When I first heard the term "winter sowing" my thoughts were of sowing seeds in trays, placing them under a light source inside the house, water and take care of them until it was time to bring them outside.
The thought of sowing seeds and placing them outside at a time when my - still tiny - rhododendron looks like it is more dead than alive, paralyzed by temperatures far below -20 Celsius, just didn't occur.
My curiosity took over. I studied information that I found on the net and finally decided that I would try it this winter. You might say that for me this first time winter sowing is somewhat an experiment. Like many (I'm sure) longtime gardeners I find it going against some of my instinct (?) or rather learned "seed starting ABC" that the seeds don't need my tender care and attention, but will do just fine on their own outside in the cold and snow. In fact I read that they will do much better this way! The dreaded "damping off" will not happen to the young seedlings this way and seeds that need cold stratification will get just that. You don't have to put them in your fridge or freezer for x number of weeks - sometimes even repeatedly - they get the cold treatment automatically.
There are lots of information about winter sowing to be found on the net. Trudy Davidoff, I believe, started the idea and has a very informative site, Wintersown about it. Other sites that I visited are Daves Garden , American Gardens Suite 101 , and Gardenweb has a forum called Canadian Winter Sowing.
The last few days we have had a thaw here - I think that the snow level has shrunk by 50 cm - and yesterday I did my first winter sowing. I started out by sowing seeds that I collected last summer from echinacia, rudbeckia, daisy, anemone, helenium, zinnia, pine, and spruce.
I placed the miscellaneous re-cycled plastic trays in a corner, sheltered from the harsh south-western winds and with some additional protection by a row of potted "willow trees" to that they will stay in place. They get a few rays of morning sun here and I will be checking on them.
In a few months I hope to report life in the containers and to submit photos as evidence.