Here at my Bedford, New York farm, patches of snow still cover the ground, but inside my greenhouse, there is a flurry of spring activity - my gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, are busy repotting, transplanting, and starting vegetables from seed in preparation for the coming growing season.
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 Selected Seeds - we've been using Johnny's for years. Over the last few weeks, our onion seeds have grown about four or five inches tall. They’ll remain in the greenhouse for a several more weeks until they’re planted in my vegetable garden. And by mid-summer, we will have lots and lots of beautiful, fat bulbs to harvest.
Enjoy these photos…
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, in Albion, Maine, carries hundreds of varieties of certified organic vegetable, herb, flower, and fruit seeds. We chose several onion varieties. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/
Seed starting trays come in all different sizes and depths. We use trays with shallow compartments for planting onion seeds.
Ryan fills the seed starting tray with mix and pats it down lightly into each compartment. The mix should be level with the top of the tray.
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.
Ryan labels the seed markers and keeps them together with the matching packets.
To create a half-inch deep furrow in the middle of each compartment, Ryan places one tray over another and presses down lightly, so the bottom of one tray makes indentations in the soil-filled compartments of the other.
You can see the small indentations in each compartment – this is where the seeds will be planted. This is a great method when planting multiple trays.
These onion seeds were started in early February, which is about two months before the last frost in this area.
Using a hand seed sower, such as this one from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, pour a generous amount of seeds into the center dish.
Ryan screws the plastic top onto the hand seed sower and adjusts the amount of seeds that will be released at one time.
Ryan begins to drop onion seeds evenly into each compartment.
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.
Red Hawk onions are medium to large in size with a bold red color.
Great Western onions have brown skin and firm bulbs that are quite large.
Cortland onions are large, blocky-round with thin necks that will dry well. They also have thick, rich brown skin for good storability.
One to two seeds are dropped into each compartment and will be selectively thinned in a few weeks. This process eliminates the weaker sprout and prevents overcrowding, so seedlings don’t have any competition for soil nutrients or room to mature.
Once the seeds are dropped, Ryan adds an additional light layer of soil mix, so the seeds are completely covered. Be sure to insert the appropriate labels, so there’s no confusion later.
Ryan does this carefully, so as not to move any of the seeds in the tray.
When possible, prepare several trays in an assembly-line fashion, and then drop all the seeds. Doing this saves time and simplifies the process.
Fortunately, my greenhouse is large and can accommodate lots of seed starting.
Here we panted white onions – the White Castle have excellent color and disease resistance. They are jumbo, globe-shaped bulbs with bright white skins. Wooden markers or popsicle sticks work well for labeling trays. Write the onion variety on one side and the date they were sown on the other.
Once the seed trays are done, Ryan takes them to the greenhouse where they will get ample light and heat.
We love these heat mats. Heat mats increase germination rates and allow temperature control.
Ryan gives them a good drink of water.
And then covers them with plastic humidity domes. The humidity dome remains positioned over the seed tray until germination begins.
Keep seed starting trays moist and in a warm, sunny place. Here is how the onion seeds look a couple weeks after planting.
Here are some other seedlings more than a month after planting. 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.
I can’t wait! What seeds are you starting this winter? Let me know in the comments section below.
Skylands, my home in Maine, is covered with more than five-feet of snow.
Despite its beauty, all this snow makes the clean-up quite difficult. My Skylands crew has been very busy plowing the carriage roads, shoveling the walkways and terraces, and clearing any areas that may be subject to leaking or flooding because of the heavy accumulation - it's a tedious, time-consuming, but very necessary task.
Nonetheless, it's hard not to love a gorgeous snow-covered landscape. In between shoveling sessions yesterday, Cheryl Dulong took more beautiful winter photos. Here are some of them - enjoy.
This is the driveway leading to the back porch entrance. Skylands is beautiful in every season, but under winter’s glistening snow, it is even more magical.
Despite all the beauty, it’s a lot of snow to shovel around the house – these steps run from the back porch to the front circle and driveway.
62-inches of snow has fallen in the last 10-days here – clearing paths and stairwells is a big chore.
Off the property, this is a view from the town dock toward Seal Harbor beach. The area is pretty desolate now, but in a few months, this will be crowded with beachgoers once again.
The Maine Coast Exchange is a quaint little consignment shop I enjoy visiting in Seal Harbor. Look how high the snow is – the view of the shop is nearly completely blocked.
This is the road leading back to Skylands – the plow has done a good job here.
The main roads are clear, and allow for two cars to pass each other – all this snow makes traveling even short distances very difficult.
Look at all the snow surrounding the trees. It is hard to tell the true snow accumulation from the drifts – there is just so much.
The trees are laden with snow in the woodland. I hope all the creatures are nestled in their dens.
