Learn how to Winter Sow Seeds in a Milk Jug

It’s arduous to withstand sowing seeds too quickly while you’ve been curled up inside all winter. For those who’re keen to begin your backyard, you don’t have to attend for snow to soften or the bottom to thaw. In truth, you don’t even need to spend money on an indoor seed beginning setup with lights and warmth mats. As a substitute, contemplate winter sowing seeds in an upcycled milk jug container to create a mini greenhouse outdoor.

Let’s dig into the seven easy steps to beginning seeds in the course of winter by utilizing this frugal gardening methodology.

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What’s Winter Sowing in a Milk Jug?

Top view, grain plan of reusable plastic milk jugs with soil mixture and sown seeds, in the garden. Milk jugs are white plastic bottles, cut in half and taped with multi-colored tape.
Use winter sowing with upcycled containers as an economical methodology for beginning seedlings within the winter outdoor.

Winter sowing is sowing seeds in upcycled plastic containers or milk jugs to make use of as miniature greenhouses that you just place outdoors in mid-winter. When the climate warms within the spring, the seeds can naturally “get up” and germinate within the heat of the plastic container.

As soon as they attain a enough measurement, you’ll be able to simply transplant seedlings from the jugs into backyard beds. This frugal seed-sowing methodology helps newbie gardeners develop seedlings with out investing in an elaborate indoor seed-starting setup.

What Are the Greatest Containers for Winter Sowing?

Outdoor winter seed sowing in reusable plastic milk jugs. Close-up of many white plastic jugs with potting mix and sown seeds. These jugs are sealed with colorful tape in the middle. On the jugs there are inscriptions in black marker - the names of the seeds.
Use clear or translucent containers, with milk jugs being a popularly-preferred choice.

Any clear or translucent, inflexible container that may perform as a mini-greenhouse will work. Milk jugs are thought-about the very best container to winter sow seeds in as a result of they’re low cost, properly sized, extensively accessible, and simple to reuse.

Even in case you don’t drink milk, you’ll be able to acquire jugs from a neighborhood espresso store or ask a buddy to reuse their empty containers. You too can use plastic greens cartons, 2-liter plastic bottles, water jugs, planting domes, clear plastic bins, or any clear container that may be vented and drained.

7 Steps to Winter Sow Seeds in a Milk Jug

Deliver your backyard extra in tune with nature and hold your arms busy whilst you look forward to spring! This seed-starting approach is affordable, low-maintenance, and tremendous simple for newbie and superior growers alike. Only a few supplies are wanted, and the method takes lower than an hour.

Put together Your Milk Jugs

Close-up of a row of milk jugs under a fence. The milk jugs act as a greenhouse for the plants and encourage growth in the Spring. These jugs have slits down the middle.
Gather and clear milk jugs and add drainage holes.

Gather empty plastic milk jugs all through the winter and hold them clear and dry. When you find yourself able to winter sow, seize some scissors or a field cutter!

To arrange the milk jug greenhouses:

  • Eliminate the lids (the opening within the prime acts as a vent)
  • Lower the jugs in half, leaving one aspect in place as a “hinge”
  • Guarantee the underside half is at the very least 4-5” deep to carry the soil
  • Lower or drill drainage slits within the backside to permit extra water to filter by

Repeat this course of for each container you could have. Every milk jug ought to have a backside with drainage holes and a hinged prime with an air gap (the place the lid was).

Select Seeds to Winter Sow

Close-up of six paper bags with various seeds on the soil in the garden. The seeds are of different sizes from small to medium, different shapes - round, oval, flattened and different colors of yellowish, purple-brown and burgundy.
Winter sowing mimics nature, permitting seeds to overwinter, naturally cold-stratify, and germinate with spring heat.

Winter sowing could seem counterintuitive to these used to beginning seeds indoors in a heat, protected setting. However this course of makes excellent sense when you think about nature’s means of doing issues.

Most wildflowers and greens produce flowers in summer time and mature their seed pods in late summer time or fall. If allowed to drop their seeds, the subsequent technology of vegetation would naturally overwinter within the soil till the nice and cozy spring climate wakes them up from dormancy.

Chilly stratification mimics this pure winter tendency indoors. Many individuals pop their seeds into the fridge to “pretend” a winter. However with winter sowing, they’ll naturally cold-stratify of their containers outdoor as they have been all the time meant to.

Vegetable Seeds

Close-up of growing garlic plants in a garden bed. The garlic plant (Allium sativum) features long, narrow, lance-shaped leaves that emerge from the base of the plant in a clustered fashion. The leaves are characterized by a smooth texture and a slightly waxy surface.
Cool-season veggies and greens thrive in winter sowing.

Cool-season veggies and greens thrive with winter sowing. Surprisingly, you can too winter sow warm-season crops like pumpkins and tomatoes. For those who’ve ever seen volunteer vegetation pop up from final 12 months’s patch, you already know these seeds haven’t any hassle overwintering of their dormant state naturally!

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Collards
  • Corn Salad (mache)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Pumpkins
  • Radish
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes


Close-up of dill plants growing in rows in a garden. The dill plant (Anethum graveolens) is characterized by feathery, finely divided leaves that give it a delicate and lacy appearance. The leaves are arranged alternately along the stems and are bright green in color. Each leaf is composed of numerous thread-like segments, creating a fern-like or wispy foliage.
Sow herbs in winter for profitable out of doors germination and strong spring development.

