Serving Franklin County, WA

Start planting your spring garden today

That's right! Now is the time to start planting your spring garden, especially if you like playing in dirt!

We know, it is still cold, with occasional snow, ice, and nasty weather. But, yes, it is time to plant a spring garden. And it's okay to get your hands in the soil at this time of year. Let us explain.

Many seeds need at least 90 days of cold to germinate. Instead of using your refrigerator to cold stratify your seeds during the winter or early spring plant those seeds outside. Here's how.

NEEDS. You will need the following:

· clear plastic jugs or translucent milk jugs without caps OR large clear plastic bins, into which holes have been punched in the tops and bottoms to allow for adequate drainage

· a sharp knife

· a permanent marker and plastic tags

· duct tape (any color you want)

· planting or potting soil

DECISION TIME: You have TWO CHOICES for sowing the seeds:

A. From now through March, sow seeds and add water to prepared jugs according to the SOW TIME ONE list of sowing at different times during this 4-month period.

B. OR . . . you can sow all the seeds in right now Check SOW TIME TWO. Just remember to water occasionally. If you want to be done with one preparation, this is it and you still get your hands in the soil long before spring. What a bonus!

PREPARE planters you want for your garden. Set them aside until you are ready to sow the seeds.

A. Make 4 slits at the bottom of the jug (or punch holes as needed in plastic bins) for drainage.

B. Cut around the jug at least 4" from the bottom, but do NOT sever the handle. The handle will be the hinge to open and close the planter.

C. Put 3" of soil in the jug. Soil with a time-release fertilizer is okay. Don't pack down the soil.

SOWING the seed is easy. The smaller the seed, the more you can sow in the jug.

A. Water the soil so it is damp, not dripping wet.

B. Scatter wildflower seed on top, add a thin soil layer, pat soil gently to stick to the seed. Plant 4-9 tree or shrub seeds equidistant apart in the jug. With flowering Japanese quince seed, I sow 9 seeds in a tic-tac-toe pattern.

C. Write name of the plant seed on a plastic tag. Stick in soil, inside the jug (or bin), by the hinge/handle.

D. Put 1 strip of duct tape (about 3-4" long) vertically over each seam on the 3 cut sides of the jug to keep the top half of the jug from flapping in the winter winds.

E. Take off the cap for ventilation.

SET the jugs (and/or bins) in the garden. Let the weather have at them. Oh, and protect the jugs/bins from the wind. You can place them in plastic boxes that have drainage slits in the bottom or place them between heaped rows of garden soil or between raised beds to keep winter winds from tipping them over.

SOW TIME ONE. IF you choose to space out the sowing between now and the end of March, then set out the jugs/bins of winter-sown seeds based on how many cold days the seeds need and count back from the last frost date for your area. In Moses Lake, that is between May 1-15. Err on the side of caution – use the latest date of last frost -- and, bingo, you have the date to set out the jugs.

A. Since we are way past December 21 (Winter solstice), it is okay to set out tree, shrub, and woody vine seeds.

B. It is safe now that it is the end of February to set out the jugs of perennial and biennial seeds.

C. By early March, set out the jugs of cold-hardy veggie seeds, hardy perennials and annuals.

D. Early in March, set out jugs of frost-intolerant seeds: tender annuals, tomatoes, squash, gourds, beans.

E. Check occasionally to make sure that the soil is moist, but not wet. Replace duct tape strips as needed.

F. After the last frost date has passed, set out the seedlings with the rest of your garden plants. Clean and save the jugs/bins for the next winter sowing.

SOW TIME TWO. IF you choose to set out all the seeds at one time in late fall, early winter, or even now, you get the delight of the preparation as well as the enjoyment of checking on the seeds earlier when you venture forth to give the jugs a bit of water to keep the soil slightly damp – unless rain and snow have done that for you. Yes, leaving the cap off the milk jugs will allow sufficient moisture (rain or snow) to find its way into the jug to keep the soil damp. For the larger plastic bins, if water is needed, it is easier to pull the lids off and give the plants a good soaking vs. pouring water into the plastic jugs.

After the last frost date, set out the seedlings and watch them grow and grow!

– Master Gardeners are on call 24/7 year-round to answer gardening questions. Contact the WSU Grant-Adams Master Gardeners at the WSU Grant County Extension office, Phone: 509.754.2011 Ext. 4313 or Email: [email protected]. Online reference services are available at


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