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Direct Sowing in Late Fall/Winter (Cold Climate)

 
Posts: 16
Location: Zone 5 Atlantic Canada
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Hello friends,

I know that there is a whole website/movement directed towards winter sowing in containers/jugs for spring transplant, but I am trying to find or create some guidance for seeds that remain viable through winter in Zone 4-6.

I accept that germination rates will be reduced and there will be predation and damping off to some degree, but I would still hope to see “around” 10% germination rates from whatever I bother to attempt sowing.

Do warmer climate annuals like peppers die off over winters? I know that many cultivars of tomato will pop up as volunteers in the proper soil conditions, but I know some are substantially more likely to germinate than others. I don’t think I’ll be around here in the spring for transplant season so I would like to find some cultivars that I could sow now, even some perennial seeds perhaps, and return to in the future to find some surviving plants.

I love the idea of annuals that self-sow easily, so establishing a few patches that I can treat essentially as perennial beds would be terrific — but any knowledge that anyone has or can direct me too for this climate would be terrific.

Also, any knowledge that anyone could share in terms of increasing germination rate for direct sowing in cold climate would be excellent. I have been trying to find a resource for this but it seems limited, or my Google fu is failing me. I know that people create seed balls, but I don’t know if that is the “optimum” way to improve germination for direct winter sowing. If I create a nice raised bed, would I then drop seed balls into it — or is it better to just sow normally and cover with a light layer of clay or some other mulch to keep the seeds in place?

I’m open to any ideas, suggestions and knowledge on this subject! I did a search but I might not have been using the right words, maybe this can be helpful to others. Thanks!
 
Posts: 104
Location: Colrain, MA, USA
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A way to shield wintering-over seed from some predation might be seedballs
https://permies.com/t/112878/Seed-Balling

Brian
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Posts: 3201
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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I like the idea of seed balls.

What worries me about putting seeds under mulch is that some types of mulch might really attract mice or voles that might eat or disturb the seeds.

I'm on the "other wet coast of Canada" so not as cold as Atlantic Canada, but possibly an even longer spring - read more time for the seeds to go moldy or get chewed on. I'm thinking I should consider trying this idea in a couple of spots to satisfy my "experimenting gene" trying both different seeds and different cover materials.

Re seed balls: If little animal predation is a potential issue, would adding a little hot pepper to the outside layer discourage them? I know that some mammals are affected by hot pepper until they adapt, but it doesn't stop birds and I'm not convinced it would stop insects. Does anyone else have experience with that?
 
Brian Cady
Posts: 104
Location: Colrain, MA, USA
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Jay, While the seedball idea arose in my mind somehow when I saw your post, I haven't sown any. I guess I'm an 'armchair seedballer'.

Brian
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steward & bricolagier
Posts: 6095
Location: SW Missouri
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Brian Cady: That made me laugh :) 'armchair seedballer' is probably a term never used before in the world! Things you only see on Permies... :D
 
Jay Angler
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@Brian Cady - I've never had the right ingredients for seed balls in the past, nor a good location, but last year I tried a modification of the "wildflower seeds in paper" that you see around, making a round mat with seeds like lettuce, chard, kale and peas for a couple of my friends to plant in a large flower pot for some early spring greens. They were Christmas presents with the promise of spring! Sigh... neither friend actually planted them early enough to do any good - in fact I planted them at one of the houses when the receiver hadn't done it after 3 weeks of prompting! This year, clearly, I have to make up the entire pot, seed it, and tell them a specific date to put it out in the rain. This experience has me rooting that Eon McNeill will find a way, or several ways, to get "spring planting in absentia" accomplished.

@Eon McNeill - If you've got access to a bunch of tin cans, would cutting both ends of and planting in the ground but with the can around for a little protection help? Metal might make things colder, but I'm trying to avoid plastic in the garden as it tends to solar degrade and end up as irremovable little bits. Cutting the tops and bottoms off glass jars would risk breakage if wet soil expanded during freeze/thaw cycles, but I just don't know for sure.
 
Eon MacNeill
Posts: 16
Location: Zone 5 Atlantic Canada
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I wish there was some information about what temperature various seeds can survive to in the ground, so i would know which annuals would be a waste of time.
 
Jay Angler
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Eon MacNeill wrote:I wish there was some information about what temperature various seeds can survive to in the ground, so i would know which annuals would be a waste of time.

That would be nice, but I suspect it's not that simple. Air temperature won't guarantee seed temperature depending on things like snow cover, and in my area, the issue may not be cold at all, but the seeds may rot due to all the winter rain we get. Direct experimentation in your local micro-climate may be the only way to go!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Posts: 6095
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Welcome to Permies, Eon!
In reality, all seeds CAN survive the winter, they evolved that way. I'd suggest when you experiment, give them as close to their natural environment as you can. If you want squash in spring, dump a whole squash on the ground and cover it with mulch. Whole tomato the same way. That's what fruit is for, to attract animals to spread the seeds, and to protect and feed the seeds. Think on that when you choose things, what would happen if you had just let them seed naturally? I always plant things like chard by covering the seeds in leaves and debris. (Chard will grow easily that way, and reseeds prolifically, and is close to perennial in that way.) As far as increasing germination rate: seed balls would probably increase it, if you do them with small seeds in them, give them a bean or two to crack the ball open.

Off the top of my head, things you can plant in zones 4-6 that would probably grow after winter, and take care of themselves: peanuts, most beans, sweet potato (bury the whole thing), potato, garlic. Try various tomatoes, heirlooms I think would most likely to grow, and cherry types, I'm flipping though a Baker Creek catalog here, and if I were you, I'd try any of them, I'm trying to remember which type a lot of people liked for excess volunteers and overwintering, I want to say Brads Atomic or Matt's Atomic. I think it was in one of these someplace, check out these threads:
search for perennial plants: bean, oats, pumpkin, rice...
Questions: the Wuzzy Line Between Veggies and Weeds
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

What else? Carrots would do well, and radishes, and they reseed when they get too old, any hard-rind winter squash may be easier to make last the cold out than summer squashes, I know I get volunteer acorn squash every year. Turnips, beets, rutabagas, chard, most lettuces, most beans. In reality, a LOT of things would wait out the winter and sprout on their own. If I were doing what you are, I'd just flat put in everything I'd like to have next year, and see what makes it. Quite a bit will. Protect them with clay (as small seed balls) or mulch (not so deep they can't sprout) and I think you'll get a decent germination rate of the ones that survive predation.

And keep us up on what happens! We need a resident expert in this, and I don't know of one here.  :)

:D
Pearl


 
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Posts: 5269
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Based on how things grow in my usda zone 4/5 gardens, and presuming that they are seeds or young plants going into winter...

Things that (almost) always survive:

garlic
young turnips
lentils
wheat
rye
chickweed
sorrel
spinach
lettuce (seeds only)
parsnip
onions


Things that sometimes survive:

potatoes
oats
barley
carrot
bean (seeds only)
peas
beets
cabbage/kale/broccoli



Things that (almost) never survive:

favas
garbanzos
tomatoes
corn
cucumber
melons
peppers
 
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the permaculture bootcamp in winter
https://permies.com/t/149839/permaculture-projects/permaculture-bootcamp-winter
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