Winter sowing is a modified way to direct seed outdoors when it is too cold out for seeds to germinate. Milk jugs and other containers, you fill with soil, are best used when the ground is frozen or when there is snow on the ground. An alternative method, once the ground can be worked, is a simple shoe box method. It is like using a cloche.
This method is used for cool weather crops, crops that can take a frost or a freeze. Seeds planted directly in soil, without a cover, can sit for weeks or months before germinating when soil temperatures are in the 40's. The use of the shoe box, speeds up germination and growth, so that you end up with a lot of transplants to put throughout your garden. The soil beneath the container, warms well in to the 50's and even 60's during the day.
I recommend this method primarily for onion and leek seeds, but it can be used for any cool crop that is easily transplanted. My short video A Winter Sowing Alternative for Onion & Leek Seeds: A Simple Set and Forget Method for Transplants! shows how quickly and easily it can done. Workable soil can be defined as, at minimum, you can work the seeds into the top 1/2 inch of the soil. It can be frozen below that. The shoe box will create a much warmer microclimate during the day and it will accelerated germination.
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The benefit to this method is that you can grow without grow lights. There is no need for an elaborate set up indoors. You really don't have to water the winter sown seeds, as the shoe box is not that wide and water seeps in from the sides when it rains. It is also something you can set up now and forget. In 8 to 12 weeks, depending on temperatures, you will have wonderful onion, leek, or other transplants for you garden.
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