Through my Internet wanderings, I ran across a mention of a site where people received free seeds – WinterSown.org. I checked it out and decided to go through the ordering process as I just LOVE (XOXOXOXO) seeds (the more, the merrier). WinterSown has developed and tested a system to start seeds outside without the use of expensive setups or even lights. Just use recycled materials, starting soil, and the great outdoors (here are the instructions for use with a plastic gallon jug).
To order, just follow the instructions on the site, which is basically mail in a printed order form and a self-addressed stamped envelope (aka SASE) with two stamps. With that, they will send you either the seeds of 6 randomly picked plants or 6 tomato seeds that you have chosen. If you donate money via check ($5 minimum), you will get your order doubled (or more with a bigger contribution). I mailed my order for 12 random seeds with a donation of $10 on 3/5/2013. The site said it could be up to 4 weeks to receive the order but found my SASE in my mailbox on 3/21/2013. The whole process reminded me of my youth, as I would wait by the mailbox for something I sent away for from the back of a comic book. Of course sending in a check these days meant I could log in to my bank account every day to see when it was cashed (which of course I did).
Below are the seeds obtained from WinterSown.org
Red Pear Piriform tomatoes
Long Purple Eggplant
Danvers 126 Carrot
Petite Marseillais Pepper (2 packages)
The timing of my delivery was perfect as we have been having a very long winter/spring this year in Northeast Ohio with snow on the ground 3/22/2013. Last March we had temperatures in the 80’s and my garden was completely tilled up by April. My understanding of the WinterSown process is the seeds react to natural weather patterns to start when the time is right. With the use of protection and heat capture, the exposed seeds are able to germinate earlier and better than just sowing them in their final growing location. I’m also trying a variation of this method by direct sowing my spinach seeds under 2-liter pop bottles. My house is full of starts, so I’m out of room under the lights.
The WinterSown system is designed for early plants, like broccoli, kale, spinach, lettuce, herbs, wild flowers, and even root vegetables like carrots. I was surprised by seeing carrots on the list as I didn’t think you could transplant those. I’m guessing if you get them out in the garden before they create much of a tap root, you should be good to go. In seasons past, getting them up before the weeds take over has been a Snarky Gardener pet peeve, so this sounds very promising. I’m also starting Purple Top turnips to see if they will transplant.
Below are pictures my WinterSown sowing. As you can see by the last picture, I decided to just place the milk cartons out in my garden.
Note: Here’s the update from 4/16/2013