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Sowing under cover or what’s with the milk jugs?

I swear, every time I turned on social media over the last few months, someone is sticking some seeds in a big plastic milk carton. What’s going on? The interwebs is a weird and wonderful place. So a wee bit of research (what I mean is I spoke to a friend who explained it) and basically it turns out that this is a thing in the states called winter sowing. It’s where folk sow seeds either in things or under things to try to get a wee jump start on the weather. Essentially, as we would say here int he UK, it’s sowing under cover. Now we do things a wee bit differently here, we don’t really go for the sowing seeds in your recycling type thing, here in the UK we tend to use something called a cloche. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the same thing, just more visually appealing. Cause you know, we like our pretty gardens.

So… I have to do an experiment don’t I?

My lovely neighbour, who is our supplier of extra kitchen scraps for the compost bin, also gave me their spare milk cartons. Cause we don’t drink a lot of milk and I’m impatient.

OK dokey, so we’ve been out in the garden this week having some fun with this. The idea with the milk cartons is really quite simple.

You put some drainage holes in the bottom, cut them in half (leaving just a little bit of the plastic to make a hinge), fill the bottom half with soil and sow your seeds.

Then you tape the top part back in place, basically making a sealed unit. So it’s like a little greenhouse for your seeds, the idea being it protects them from the worst of the weather, gives them a tiny wee bit more warmth than they would get if you sowed them directly into the soil and you should, hopefully, get a bit of a quick start on things, so that when it comes time to plant out proper, you have strong healthy plants ready to go.

So to test this out, I’m going with sunflowers. I’ve found that sunflowers can get ravaged by the final frosts, so I don’t sow them out directly into the soil. I bring them on a bit in the greenhouse first. This spring I am doing that, I’ve got 3 varieties sown in the greenhouse.

Evening Sun – a full height, traditional sunflower, Little Leo – a dwarf, multi-headed sunflower and Solar Flash, another multi-headed dwarf variety. They are currently happy in a propagator in the greenhouse. I’ve also sown the same 3 types of sunflowers into milk cartons, sealed them up and they are now snuggled up in the raised bed. They won’t live there permanently but I hate looking out and seeing milk cartons in the garden so they are “almost” out of sight. But the idea is that I can watch both sets of plants to see how they fair and if one way works better than another.

The theory I hear for the growing in the cartons out in the garden is that having the plants in the garden means they aren’t mollycoddled, so they grow to be stronger, healthier plants that can cope better with the outdoors. So this will be very interesting.

And of course, I had to have a go at doing a similar thing with the cloche, so just for fun, I’ve also sown some peas, Kelvedon Wonder, out int he raised bed and put a cloche over them. Giving them the same little bit of extra protection but in a more visually appealing eye. Peas can be sown out directly into the garden in March, but it’s still a bit cold for that here, so I’m hoping this will give them a wee jump start. But again, as an experiment, I’ve sown the same variety of peas in the greenhouse, just to see. I know from previous years that peas do really well when brought on in the greenhouse and then put out in the garden.

So it’s just a big fun experiment to get our growing season off to a good start. As always, we’ll keep you guys up to date on everything with regular updates and pics. And…. feel free to grow along with me, go get your peas and sunflowers planted and we can compare.

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