Many herbs develop properly utilizing this methodology, leading to a stronger begin to your spring herb backyard. Strive a number of the following:

  • Chamomile
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lavender (particularly advantages from chilly publicity)
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Valerian

Perennial Flowers

Close-up of Bee Balm plants in bloom against a blurred background of a sunny garden. The Bee Balm plant (Monarda spp.) is known for its striking appearance, featuring lance-shaped leaves with a serrated edge. Bee Balm is further adorned with vibrant, tubular flowers that form dense, spherical clusters in purple.
Native perennial flower seeds profit from pure chilly publicity.

Perennial flower seeds are perfect for this methodology, significantly if they’re native wildflowers in your rising zone. Within the wild, these flowers naturally drop their seeds in late summer time or fall, and the seeds go dormant as they overwinter on the soil floor. The chilly publicity might help set off sturdy germination in spring.

  • Artemisia
  • Bachelor’s Button
  • Bee Balm
  • Blanket Flower
  • Blazing Star (Liatris)
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Catmint
  • Chinese language Lanterns
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Coreopsis
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • False Indigo
  • Foxglove
  • Globe Thistle
  • Hellebore
  • Milkweed
  • Phlox
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
  • Salvia
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Veronica
  • Yarrow

Hardy Annual Flowers

Close-up of flowering Cosmos plants in a sunny garden. The Cosmos plant (Cosmos bipinnatus) is known for its graceful and airy appearance, characterized by finely divided, fern-like leaves that are arranged in an alternate pattern along slender stems. The flowers of Cosmos are daisy-like, with a prominent central disk surrounded by ray-like petals that come in various shades, including pink and magenta.
Frost-sensitive annuals lie dormant in milk jug planters till hotter climate triggers germination.

These semi-hardy and hardy annuals want frost-free climate to germinate, however they continue to be dormant within the milk jug planter till the climate is heat sufficient to set off sprouting.

  • Calendula
  • California Poppy
  • Celosia
  • Cornflower
  • Cosmos
  • Neglect-Me-Nots
  • Larkspur
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Nasturtium
  • Nigella
  • Petunia
  • Snapdragons
  • Inventory
  • Strawflower
  • Sunflower
  • Candy Alyssum
  • Candy Peas (the flower, not the vegetable)

Add Moistened Potting Soil

Close-up of three cut milk jugs on a concrete floor in a garden. These milk jugs are filled with soil mixture. On the lids there are inscriptions in black marker - the name of the seeds.
Fill milk jugs with well-drained potting combine three to 4 inches deep.

Use a well-drained potting mix that’s wealthy in compost and a drainage materials like perlite or vermiculite. Pre-wet the potting combine till it’s concerning the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. It shouldn’t be too soggy, however it shouldn’t be bone dry, both. 

Fill the underside of every milk jug about 3-4” deep with potting soil. Easy the floor together with your hand, however keep away from compacting the soil. Air holes are nice for child plant roots!

Plant Seeds

Close-up of soil with two types of seeds sown. The seeds are small, drop-shaped, orange in color. And other seeds are small, round in shape, blue-violet in color.
Plant seeds at correct depths—twice their largest dimension—making certain acceptable planting for every species.

Now, you’ll be able to collect your seed packets and plant these seeds! You’ll want to plant every species on the correct depth. As a normal rule of thumb, sow seeds at a depth about twice their largest dimension or comply with the beneficial depth advised on the seed packet if one is there.

If tiny seeds like lettuce or basil are buried too deep, they’ll have hassle germinating. It’s finest to sprinkle a really high quality dusting of soil excessive of those seeds.

Many wildflower seeds ought to solely be pressed into the floor and left uncovered, particularly in the event that they require mild to germinate. Bigger seeds like peas and pumpkins should be sown ½” to 1” deep into the soil.

Label Containers

Close-up of labeled plastic milk jugs in the garden. These jugs are white and have the cuts sealed with colored tape. The jugs are filled with soil and sown seeds.
Label the jug with a everlasting marker for seed selection identification.

Skip the popsicle sticks and use a everlasting marker to label the jug with the seed selection you’ll plant inside. Labeling in a number of areas helps in case the daylight or climate fades the marker.

Tape Jug Shut

Close-up of several milk jugs with seeds for winter sowing. Some jugs have inscriptions in black marker - the name of the seeds. The jugs have cuts taped with multi-colored tape.
Safe the milk jug lid with tape, permitting simple opening for air flow within the spring.

Cowl the lid of the milk jug over the underside portion and use packing or duct tape wrapped across the heart to hold the jug shut. Don’t use an excessive amount of tape as a result of you have to open this “greenhouse dome” within the spring when the climate begins to heat and the vegetation want extra air flow.


Outdoor winter seed sowing in reusable plastic milk jugs. Many milk jugs are covered with a layer of white snow in the garden. These jugs are wrapped with multi-colored tape.
Place your planted seeds outdoor for pure germination. No safety from the weather is required.

Put the seeded and taped jugs within the backyard, exposing them to full sunshine and the weather. The seeds know when to germinate and can fortunately care for themselves if they’ve sufficient moisture and lightweight. You’ll be able to go away the winter sown jugs outdoor with none safety. All you have to do is verify the soil moisture each couple of weeks main as much as your anticipated final frost date.

When the seeds germinate, it’s possible you’ll have to skinny them to make sure they’ve sufficient area to thrive. As soon as they develop sturdy root balls, you’ll be able to transplant them into backyard beds, develop baggage, or a bigger pot.

Remaining Ideas

Milk jug winter sowing is an affordable and easy approach to begin seeds with out develop lights, heating mats, or cell trays. The methodology is eco-friendly as a result of it makes use of upcycled containers as little greenhouses. It additionally permits seeds to get up from dormancy each time nature tells them to. Don’t neglect to label your containers and ventilate them when daytime temperatures attain 50 or 60°F. You don’t need the within of the milk jug to scorch the younger vegetation.

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