Sunday, January 08, 2017

Starting Onion Seeds. 1.7.17

I decided to grow onions from seeds this year.  After reading a number of web pages and viewing some videos, now looks like a good time.  They can be started Jan, Feb, March.  The seedlings can very crowded in the container, 25 or more per container.  Some garden writers state more than that.

Unfortunately, my seeds from Territorial Seeds did not come yet.  I have some Ailsa Craig seeds from Baker Creek for summer onions, and bought some Red Globe and Ringmaster White Globe for storage. I hope the Territorial Seeds come soon, since those are the long keepers.

I planted roughly a seed per every 1/4 inch although didn't measure.  These are in cottage cheese containers with holes drilled through the bottom, and filled with moist seed starting soil.


  1. Hi Daniel,

    Searching for tips on growing okra in Washington led me to your blog. I'm retired and living in Sequim; originally I'm from Auburn. Before retiring, I spent 15 years in the sweltering rural midwest, where growing okra was one of few redeeming qualities of living there.

    We've moved in with my elderly father, who has 2.5 acres on which to start a garden. Rainfall here is limited (pilots call this he "blue hole") together with a slow well, we've decided to put in a so-called "Back to Eden" garden. Hoping that okra will produce enough at least to make gumbo! ;)

    I've enjoyed reading your blog, Daniel! All the best to you this season!


  2. CornDawg, sorry for delayed response. I'm not happy with okra here. I tried planting very early indoors, and a bit early indoors, and in June outdoors. The June planted did as well as any. Okra just sits there and sulks in cool soil or cool weather. The June planted did yield enough for a few bowls of soup, and I love okra so it's worth it. I don't know yet which variety might do the best. I've been sticking with the earliest bearing. I plan to try again this year, some in raised beds.

  3. Thanks Daniel. Tomorrow I'm heading over to Paul Gautschi's house in Sequim to watch him prune fruit trees. I'm hopeful he'll answer some questions about BtoE gardens; specifically concerning ground temperatures. Just today I was out staking off my garden area and the ground is frozen to about 5" deep. I had to drive screwdrivers with a mallet for markers as the ground was much to hard to drive stakes. Out of curiosity, I checked the mulch in the woods - not more than 10' from where my lawn ends, and it wasn't frozen at all. So I'm wondering if there's any quantifiable data on mulch garden temps vs. soil garden temps. While I don't expect to grow okra here like in central Illinois, I'm still hopeful of bringing some to harvest.

    About onions, is this the first time you've planted them from seed, Daniel? I've never grown onions before; in fact, I've only ever direct sewn seed except for tomatoes and peppers which were well started. Do you recommend any varieties for a first timer? I'm doing starts this year, with a heat mat and new 'Jump Start' lighting system and a variety of soil and Jiffy starter trays.

    1. Sequim is quite a bit North and East of here, so I bet you can grow some things that I cant, and vice versa. If you go to the search box on this blog, you can enter okra and see my recollections of my experiences, or go through the alphabetical list of labels on the right to okra, and click on that. Reviewing myself, I may have been too negative. I did get some for soups, which is what I wanted.

      On ground temperature, I bought a soil temperature thermometer from the garden section at Fred Meyer - I think - and have used that a lot over the past couple of years. It guides my seed planting decisions, such as planting corn seeds when the soil is above 50 or 55 for at least a week. Below that the seeds rot. Also, I learned that concrete block raised beds are warmer than wooden sided raised beds, and unmulched soil in spring is warmer than mulched, even though the opposite is true in winter, as you saw. The reason is that dark soil absorbs heat from sunshine when there is sunshine, while mulch insulates.

      This is my first attempt at onions from seeds. I've grown other onion-family plants from seeds, such as garlic chives and regular chives. I've grown onions from sets, which worked 50/50 for me. One package didn't grow, other than maybe 3 our of 100. The other grew very well, and I got a full row of great storage onions. If the seeds don't grow, there will still be time for sets. Sets are easier. Small sets are better, because large sets are considered more likely to bolt - make seed head - which decreases size and storage capacity of the onion bulb. Plants are also good, although there are usually fewer choices for variety, also true for sets.

      By the way, heat mats do help a lot for starting seeds. I use one every year. As for tomatoes, I don't know your area. Territorial Seeds is Northwest based and might be a good source. Maybe Hume Seeds also is NW, Im not sure about that.

      On mulch and soil temp -

      Black plastic and hay mulches

      web search, effect of mulch on soil temp

    2. Thanks for the suggestions and links, Daniel. I hadn't considered that mulch would insulate against heat - and wonder if putting in a Back to Eden garden over frozen ground might actually slow spring warm up? By laying it out now, I'm really just trying to take advantage of the frozen ground to use a front-end loader, and to entrap the moisture when it thaws.

      I'll head to the Co-Op and Homedepot for onion seeds; last time I was there, they had a limited selection of heirloom seed. I hadn't heard of Territorial Seeds before and will check them out, too. Being newish to Sequim, sourcing heirlooms locally has been a chore, so I ordered from RareSeeds (Baker Creek), SuperSeeds (Pinetree) and MyPatriotSupply, on 1/3. The last of them was delivered on 1/12. I really like Baker Creek.

  4. CornDawg, I don't have any experience with that method, although it's proponent swears by it. Makes sense to me that you would want the soil to warm up first.

    1. We're at 600' elevation; though the property is cleared, it's ringed by mature evergreens which seems to trap the cold, like an ice chest. The man who cleared the property for Dad did so for free, in exchange for the top soil. What's left does poorly for grass; moss and weeds thrive. So it's a restoration project as much as anything. Worst case scenario; it fails and I go back to container gardening on the deck.