Is it too late to Winter Sow on the Front Range?

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)February 3, 2013

I am still not used to thinking about gardening this early- it will be my 3rd year and I don't quite know what to do this early. Get my beds ready by tilling in compost?

I haven't bought seeds yet to try winter sowing. Mostly because I can't decide what to do and it's frustrating that not all seed places have everything I want. I guess you just have to order from several places?

I want to try some flowers, mostly those that are great for pollinators. I have pulled lists of flowers from the WS site but it really us taking too long for me to look them all up. I'm thinking of the below but would really like to know of any early blooming and perennial that you may recommend- good for the bees.

bachelor buttons
coneflowers- P
snap dragons

Can you WS hydrangeas?
Any veggies you would recommend other than leafy greens? And, would you WS greens and transplant them- I haven't had much success transplanting greens, or should I try the hoop/cold frame idea?


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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Hi Lesuko!

I have been wintersowing for 7 years now, and I haven't even started yet, so I don't think it's too late. That being said, you guys have been a lot warmer over on that side of the state than we have been.

The coneflowers, rudbeckia, snapdragons, and poppies you could do anytime now, they are pretty cold tolerant. Zinnias and Cosmos are very susceptible to frost, so I would hold off until March to sow those. The Scabiosa would probably be okay to sow now, but there are both annual and perennials Scabiosas, so it kind of depends on which one you have. I've never grown Bachelor buttons, so not sure about those.

Veggies you could sow now:

Swiss Chard
Any perennial herbs, such as oregano, chives, thyme, lavender, winter savory, plus parsley (biennial). Hold off on the basil though, it is NOT frost tolerant.

I've included a link to last year's wintersowing thread on this forum. There's a lot of information there that may be useful to you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Wintersowing '12

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:26PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks Bonnie!

This is very helpful. I saw your list of flowers and when you were going to WS or SS but some of the ones I have aren't on your list so I wasn't quite sure.

Also, I have some flowers seeds that I've collected. Do you think if a flower is supposed to bloom in summer- late summer, then it should be spring sown? I don't know if I should admit this but I tend to acquire seeds from plants that I see around places. The problem is I stuff them into pockets and whether I knew the name or not, would forget which seeds were which. I just know I collected a bunch around september.

Of these, I collected rose hips. I will split the seeds for WS and SS and see what happens. If it doesn't work, I'll have to go back and get some more hips.

I will look through the list again- but need to remind myself to start small.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:59AM
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Hi Lesuko

I live in Brighton, just north east of Denver and I have several of the flowers you are thinking about. I'm just getting ready to wintersow with milk jugs. My bachelor buttons and snapdragons do very well and should be fine to sow now. I just spread seed onto the ground. I have both of these still green in my garden. In fact, I'm considering transplanting some bachelor buttons soon. My snapdragons seem to live 4 or 5 years before they die off. I just cut them back once a year. They go crazy. I think I took about 100 snapdragon plants to the spring swap last year!

I had a lot of trouble with my zinnias last year. They were stunted and many just died. Anyone have zinnia advice?

I have poppies too, and they are always one of my first blooms. They are hard to transplant I think. I need to thin mine though.

I'm going to wintersow:
First round:

hollyhocks-(collected from the neighbors house)
butterfly weed

I'm sure I will do a second round at some point. I have never done wintersowing before. (besides dumping snapgragon seeds on the ground when I'm finally cutting them back in December.)

I'm wondering about the hollyhocks. Will they bloom this year?

Good luck and merry meet!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Your hollyhocks won't bloom till the second year, Cat. Alcea rosea is most often considered to be a biennial or "short lived" perennial, but when I had mine the original plants consistently survived from year to year. They will reseed PROLIFICALLY once they start blooming! Mine have been gone for at least four years and I still have occasional seedlings coming up! If I had more room I'd probably keep a few around. If there's a Spring Swap and if you come and would like some seed for the black variety, Alcea rosea 'Nigra' (actually an almost black red!), remind me and I'll bring you some. (My Zinnias did awful last year too! They love sun, but beyond that I don't have any answers!)

Can't add much more about winter sowing! I haven't sown anything yet either! I don't like transplanting, so I direct sow all veggies. If you decide to winter sow any root crops in pots, be sure you plan to transplant them when they're still VERY small--root crops don't like transplanting. But most root crops can be planted directly in the ground when the soil is still quite cold so you might want to save that extra step. You might want to check out the veggie germination temperature link I posted on the "date of last frost" thread.

Any HARDY perennials/herbs can be winter sown at any time of the winter. There are LOTS of different kinds of Hydrangeas, but if yours is a hardy one, that could be winter sown at any time too.

Snaps also reseed prolifically, so if you get a couple of those started you be inundated by them in a couple years! And while they're usually sold as annuals, like Cat, most of mine come back year after year too, and seedlings that germinate in late summer or fall will be green all winter and have a head start the following spring. Easy to grow, lots of pretty colors, and WONDERFUL scent! When I was a kit my uncle next door grew floral snaps in his greenhouses and the scent was my Drug Of Choice!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks Cat and Skybird.

