Peas are winter sown in a mini greenhouse fashioned from a plastic milk jug. Photo by Michelle Cox.

Decades from now, we’ll look back on COVID as a chapter of planting the seeds for more Time; a time of slowing down and of reconnection. Of more front porch time, of long walks time, and of more authentic Nature time. 

In these slower moments, did you happen to notice something in the air this past week? wafts of wetness and thaw? of soils exhaling, of gentle stirrings from far away places? Were you filled with a heady hunger to engage, perhaps with our very planet? 

And what of those moments of stillness in southern exposures – the rising angle of the sun, beams hot on your body – did you ache with desire? feel a primal compulsion to dig into earth? to join in the circular dance of seasons and climes?  

Seed season is here: foreplay to the intoxicating act of growing food. Get in on the action sooner than later this year. COVID-driven seed shortages will extend into this season’s supply, too.

For this reason, Michelle and Steve Cox, founders of New Castle Gardens (NCG), invite you to come get ‘em while they last. NCG carries two high-quality, Colorado-based brands: Botanical Interests and J & D Heirloom Seeds.

With a background in soil biogeochemistry, restoration ecology, nonprofit start up, environmental education, and farm to table advocacy, Michelle wholly endorses growing from seed. If you’ve never done so before, plant even just one species this spring. Your slumbering parcels of stored sunshine will miraculously grow into the crispy, juicy taste of summer.

Botanical Interests (BI) is a Broomfield-based company, and has been Michelle’s go-to seed source for over 25 years. BI seed envelopes are legendary, each bearing a botanical rendering, sans hyperbolic colors or overblown promises. Each envelope is printed inside and out with tips for success: germinating temps and conditions; plant culture, harvest and pest control information; companion crops, recipes, history. BI is trustworthy, high-quality, and organic. Many varieties are even heirloom, allowing you to harvest your own true-to-type seeds for next year.

Over in Montrose, brothers Joseph and Dodi grew up gardening with their dad. A neighbor turned them onto heirloom seeds that her own family had been growing and saving for over 50 years. When the brothers realized how powerful it was to collect that seed and grow the plant again the next season – true to type, true to flavor, true to traits – they were hooked. Now 20 and 21, the “boys” continue to grow non-GMO heirloom vegetables through their own company, J & D Heirloom Seeds. They grow their seed stock free of chemicals or pesticides so we too can grow some of the best-tasting, reliable vegetables suited to our climate.

Now sink your hands into the earth and sow your own seeds of life.


In this very moment, seeds in the soil are responding to the cold and moisture, freezing and thawing, happening outside. Snowmelt is beginning to soften the hard shells that protect seeds through their winter slumber. Soon, as moisture penetrates that shell, embryos will swell and burst forth, sending out their cotyledon and root. 

Winter sowing mimics this process. 

“Mini greenhouses” are one of several ways to winter sow seeds. Spreading seeds across the soil works, of course, but a mini greenhouse protects your seed investment from squirrels, voles, mice and birds. You can make them for free, repurposing translucent, plastic milk jug containers.

Sterilize your jugs first. Then, 4-6 inches from the base, slice the jug almost all the way around, leaving it hinged at the handle. Poke 3-6 small drainage holes in the bottom.

Fill the bottom with 3-4 inches of light soil. For this season, Michelle Cox uses a combination of Black Gold Seedling Mix, “alive” compost, and Roots 1-Step which has a blend of mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria. 

Following seed packet directions, press your seeds onto, or into, the soil, ensuring soil to seed contact. Gently water the soil. 

Close the jug, pressing the top half into the bottom half, or tape it shut. Leave the cap off to allow air circulation, or they may mold. 

Find a stable spot out of the wind but where sun, rain and snow will be freely admitted, on the east or northeast side of your home. A south-facing wall might cause some seedlings to sprout too soon. A north-facing wall might delay them. Set them up in a way that will prevent tipping, which can shatter delicate new roots. 

Monitor your mini greenhouses; keep them moist but not soggy.

Come early spring, watch your garden, too, as snow melts and the ground thaws. When last year’s plants launch tender new shoots, it’s time to transplant your cool season seedlings. 

Best wishes to you!