Starting Onions from Seed

| 1/15/2018 10:00:00 AM

Rebecca Anne ColeOnions require a long growing season and are usually started indoors 10-12 weeks before they will be set out in the garden in early spring, after the threat of frost. Onions need abundant sunlight, which determines the size and development of the bulb, and are categorized by the amount of daylight needed for proper bulb maturity. Short day onion varieties need around 12 hours, while long day varieties require 14-16 hours of sunlight to develop. Intermediate onion varieties fall in the middle, needing 12-14 hours. Onions may also be planted directly in the garden after the threat of frost by using onion sets, small dried onion bulbs, but the varieties are usually limited. I prefer to grow my onions from seed for this reason.

One of my favorite heirloom onion varieties, Australian Brown, was originally introduced by W. Atlee Burpee in 1897. It was the first onion I attempted to grow from seed in my garden. Australian Browns are a reliable intermediate day variety that develop medium to large sized bulbs, depending on growing conditions, and are known to be good keepers. My first planting yielded robust, medium sized onions that stored exceptionally well, lasting through the winter. Australian Brown onions are a classic style cooking onion, bearing a sharp, eye watering bite, and are suitable for use in many cooking preparations.

Red of Florence is an Italian heirloom dating back to the 1800s. They have an oblong reddish purple tinted bulb and have a milder, sweeter flavor. I like to dice them fresh to use in salads, or chop with vine ripened tomatoes and basil for a delicious bruschetta. Red of Florence onions are a good substitute for shallots in cooking recipes, and work well when sautéed as part of a roux base for sauces. Red of Florence is a long day onion variety. They take up little space in the garden, requiring only a few inches to accommodate their small, oblong roots.

Australian Brown and Red of Florence Onions

There different methods and techniques for starting onion seeds indoors, and I have tried many of them, with varying degrees of success. The most important thing is to get the roots healthy and established while still indoors, to where they are strong enough to withstand being set out in the garden. I have found the most success by using a two tiered tray method, which requires less work in the beginning and more time when transplanting, and by using an individual potting container method, which is more tedious in the initial planting process but smoother on the transplant side.       

Two Tiered Tray Method

1/17/2018 12:44:04 PM

Very interesting article with a beautiful picture!

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