Gardening Winter To-Do List: Growing Onions From Seed

Gardening Winter To-Do List: Growing Onions From Seed

Onions get such a bad rap, those tear-jerking balls of smelly-breath-makers.  But what would a veggie pizza or tasty omelet be without them?  Though it is hard to trace to their origin due to the fact that their tissues leave very little trace, it is known, according to The National Onion Association (that is a REAL thing that I did not make up) that onions were found in Chinese gardens 5000 years ago, and that there is evidence “that the Sumerians were growing onions as early as 2500 B.C.  And even though, at my family gatherings, we paper-rock-scissors the lucky chef who gets to cry while dicing the onions for the risotto, in ancient Egypt, the vegetable was considered an object to be worshiped, symbolizing eternity in its circular layers.Want to grow your own eternity onion?  According to Urban Farmer, if you live in a warmer climate (zones 6-10), late January is a great time to start your onion seeds indoors. For those of you in zones 1-5 start your onion seeds in mid-late February.

  • Use fresh, first-year onion seeds, which, according to GrowVeg.com, germinate better than their older counterparts, which can, technically, be stored up for two years in a cool, dry space.
  • VegetableGardner.com reminds us that varieties differ in the length of daylight and the temperature required to make a bulb. Short-day types are ideal for the South, where they grow through cool southern fall and winter months. They’re triggered to bulb by the 12 hours of sunlight that come with the return of warm, early summer weather, while long-day onions are best grown in the North, where the summer daylight period is longer.
  • Using a fresh seed-starting mix, plant your seeds in flats, and choose a warm spot to encourage the seeds to germinate, such as the top of your refrigerator.  The seeds love a balmy 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When the seedling has three leaves, transfer to a pot at least 4 inches deep.
  • After germination, Barbara over at GrowVeg notes that a bright supplemental light is needed, such as a two-bulb florescent fixture, for 12 hours a day.  Every day, using scissors, she trims the onions back to around 3 inches.
  • When you’re ready to move your onions outdoors, after the temperatures are consistently above 46F, GrowVeg recommends creating deep planting trenches lined with rich compost and/or composted organic fertilizer.

Do you plan to grow your own onions?  Tell us over on Facebook or Twitter @TheCityFarm!

(Photo Credit: The New York Botanical Garden)

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