Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seed Starting: Onions and Leeks

Finally! It's Time to Sow Something!!

This weekend it is time to start some onion seeds. Onions take a long time to develop from seed. Sowing inside in January or February under growing lights then transplanting to the garden in early spring is the only way that I can grow onion from seed and have them mature in my zone 5 garden.

I mass plant onions and leek seeds into recycled berry containers. The containers are about 4 inches deep and already have plenty of holes for drainage. This weekend I sowed White Sweet Spanish Onions, Evergreen Bunching Onions, and American Flag Leeks.

Onions and Leeks Sowed in Recycled Berry Trays

The containers are filled will pre-moistened seed starting mix. The seeds are sprinkled on top of the soil, covered with a small amount of seed starting mix, and pressed down gently to be sure the seeds are in contact with the moist soil. The containers are labeled, placed in a flat, covered with a humidity dome, and placed on a heat mat until the seeds sprout.

Once the onions emerge from the soil, the humidity dome is removed and the seedlings are placed under lights.

Onion Seedlings Growing Under Lights from 2011

I trim the onions to keep them around 3-inches high. The trimmings are added to soups, salads, or used as a pizza topping.  

Onion Trimmings

Even though the seedlings seem crowded in their containers, with a little additional fertilizer they are happy until they are transplanted to their new home in the garden. 

Onion Seedlings Ready to be Transplanted in the Garden

The seedlings are separated when transplanted and spaced out 3 to 4 inches apart depending on the variety.

Onion Seedlings Transplanted to the Garden


Onions Ready for Harvest Fall 2011

I look forward to sowing the first seeds of the year. I think about it often during the long and cold winter.  All during the plotting and planning of the garden I obsess about planting something. The miracle of growing food is still amazing to me no matter how often I prepare a growing medium, sprinkle seeds, add water, and watch it grow to produce something that we can eat.

19 comments:

  1. I'm starting onions from seed for the first time- hoping it works. It's always so exciting to plant seeds and watch them germinate and grow. Even though as gardeners we've probably seen the process thousands of times, it never seems to lose its thrill!

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    1. Hi Julie, starting from seed is exciting for me each time as well. Good luck with your onions, I am sure they will grow fine.

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  2. My onions are up and growing and it makes me happy. :D I have celery and celeriac that is up as well. Both are my first of the season seed starting items. Been busy planting even more items sinc ethem and it will stay busy like this for weeks to come. I love it!

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    1. Laura, Now that I planted onions, I want to plant more!! Sadly, I will need to wait a bit.

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  3. This is so helpful! It's my first year starting onions from seeds too. Thank you for posting this. =)

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    1. Danny, I am so glad that this helps :) Good luck with your onions.

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  4. Looks like you are well on your way to starting 2012 garden season. I like your new header photo on your blog.

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    1. Kris, Too bad it only took a few minutes to sow the first seeds. Thanks for the compliment on the new header.

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  5. I tried onions from seed one year and was not successful. Since I have been growing them from sets. I think I might give them a try next year from seed. I will be starting seedlings in the next couple of weeks, and its really hard not to start everything.

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    1. I hope you do consider growing onions from seed again. I have grown onions for years from sets but they don't seem to store well through the winter. I tried growing Copra and Patterson onions from seed a few years ago and have had good results. Onion seed usually only lasts 1-2 years so try a fresh package.

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  6. Every year, I tell myself to grow many more onions. I also think we could probably put them much closer, too. Yum. Yours look fabulous. I find teasing their roots apart kind of a challenge, but I do it, gently. . . looks like you have it down.

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    1. Stefaneener, I think I grew too many onions last year. Hopefully the ones in the freezer will hold their flavor.

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  7. that's a cool method! Is it hard to separate the seedlings when you transplant them?

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    1. Meems, When the onion seedlings are ready to transplant, I remove the entire batch from the tray they are growing in and separate them from the bottom of the root ball by gently teasing each seedling away from the others. It seems a bit harsh, but the seedlings don't seem to mind.

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  8. Thank you for this post! I've always wanted to add onions to my garden. Your always beautiful pics really help with the how to visual for me. I'm in Zone 5 b Chicago burbs. How do you dry and store them? Any recommendation as to a good storage white onion? Michele

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    1. You can tell when onions are ready for harvesting when most of the tops flop over. I like to pull them on a dry and sunny day, then I let them sit in the sun for another day or so to dry. The onions are then spread out in a warm, airy place out of the sun and allowed to cure further until the roots are dry and wiry and the skins are crispy. Any onions that are still soft are used first while the remainder are stored in mesh bags.

      I am sure there are many storage onions out there, but I have had good luck with Copra and Patterson (more yellow than white).

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  9. Hello, GrafixMuse. I'm in Zone 5 in Michigan. I want to start onions from seeds indoors under fluorescent lights. I have my growing area all set up and I plan to plant them soon. But as I search my gardening books and the Interner, I cannot find any information about how many hours a day the onion seedlings should get light each day after they germinate. Since I will be growing long-day onions, I don't want to give them too much light so that they start creating bulbs too early. What would you suggest?

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    1. Hi Joe: Since you have done your research, you know that long day onion varieties begin to form a bulb when the temperature warms and hours of daylight reach 14-16 hours. I have grown Copra and Patterson onion seedlings for a few years. They start out with 12 hours under fluorescent lights in the basement that is 60˚F or cooler. I plant the onion seedlings out mid-April and we receive about 13 hours of daylight during this time. I hope this helps.

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  10. I couldn't have stumbled across this post at a better time! Living in Okinawa, it seems that we have a year round growing season which makes things a little confusing for the onions, garlic, and the like lol. ( at least for garden newbies like myself lol) Thank you so much for sharing this information! :)

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