Winter Sowing Bells of Ireland Flowers for St. Patrick’s Day

I am of half Irish descent, so St. Patrick’s Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. Every family member on that side of my family has their own yearly traditions, but we all always have a traditional Irish dinner every year. A couple of my traditions include making Irish soda bread & Guinness chocolate cake. This year, I decided to add planting Bells of Ireland seeds as part of my yearly celebration of St. Patrick. I bought the seeds a few weeks ago & realized that the planting time coincided with St. Paddy’s day. What better way to celebrate the holiday than by planting the seeds during Irish week?

winter sowing with milk jugs
Let’s turn this milk jug into a greenhouse!

Initially, I was going to plant the seeds in one of my seed-starting trays & grow them indoors next to my grow light system. But as I was reading the seed packet, I learned that Bells of Ireland seeds germinate faster when you put them in the freezer for 10-14 days prior to planting. This little nugget of information means that the flowers are the perfect candidates for winter sowing. Like I said in my winter sowing tutorial, I am all for any seeds that can be winter sown or direct-seeded, especially when you have a whole lot of seeds that you need to plant as I do. The less effort the better as far I’m concerned when seed-starting is involved.

coconut coir seed starting mix
Coconut coir & starter fertilizer give the seeds the right start.

I got to work & started the process of turning an old milk jug into a tiny greenhouse. I poked holes in the bottom of the jug & cut the milk jug in half horizontally. Luckily for me, I still had coconut coir all mixed up & ready to go from the week prior when I winter-sowed foxgloves, Iceland poppies & sweet peas. I saved the leftover coconut coir in a sealed container, so it was still perfectly saturated with water & ready to plant with. All I had to do was pour it into the bottom of the milk jug & mix in a little starter fertilizer with the coir. Then I patted down the soil to avoid any air pockets.

planting bells of Ireland seeds for St. Patrick's Day
The seed star of the day.

Next up were the seeds. I’ve never grown Bells of Ireland flowers before nor have I ever seen the seeds either. It’s always fascinating to see what new seeds look like & how much variation there is among them. Prior to my growing from seed adventure of the past year, I never really paid that much attention to seeds. Seeds were just seeds to me, but once you start to open up seed packets you start noticing that there are so many different types out there. Most seeds look like standard round or oval balls, but every now & then you get completely surprised with something like marigold seeds that look like tiny little rods. Some seeds are jumbo-sized balls, while others are so small that you swear that they’re just dust particles. It turns out that Bells of Ireland seeds are cute little wedge triangles, which were thankfully easy to plant. I can’t say the same for the dust particle-like seeds!

winter sowing bells of Ireland seeds
Seeds in.

I poured the whole packet of seeds into the bottom of the milk jug. I tried to evenly distribute them throughout the whole container in order to give them all a good space to grow. In general, it’s best practice to try to give seeds room to grow, so that you’ll have an easier time separating the seedlings once you’re ready to transplant them. Plants are generally pretty hardy, but they don’t really like it when their roots are messed with. Taking the time now to separate the seeds will save you time in the future. With that in mind, I did plant a bit heavy in the container & probably could have planted up two containers instead of one, but I only have so much space & so many milk jugs.

winter sown Bells of Ireland seeds in a milk jug
All wrapped up & ready to grow!

After that, I sprinkled a little more coconut coir on top of the seeds & sprayed the soil with water to finish the planting process. I labeled the top of the milk jug with the flower name & date that I planted them. It always helps to have that information recorded, especially when you’re planting up a ton of different seeds. Then I duct taped the top of the jug to the bottom of the jug & removed the lid. All I had left to do was place the milk jug greenhouse out with the other milk jug greenhouses in my raised bed veggie garden & my St. Patrick’s planting celebration was complete. I can’t stress enough how easy it is to winter sow seeds. Everyone should give it a go!

St. Patrick's Day Guinness cupcakes
My St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes for good measure. These are Guinness chocolate cupcakes, filled with Guinness chocolate ganache & topped with Bailey’s buttercream frosting. I made the shamrocks with the same buttercream frosting.

This was such a fun gardening project for me & I plan to add it to my list of St. Paddy’s traditions. I wish that I would have thought about doing this sooner. It’s nice to think that flowers with an Irish-related name that I will enjoy in the summer, will have started their growing journey around St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish food that I make this week will be enjoyed this week, but the flowers will give me something to look forward to in the future. It’s a St. Patrick’s gift that keeps on giving. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

4 thoughts on “Winter Sowing Bells of Ireland Flowers for St. Patrick’s Day

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