Sowing Seeds in Winter

Plan your garden

Step 1

Once you have decided to have a Spring garden you can set your plan in motion. When planting, consider your square footage available, hours of sunlight or shade needed and the difficulty of the crop you want to have. If you are a novice, you might start with plants or vegetables that historically grow easily. Fast growing seeds can be started 4-6 weeks before the last frost (basil, tomato). Slow growing seeds can be started 10-12 weeks before the last frost (leeks, snapdragons).

Easy seeds to start

  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Herbs like basil
  • Onions
  • Sunflowers


Step 2

After you have decided what to plant, you can purchase your seeds. Each seed packet will have information on how deep to plant into the soil. You can also use your own seeds saved from a previous season. Refer to sunlight and spacing requirements for each seed on each packet used when transplanting outside later.

Success in planting

  • Use seedling trays
  • Plant 3-4 seeds per pod
  • Use seed starter soil or a mix with peat pellets/moss
  • Use a spray water bottle to keep soil moist and not over watered
  • Warm temperatures while germinating, 65-75 degrees F
  • Warm temps achieved with a heating mat or placed on top of the refrigerator


Step 3

Once you have a seedling, approximately 1 inch, it's time to thin out your herd. It can be hard to pick out some seedlings and get rid of them but overcrowding can lead to stunted growth. Keep your top growers.

Growing your sprouts

  • One seedling per pod
  • Keep soil moist but not over watered, can water from a bottom tray
  • Provide light 14-16 hrs/day, indirect sunlight or by artificial light
  • Adjust artificial lamp light according to growth, so light won't touch plants
  • Love and attention
  • No need for heating tray anymore

Step 4

Your babies should be all grown up now. They have been well nurtured from extreme cold and watered just right. Whether you started your seeds 4 weeks or 11 weeks before the last frost date, you should be close to early spring at this point. You may be pretty eager to get out and plant in the ground but hold on for a least 1 more week. 


  • Set your plant trays outside in the cool weather for a few hours every day
  • Do this daily for 1-2 weeks
  • This gives your plants time to acclimate to wind, sun and natural temps

    Step 5

    Once you are safe past the last frost date, you are ready to plant outdoors. Since you completed step 1 weeks ago, this should be easy. You already noted the best spot for each plant in your garden- full sun, partial shade, well draining. Refer back to your spacing requirements for each plant and put them in the ground.  

    Winter gave us a great opportunity to get ready for spring. Now you can step back and admire your garden. Gardens not only provide us with a hobby, beauty and food but they are also giving back to pollinators and nature around us.

     Gardener's reference chart

     Planting zone map

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