Sorry I checked out for a while. things got and will be hectic for a while. I hope I get around to this soon.

About throwing seeds on the ground now, bachelor buttons, snapdragons, wildflowers, if I have mulch, are you supposed to scrape it aside and leave the soil exposed for the seeds to germinate, or can you cover the seeds with the mulch and they will find a way? I have about 3" of mulch right now.

If I can do this, do you know a couple of flowers, annuals and perennials that do well like this? Preferably ones that are like native and good for pollinators. Just off the top of your head.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I think what you do will depend on how many seeds you're planning to plant! When I direct sow snaps I just take the dry seed heads and shake them over the mulch where I want more, but there are HUNDREDS of seeds when I'm doing that! Some will come up and some won't--but I definitely don't get hundreds! My mulch is "wearing down" too, so it's not nearly as thick as yours! But I also have snaps, some intentionally sown, some naturally sown, come up in my rock mulch which has landscape fabric right under the rock--as a matter of fact the snaps in the rock mulch when I moved in here is where I got my "original" supply of seed that I now scatter other places! So if you have a "significant" quantity of seed I'd recommend just sprinkling some of it over the mulch and then lightly pat or stir the mulch a bit to be sure some of it falls all the way down to the soil. If you have just a few seeds I think I'd recommend pushing some of the mulch back and then putting the seeds on or close to the soil. I'm not sure, but I don't believe a 3" mulch will interfere with them coming up.

I don't grow annual bachelor buttons, so not sure, but from what Cat said I suspect they could be handled the same as snaps. And I don't grow these either, but I'm pretty sure Cosmos could be dealt with the same way!

I don't do mixes because when something comes up you don't know if you're looking at a weed or a plant you want! In the past when I did try mixes I had some things come up that I had to grow all summer trying to figure out what they were--and they DID turn out to be weeds! When sowing individual types of seed you can have a pretty good idea what it should look like so you know pretty quickly if the "right" thing is coming up.

With perennials you wouldn't usually want a "bunch" of them coming up here and there, so I recommend winter (or summer!) sowing those in separate pots and then planting them where you want them after they've developed a good root system. [When I winter sow, BTW, instead of using big jugs I sow my seeds in individual pots--8 oz. styrofoam cups, so when the roots grow down to the bottom of the pot I can just knock it out and plant it without having to transplant them at some point!]

I have a sheet of Colorado Native perennials we compiled when I was at Paulino's, but it's a whole page, single spaced, and I don't have time to retype the whole thing here! If you come to a swap I'm at and want to see it, remind me and I'll bring it along. (I brought all my info sheets along to some of the first swaps but nobody seemed interested so I don't bring them anymore unless I know somebody wants to see one or more!) But is there any particular reason why you're looking for natives?

Regarding pollinators, if you just have a nice mix of different flowers (and veggies) so some are blooming all summer you should have lots of bees around. One thing I happen to remember that bees seem to love are the upright sedums like 'Autumn Joy'. When I'd be selling those things it seemed like the flowers were always covered with bees! And my Agastache seems to attract a lot too, tho that could just be because there are SO many flowers! And Agastache is good for attracting hummingbirds too--or any other tubular shaped flowers, especially red or pink--but hummers will go to other colors too once they're in the area.

That's all I can think of right now! Hope some of it might be helpful!


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:31PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Leslie,

I was going thru--organizing--all my (kazillions of!) garden links just now and I found some things I didn't remember I had! Here are a few links!

Native Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas.

Recommended Species page from the same site where you can click on a specific state to get a list of natives from just that state. And there are also links to info abut beneficial insects--BEES! I don't remember when I found this site, but I do remember thinking that it has a WEALTH of really good info!

If you go to the Colorado Natives list it includes everything, but you can narrow the list in the right hand column for just trees, bushes, perennials, etc. The only problem I have with the info is that I can't find anywhere where they give zone info or any info at all about cold hardiness. Since the site is from Texas, if you find something you're interested in I recommend googling it to be sure it's hardy enough for "us!"

And there's one more list I had saved from the Colorado Native Plant Society. (pdf) This one lists the types of plants separately and has some basic info with them. One FYI! Many of the native species are not as "showy" as more "modern" or non-native species/varieties within the same Genus, so be sure you understand just exactly what you're getting if you decide to go with all/mostly native plants.

Hope these links help you and others, especially anyone looking for "bee" information!


    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:51PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Hi again,

I kept my plastic bin for winter sowing under our porch near the house and am wondering if they were/are getting enough sun.

My other concern is that the soil in the pots were frozen. I expect that just part of it, right? The soil is expected to freeze?

If not, I'm guessing I should move the bin so that it gets more sun- not direct sun but close to the edge of the porch versus in the back near the house. It gets indirect morning sun there.

How long should it take before something comes up? I'm planting things like lettuce, spinach, brussel sprouts, and a variety of flowers I mentioned above. It's been about 3 weeks.

Once I do get sprouts, can they tolerate the cold evenings? I know I'm supposed to remove them from the bins, but don't know what to do with them once they sprout. Just let them grow outside?


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 3:23PM
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