There's always an itch in February and March to get the whole snow and ice thing over and get outside.
This year I was surfing around and I noticed something called Winter Sowing. Basically you take a cleaned container and you make drain holes and air holes, stick some dirt in it, plant a few seeds, tape it back up and set it outside in the snow. The theory being that seeds are used to being outside anyway...they need that winter downtime and when Spring comes they will respond to the terrarium conditions and bolt up strong and early. Another positive being that you won't have to harden off seedlings that have been grown in too-perfect conditions indoors and you shouldn't need to water them (since a terrarium simulates the water cycle the earth goes through).
It sounded like a nice educational project and I thought the kids wouldn't mind getting dirty after months inside so I foisted it on them with myself as crew chief and cleaning crew. I chose some colder weather varieties and we started planting green beans, spinach, basil, swiss chard, and evening primrose.
A few lessons learned:
*plastic take-home containers work well
*make enough drainage holes or else your seeds will rot in the mud (note take-home containers are now lidless so that some of the water can evaporate)
*don't leave containers on the ground if you have dogs or small children
*if you have to keep containers up on a railing the small, light containers (far right) will fall off in the wind or perhaps merely because they feel like it
So far I'm 1 for 6 out there. The chard (far left in top picture) is showing one little seedling. Everything else is proving too dry or too wet or two shaken-up or too early to tell.
If you really strain your eyes it's between 10 and 11 o'clock along the wall of the milk carton.