The tree branches are so weighed down – it’s hard to see the green of the foliage.
Even the tree trunks are covered with white.
It appears nothing wants to melt or fall or blow away.
This leaded window is down the back stairwell to the basement – here, you can see how much snow has fallen and drifted on this side of the house.
This “pub” window is nearly all walled in with white – there is so much shoveling to do.
If you recall, I showed this same view last week – in the distance is a small pool where the grandchildren love looking for frogs in summer. You can barely make out the ledge and “Rockefeller teeth” above the pool.
I promise, she is still in there – Aristide Maillol’s ‘La Riviere’ is all tucked away for the winter.
This is a view of the main terrace – the “cracked ice” is completely covered.
Here is the same view through the leaded window.
Snow even builds on top of the pergola above my West Terrace – these kiwi vines, which are original to the house, have been through many snowfalls.
This is Terrace One looking out over Seal Harbor – such a stunning winter view.
This photo is taken from Bedroom Three also overlooking the harbor.
This photo from Terrace One shows the icicles that have formed from the roof.
The icicles range from about a foot to several feet long. Here is a view of the harbor from Bedroom Three.
Icicles are so pretty. They form on surfaces which might have a smooth and straight, or irregular construction – this influences the shape of an icicle.
Some icicles need to be knocked down – they are so long. Icicles elongate by the growth of ice as a tube and the right mixture of air temperature, wind speed and the water feeding it.
This view is from one of the “dorm” windows – the “dorm” area was originally used for housekeeping staff.
Hard to believe, but this is my front driveway circle.
Ahead is a pink granite ledge – now white colored ledge. The temporary fencing is installed to keep deer from munching on the tender shrubs.
Here is another view of the main terrace from the dining room window.
Lots of shoveling is going on – my Skylands team has been busy.
And this is one of our favorite views – it’s taken from the kitchen window and is a reflection in the dining room storm window – so amazing.
I love all holidays, and every year, I try to make something special to give to my male friends and colleagues for St. Valentine's Day.
This year, I was able to take some time from my very busy schedule to bake and decorate dozens of heart-shaped cookies. I made them at our headquarters in New York City's historic Starrett Lehigh Building, where we have an expansive and well-stocked test kitchen. I had so much fun, and even recorded a short video you may have already seen on my Instagram page @MarthaStewart48 - do you follow me? I included the video below, along with some of my photos - enjoy.
And, bake some cookies this weekend - your friends and family will love them!
I was at the office the day before Valentine’s Day, and decided to roll and cut the dough, and bake some cookies. It’s become an annual tradition – if you recall, I did the same last year.
I used my Sugar Cookies I recipe from “The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Everyday” – I am sure many of you have a copy, but if not, you can still find it. It has so many wonderful recipes and tips. goo.gl/gvq8n0
The recipe is among my favorites, and makes approximately two-dozen cookies.
I made several batches – dozens and dozens of cookies in various sizes.
The recipe calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 pound butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
All the dry ingredients were sifted. And then, in an electric mixer, the butter and sugar were combined and the egg, brandy and vanilla added.
The dry ingredients were added to to the mixture until well-blended. Once the doughs were made, they were wrapped and chilled for at least 30-minutes. The doughs get really hard, but they roll out beautifully.
The cookies were about 1/8-inch thick, and baked at 400-degrees Fahrenheit for 10-minutes.
I used royal icing made from confectioner’s sugar, meringue from my own egg whites, food coloring, and water, and then hand-dipped each cookie very carefully.
I dipped just the top of the cookie, so each one looks smooth and perfect.
The frosting has to be exactly the right consistency to dip the cookies satisfactorily.
I made large and small cookies – I love how all of them look on this drying rack.
I have such a busy daily schedule filled with meetings – it was such a treat for me to make all these cookies myself. I love baking, especially when I can create fun holiday cookies for those near and dear.
The largest cookie was about five and 3/4-inches wide.
For decorations, I used words, dragees or different sanding sugars. For some I used a toothpick to create designs.
Some have decorative borders and others have simple dots piped around the perimeter – it really dresses up the cookies.
I decorated with more dots on these cookies. Nearly every one was different.
Of course, I made Jude and Truman each a large cookie with their name.
I decided to style some of my cookies for photos – here is a single, large “love” cookie on plate.
And a variety of smaller cookies stacked on top of each other.
I placed Jude’s cookie and Truman’s cookie on a platter for this photo.
I love this photo of the cookies on top of containers of sanding sugar.
I used cellophane bags to package my cookies.
Cellophane bags are so versatile, and they look so pretty.
Valentine’s Day 2017 may be over, but these sugary classics are great any time of year. I hope you take some time to bake some cookies for your loved ones this weekend!