Onions from seed: Attempt number six.

My fall garden is planned. It’s sketched. It’s charted. It’s timeline-ed. And this year, I’m also ready with Plan B through Plan E so that I don’t encounter the same issues as last year and spend most of my winter with an unnecessarily empty garden.

I ordered my garlic, some Chiogga beet seeds (because Cylindra was just too tiny for my tastes), and have had my seed trays going for awhile now – cat interruptions aside. I have have plenty of greens seeds, carrot seeds, and other plotted plants seeds leftover from previous trips to the drug dealers seed catalogs…

I tried to order my onion starts. Sold out.

I tried another farm. Sold out.

Another, and another. They all ship January through May and are asking me to check back this fall, to pre-order for next spring.

Well, crap. A decent section of space has been designated onion space. I know our climate will allow for onions planted in October. Apparently the climates of those who sell onion starts are a different story.

I recently learned the difference between Short Day Onions and Long Day Onions (who knew?) and that solved the Mystery of the Failed Onion Seeds of 2009. The Puzzling Case of the Attempts of 2010, 2011, and 2012? Still puzzling.

They germinate just fine, as seen here in January:

And they gain some height just fine, as seen here shortly thereafter:

And that’s about as far as I can get them. From that stage, they put out itty bitty little white legs, that may or may not be roots, and try their hardest to die while I try my hardest to keep them alive.

I have a three-pronged approach this year.

  1. Richer seed-starter mix. I learned this past spring that onions are hungry little guys, but want the food far from their root zone. This will be for the indoor attempt.
  2. The bird method. Meaning I’ll prep the soil where I want the onions in the fall, sprinkle the seed, and water if needed. Otherwise, I’m going to leave them be and see if I’m just getting in nature’s way.
  3. Order onion starts from a company that ships as early as December. If my indoor sowings and outdoor sowings both fail, we can still have onions.

Anyone out there grown onions from seeds before? Any tips to getting them from leggy little blades of green to actual plants?

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8 comments on “Onions from seed: Attempt number six.

  1. Shannon says:

    I’ve never grown onions, seed or starts. I should try to direct-seed outdoors and see how it goes! Next month I’ll be planning for the fall and winter gardens and getting the ground ready.

    To prevent leggy seedlings (indoors), try giving them more intense lighting right as they sprout. You may need to invest in a grow light (so they don’t work so hard “finding” distant lighting) and place within 4″ of the seedlings to get ’em going right.

  2. Louis says:

    I will attest that planting onions in the fall is both good and bad. The largest onion I have ever grown (bigger than a softball) was planted last spring and went through an entire winter until it was harvested this year. However, a few other onions that accidentally escaped my sweaty paws last fall barely got as big as tennis balls (and much smaller) and all of them flowered. I understand that’s common for onion transplants since they only flower every other year and need a warm, cold, warm cycle to go to seed. They are biannual if I recall (or is it biennial?).

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