering gun to make your holes. Works great!

      1. i take a metal BBQ skewer ( like for kabobs) and heat that on the stove it punches the holes much easier..I also heat a knife to cut them.
        a little heat saves alot of work

  66. April Esquivel says:

    What zone is the guide for. In Virginia I would already have tomatos seedlings by April. Typically we get our last frost at Easter.

    1. It appears she’s somewhere between Zones 3-5. I’m also in VA, Zone 7A/B. We could probably start some of her later things now.

      1. Yes, sorry. I went back and added that I am in zone 5. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding zone-specific guidelines. I am going to address all of that on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

  67. At some point, after it warms up enough, do you pull them out of the milk carton and put them in the ground?

    1. Yup. You can transplant them in the ground when you normally would without worrying about hardening off. If you’ve got some extra milk cartons laying about, they make great cloches in the event of an unexpected spring frost.

  68. Sharon Faria says:

    I live in the Northeast and it snows a lot. If these get burried in the snow is that ok?

    1. Absolutely! I live in Maine and most years mine are buried under 3’+ of snow (this year is an exception). The neat thing about winter sowing is that the seeds take their cues from nature. As the snow thaws, it waters the soil in the carton. As the temperatures rise, the seeds begin to germinate. It removes human error from the equation.

  69. Once Upon a Time in a Bed of Wildflowers says:

    Seriously brilliant! I have never had any luck with starting seeds indoors either.
    ~ Christine

  70. Sounds like a great idea, I’m thinking of trying this. I do have a couple of questions; will the seed

    1. Hi Norma! It seems your whole comment didn’t post. If you see this, feel free to pepper me with questions. I’m happy to help.

      1. Do I plant all the types of seeds in one month, or different types for each month? Hope I made sense.

  71. I can’t wait to try this Jess! I have so little gardening experience but really want to try to maximize the growing season without an enormous cost. Thank you! Sharing on facebook and pinterest!

    1. It really works out great and I find that my spring is less stressful when my plants are winter sowed. Thanks for sharing with your friends and fans!