Winter Sowing Vegetable Seeds

gardening tips
I have the winter blues!  I decided to start my vegetable seeds over the week-end.  Planning my garden takes the blues away and gives me a head start with strong, healthy veggie plants.  Last year I used heating mats and grow lights.  I had a 90% germination rate, but it takes lots of time and space to nurture the seedlings.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too.

This year, I decided to try winter sowing.  I’ve been saving plastic liter, juice and milk bottles.  Anything that I can cut and punch holes in the bottom for drainage.  I started about 20 bottles over the week-end.  Tomatoes, dill, zucchini, squash, sunflowers and petunias.  Tomatoes, dill and petunias reseed and grow.  Research showed that the squash and zucchini will also do well.  l will continue winter sowing through-out February.  I’ll do a few tomatoes, cukes and green beans inside.  Just in case I don’t have a successful germination rate from the winter sowing; however, gardeners swear by this method.  I’m sold!

 

If you’re wondering how I create these miniature greenhouses, here it goes.  Wash your bottles in hot soapy water and rinse well.  I used a box cutter to cut around the bottles.  Leave an inch on the bottle for a hinge.  Add drainage holes in the bottom of your bottle.  To accomplish this, I use a glue gun on the milk bottles.  However, I was unsuccessful using the glue gun on the liter and juice bottles.  The gun wouldn’t penetrate.  I used the box cutter to make slits on the bottom.  If you have another method of punching holes, bring out your equipment and punch holes in the bottom of your bottles.

First, mix your seed starting mix as directed on the package.  I use warm water when mixing the soil Mix it thoroughly.  You want it wet; however, not soggy.  Next, add 2 – 3 inches of the mix to the bottom of each of the bottles or container.  I use Miracle Gro Seed Starting Mix, which I purchase from Tractor Supply.  It’s a little expensive, but I have a great germination rate each year with the mix.

Second, place your seed on top of the soil and cover lightly.  Wrap the bottle with duct tape.  I purchased my duct tape from the dollar store.  Mark the bottles with a permanent marker, which I also purchased from the dollar store.

You can discard the bottle tops.  I moved the bottles and containers to the deck to ensure they get rain. Let them go until spring.  At that time you should have sprouts that will need water.  As they grow, you will have to remove the top of the bottles.  These little babies will already be hardened off, which is a step you will have to take if you start seedlings indoors.

Stay tuned for additional posts on winter sowing.  Finally, if you are a gardener and use the winter sowing method, please share your experience.  You may also like My Winter Sow Seed List.

Easy Recipe – Fresh Salsa Recipe

recipes, party recipes, salsa recipe

First, I made 5 pints of fresh salsa this week-end and it was delicious.  Trying to get the salsa into the jars was quite an endeavor.  Simply because I kept eating it.  This recipe is great served fresh too.  I serve it with chips. When I decide to serve it fresh, I place the salsa in bowls.  The next step is to chill it for several hours. It is so delicious.  Fortunately, I have other great backyard vegetable gardening tips too.  Be sure to check them out before you leave.

Next, if you have tomatoes, fresh peppers and onions that you want to use, I urge you to try this recipe.  Be warned, it’s addictive. So, head to your local farmer’s market if you don’t have the ingredients.  It’s great if you’re having company or if your children are salsa lovers too.  I’ll let you in on a secret.  Ask for seconds at your local farmer’s market.  They sell them at discounts because of a blemish, discoloration,  or deformity.  Your recipe won’t know the difference.

For this batch I used:

  • 15 – 20 tomatoes, skin removed and chopped (I used a mix of yellow, purple and red tomatoes)
  • 2 large red onions finely diced
  • 15-20 chilies, remove the veins & seeds, finely chopped
  • 5 chilies with the seeds if you like spicy
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
 *NOTE:  I didn’t include the lime juice.  If you’re going to can it, please include all ingredients listed.  Also, see my tips on how to remove the skins from fresh tomatoes.
 salsa recipes, fresh salsa
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, cilantro, salt, and lime juice. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator before serving.

If you want a smaller batch, cut the recipe in half.  I recommend Roma or Amish Paste tomatoes for salsa and sauces.  However, whatever is available will work for this recipe.  I used a mixture of Roma and slicers this time.  As a result, the salsa was quite watery.  Fortunately, the problem can be solved by placing the salsa in a colander and allowing it to drain for about 30 minutes. You can gradually add the liquid back in until you reach the desire consistency.  When I’m serving salsa for a party, I like for it to be chunky and to have very little water.  I don’t want my guest having salsa dripping down their clothes.