March 11, 2015
Starting Onions From Seed
Here at the farm, much of the ground is still covered in snow, but inside my greenhouses, you’ll find lots of spring activity - my gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, are busy repotting orchids, organizing tools, and starting vegetables from seed.
About a month ago, we sowed several trays of onion seeds. Starting onions from seed isn’t difficult. They can be planted closely together in seed starting trays, and because they are shallow-rooted, they can be pulled apart easily when ready for transplanting outdoors. Many of our seed trays and supplies are from Johnny’s Seeds.
Last week, our onion seeds had already sprouted and grown about four or five inches tall. They’ll remain in the greenhouse for a few more weeks until they’re planted individually out in my garden. And by mid-summer, there will be lots of beautiful, fat bulbs to harvest.
Enjoy some of these first gardening pictures of the season…
1 Seed starting trays come in all different sizes. We use trays with long, shallow compartments for planting onion seeds because they can be placed closely together.
2 It's best to use a pre-made seed starting mix that contains the proper amounts of vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. Seed starting mixes are available at garden supply stores.
3 These onion seeds were started in early February, which is about two months before the last frost in this area.
4 When starting seeds, fill the seed starting tray with mix and pat it down lightly into each compartment. The mix should be level with the top of the tray.
5 It's always a good idea to keep a record of when seeds are sown, when they germinate, and when they are transplanted. These observations will help organize a schedule for the following year.
6 Using a metal plant marker, create a half-inch deep furrow in the middle of each compartment.
7 If you don't have a plant marker, use a thin ruler. Here, you can see how narrow each furrow should be.
8 When possible, prepare several trays in an assembly-line fashion, and then drop all the seeds. Doing this saves time and simplifies the process.
10 Using a hand seed sower, such as this one from Johnny's Seeds, pour a generous amount of seeds into the center dish.
11 Screw the plastic top onto the hand seed sower and adjust how many seeds you want released at one time.
12 In each furrow, drop your seeds evenly about a quarter-inch apart.
13 It is good to start larger onions from seed, so they can be harvested the same year. Smaller onions can be planted directly into the ground.
14 Once you've dropped the seeds into the furrows, pinch each furrow together, so the seeds are covered. Label the rows with the name of the onion seed planted, so there's no confusion later.
15 Wooden markers or popsicle sticks work well. Write the onion variety on one side and the date they were sown on the other. Here, we planted yellow onion seeds. The yellow onion is white inside with layers of papery yellow-brown skin outside. It is higher in sulfur than the white onion, so it tends to have a stronger more complex flavor.
16 Here, we planted Valencia onion seeds. Valencia onions have bulbs that are about four to six inches wide. When harvested, they are globe shaped with beautiful bronze colored skins.
17 Keep seed starting trays moist and in a warm, sunny place. Here is how the onion seeds look about one month after planting. They are very green and healthy. Notice the leftover seeds at the top of each stem - they will eventually fall off.
18 These seedlings will remain in the greenhouse for another four to six weeks until they are ready to be separated and transplanted into the ground.