191-Winter Sowing: A Simple Way to Start Seeds Outdoors-Encore Presentation

| Plant, Podcast

Winter sowing is an easy and fun way to scratch the gardening itch in the coldest months while also getting a head start on growing flowers and cool-season crops that will then take off in spring. In this week’s encore episode, I explain how winter sowing works and identify the types of seeds that are the best candidates to successfully employ this easy seed-starting method.

Winter sowing is perfect for gardeners with limited indoor space available for seed starting, and it is a simple method — just plant it and forget it — to start seeds that require cold stratification. Even when temperatures outdoors are sub-freezing, you can get your hands into soil and have the satisfaction of sowing the new gardening season’s first seeds weeks or even months before it’s time to start seeds indoors. 


A snow-covered garden.

When the garden is dormant, you can satisfy the gardening itch with winter sowing.


Gardener Trudi Davidoff pioneered the winter sowing method more than 20 years ago at her home on Long Island in New York. As a novice seed starter at the time, Trudi discovered that, using containers as mini-greenhouses with potting soil, she could mimic the natural process that many seeds go through: The seeds are chilled over the winter and then sprout at just the right time, when warming temperatures wake them up.

For a detailed explanation of the benefits of winter sowing and instructions on how to get started, check out the show notes from the original airing.


Winter sowing in recycled milk jugs.

Milk jugs, duct tape and and soil are all that you need to make a mini-greenhouse for winter sowing. Just set it out and forget about it!


To learn everything there is to know about starting seeds, indoors to out, my joegardener Online Gardening Academy Master Seed Starting course is relaunching at the end of this month. You can sign up to be notified when enrollment begins.

If you haven’t already listened in for an overview of winter sowing, you can do so now by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking the Play icon in the green bar under the page title.

Did you have success with winter sowing? Let us know in the comments below.

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Links & Resources

Some product links in this guide are affiliate links. See full disclosure below.

Episode 37: Starting Seeds Indoors: The Non-Negotiables for Success, Pt. 1

Episode 94: How to Start and Care for Seedlings Indoors: My Steps for Success

Episode 130: Winter Sowing: A Simple Way To Successfully Start Seeds Outdoors

joegardenerTV YouTube: How to Know if Seeds Are Still Good

joegardenerTV YouTube: Seed Germination – Easy Tricks for More Success

Seed Basics & Beyond Webinar: 9 Things to Know Before You Start Plants From Seed

joegardener Online Gardening Academy™: Three popular courses on gardening fundamentals; managing pests, diseases & weeds; and seed starting!

joegardener Online Gardening Academy Master Seed Starting: Everything you need to know to start your own plants from seed — indoors and out. Relaunching Thursday, January 28, 2021.

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joegardener Newsletter

joegardener Facebook

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Growing a Greener World® 


Trudi Davidoff’s

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Greenhouse Megastore – Our podcast episode sponsor and Brand Partner of – Enter code JOEGARDENER for 10% off your order

Wild Alaskan Seafood Box – Our podcast episode sponsor and Brand Partner of – Enter code “Joe” at checkout for two special bonuses just for our podcast listeners – 2 pounds of Dungeness crab with your first order and free scallops for the life of your subscription.

High Mowing Organic SeedsOur podcast episode sponsor and Brand Partner of – Enter code JGSEEDS for 10% off orders of $50 or more

*Disclosure: Some product links in this guide are affiliate links, which means we would get a commission if you purchase. However, none of the prices of these resources have been increased to compensate us. None of the items included in this list have any bearing on any compensation being an influencing factor on their inclusion here. The selection of all items featured in this post and podcast were based solely on merit and in no way influenced by any affiliate or financial incentive, or contractual relationship. At the time of this writing, Joe Lamp’l has professional relationships with the following companies who may have products included in this post and podcast: Rain Bird, Corona Tools, Milorganite, Soil3, Exmark, Greenhouse Megastore, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Wild Alaskan Seafood Box. These companies are either Brand Partners of and/or advertise on our website. However, we receive no additional compensation from the sales or promotion of their product through this guide. The inclusion of any products mentioned within this post is entirely independent and exclusive of any relationship.

About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently broadcasting in its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

0 Responses to “191-Winter Sowing: A Simple Way to Start Seeds Outdoors-Encore Presentation”

  • Robert McGuire says:

    Hi Joe. I just listened to this encore. My seeds are in hand, and I was on the verge of setting up my basement operation, but now I’m now thinking of steering in this direction of outdoor sowing (in late January in zone 5). A couple things I didn’t hear you address or compare to indoor seed starting are pricking out and potting up. I suspect that the answer is that they are now moot points, but I just want to clarify.Take the image you put at the top of this post as an example. If I get some of my seeds that far, should I ever be thinning out those sprouts? Or do I just divide them and try them all in the perennial bed once they show true leaves?Should there ever be a potting up stage with the sprouts?

  • John Longard says:

    I did the winter sow in milk cartons, but without success. If my aged memory is correct, I tried growing beets and turnips. I started after Christmas. Looking back I believe I started with the wrong veggies. So I will be trying again but this time with broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.I’ll keep you posted.Shalom,

  • Kristy F. says:

    Hi Joe,
    I sure enjoy listening to your podcast and your PBS show. I have watched you since your DIY days and have learned so much. This will be my 3rd year to Winter Sow here in Zone 7 Oklahoma. I have had a few failures, like chives but almost everything else has produced. I have started about 30 containers and I am already seeing some lettuce and collards coming up. My question to you is I have a raised bed that is about 4 years old. Between the dog and the gophers the soil in it has been compromised with the red clay under my original lasagna garden. What is the best way to fix this bed before planting season? Should I take all the soil out or just try to amend what’s in there. There is also the problem with bermuda grass continuing to come up it. Any suggestions would help. Again, love your work. Your quite an inspiration!

  • Julie Tengel says:

    Thanks for the winter sowing podcast. I tried it last winter for the first time and will do it every year from now on. I had good success with everything germinating. The only seeds that didn’t germinate were really old, (10 yo) and weren’t viable, but I thought what a great way to check them out. I usually start my seedlings indoors with lights and heat mats. This way was so much easier with less hands on.

  • jclarkereiter says:

    Trudi Davidoff says: “Don’t thin your seedlings, instead hunk them! WinterSown’s Hunk-O-Seedling transplant method will help you to quickly and easily pant your garden. Divide your thickest flats of seedlings into smaller hunks to make plugs to plant. Ma Nature will cull the weakest seedlings for you and with care your healthy WS seedlings will grow into a lush clump.” website has a total overview of Winter Sowing. In particular, see

  • Amber Hares says:

    Hi Joe, thank you so much for replaying this episode! If soaking the seeds ahead of time is recommended for indoor and/or spring sowing, should it be carried out with winter sowing as well. I am assuming this becomes an unnecessary step, but I want to be certain. Thanks for your time!

  • mnyama says:

    Great podcast on winter sowing! Last year was my first successful garden and I was elated to find out about winter sowing. I really like and appreciate the whole website and podcasts. I decided to make my whole backyard into a food source. I will follow up with you on YouTube, your podcasts and website. You are a wonderful resource.

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