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Master gardener shares a hack for growing plants in the dead of winter without breaking the bank: 'Very cost-effective'

"This is awesome!"

"This is awesome!"

Photo Credit: TikTok

A gardener shared a popular hack for getting a head start on spring planting: sowing seeds in the winter, using a homemade mini greenhouse made out of a recycled plastic container.

The scoop

TikToker Jessica (@FromDreamToSeed) posted the video, showing an empty gallon milk jug that she had cut in half horizontally. She pokes holes in the bottom, adding several inches of pre-moistened potting mix before adding seeds. She then covers the seeds with additional potting mix, closes the container, and seals it with clear packing tape.

@fromdreamtoseed Winter sowing is an easy garden hack to get an earlier start on spring planting! Here's some additional tips: -Experiment with different seeds each year. Some varieties do better with this method than others. -If you are expecting heavy snow or ice, you can temporarily move the containers to a sheltered area. -If your potting mix looks dry, gently add water through the top. Be careful not to use a strong stream as it can displace the seeds. -Transplant seedlings when they are 2-4 inches tall. You can place them under row covers for help with transition to brighter sunlight. #gardenhack #wintersowingseeds #gardentip #seedstarting #fromdreamtoseed #gardenideas ♬ Coffee Talk (Extended) - BLVKSHP

"Place it outside in a sunny location," she instructs. "These containers will act as mini greenhouses helping to trap the heat. The seeds will germinate when temperatures inside the container are high enough."

Jessica points out that this method works in a variety of climates — all that will change is how quickly the seedlings will begin to grow. And it's an effective method for growing an array of plants, including vegetables and flowers.

"Leafy greens and brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale do really well in these containers," she says. "This is also a great method to cold stratify perennial flower seeds, as many need exposure to cold weather in order to properly germinate." 

For those unfamiliar, stratification is a process by which a temperature change triggers the end of dormancy and initiates growth in certain seeds.

Once the seedlings are two to four inches tall, it's time to transplant them to a garden bed, and they're off to the races.

How it's helping

Growing a garden from established seedlings — rather than starting with seeds in the spring — is much more effective for ensuring a hearty harvest season. And with this winter germination method, seedlings are already prepared for planting: "Because they've grown outdoors, they're hardy seedlings that don't need to be hardened before planting," Jessica points out.

The commenters had already seen success using the method. "Doing this for my third year!" one person raved. "I grow tons of native flowers and shrubs. Very cost-effective!"

This is a great method for growing native plants, and keeping yards and gardens full of local flora is hugely beneficial for local pollinators. In turn, those pollinators nourish fruiting plants, which sustain our food chains.

Additionally, keeping a garden — especially one with herbs or vegetables — can result in major savings on the weekly grocery bill. 

There are other direct benefits as well, including health benefits. Gardening has repeatedly been shown to improve both physical and mental health, decrease stress, and support healthier lifestyles.

What everyone's saying

Viewers were excited about the idea. 

"This is awesome! Thanks!" one person wrote. 

"Love this!" said another.

Others had already tried it with great success. "I save strawberry containers and egg cartons for this too," one person commented. "Big salad mix containers work great too," a second suggested.

"Did this last year and ended up with 80 pepper plants," one person enthused.

 "Why didn't I see this before I bought a mini greenhouse [online] yesterday!!" one person wrote. "Amazing!"

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