Great info about "Winter Sowing" from our friend Michelle Bruhn at Forks in the Dirt.
Winter sowing is a way to work with Mother Nature to grow plants from seed. You plant seeds in a container and set them outside (in Late Feb/ Early March). They sprout in the containers and are ready to plant out into your garden from there. Trudi Greissle Davidoff was the first to write about this process, and still has a website dedicated to this style of seed sowing.
The concept started by mimicking nature with seeds that need to be cold stratified; meaning the seeds must spend time in the cold (either outdoors or in a refrigerator/freezer) for a certain number of days. Most also need to go through a freezing/thawing process to help weaken and break down their seed coats, breaking the seeds out of dormancy preparing them for germination. Planting seeds that need to be cold stratified inside a container gives you the best of both worlds. They will still be in nature (freezing, thawing) but you will also end up with a seedling that you can keep an eye on and transplant much easier.
When planting annual vegetable seeds, they obviously don’t require a stratification. But the bonuses include:
*No Hardening Off
*No extra equipment
This process does not require any extra inputs to start seeds a little earlier. I will say that up in Minnesota (zone 4) we can’t start our peppers, eggplant or tomatoes this way if we want to get a full harvest season out of those heat loving plants. But there are quite a few plants which work wonderfully using this method (e.g. Spinach, Beets, Romaine, Broccoli, and Kale).
Note from Salad Girl: If you're interest is piqued, read Michelle's entire article here: ForksInTheDirt
Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!