Let’s talk about growing flowers from seed, shall we, especially those harder to germinate wildflowers and other perennials. Miriam Goldberger of Ontario’s Wildflower Farm explains:
Certain wildflowers won’t germinate unless they have the stratification period. It’s not the freezing temperatures of winter but rather the freeze/thaw action of early spring that breaks down the seed shells and serves as a catalyst for germination to occur.
Not waiting for spring and sowing now is called winter sowing, which is a special, yet fairly easy way of sowing seeds. Winter sowing creates conditions that mimic those the seed naturally goes through over the course of the winter, a process called stratification. Stratification providing seeds with a prolonged period of a cold, moist environment, usually for several weeks. Seed sowers can use the refrigerator to mimic stratification at any time of the year. But since we’ve got winter conditions right now we don’t need to monopolize the fridge.
Simply planting the seeds as you normally would in in a soilless mix, like ProMix, watering then placing a covered seed container outside is the basic winter seed sowing principle. Containers can be recycled plastic containers of all kinds like milk containers, empty 2 L pop containers. The lid offers protection from animals that might dig seeds up if they were just planted in the garden directly. You simply cut the container part way down to make the lid, then tape back up to seal it. It’s the most idiot-proof seed sowing you can do. In the earliest days of spring, the seeds will germinate naturally as they respond to the warmer temperatures. You’ll find a great video slide show here on winter sowing in milk jugs.
This set-up of using plastic covered containers mimics a little greenhouse. Your seeds will get the maximum light available so growing seedlings will be sturdy and stocky. The only thing you have to concern yourself with is if it suddenly warms up in very early spring, you would need to make sure the lids were off so your seedlings don’t don’t cook by overheating.