A question about growing onions from seeds

anney(Georgia 8)May 24, 2009

What I want to know basically is if I plant onion seeds in the late summer in my 8-inch deep containers, let them germinate and grow until cold weather sets in, can I mulch them deeply and leave them there until around February, uncover them, and let them mature?

All the how-tos I've seen about onions involve fall plantings, removing the young plants when they're about pencil-size, storing them, and then transplanting them to their permanent home in the early spring. You then follow the same standard practice for transplanting onions if you had ordered the transplants!

I'm in zone 8, but we do get occasional winter snow and certainly freezing weather.

Why couldn't I leave them where I sow the seeds if they're well-protected?

I might have to transplant some of them after they germinated because the seed is so small it's hard to space them, but they transplant well, so that wouldn't be the problem.

So, simply, is there any way I can sow the seeds in the fall in their permanent home, a container? And if so, how should they be handled during the winter?

Here are the containers I have used for onion transplants this year. The onions are nearly ready for harvest now! The stems are softening down toward the bulbs, which aren't huge but are certainly a nice size, and most of the tops are leaning over. Only two plants developed seed pods on top, and they were pulled a couple of weeks ago.

Got any advice about sowing onion seeds in a permanent spot?

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pnbrown

The growers transplant because it's much better for weed-control: if the fields were direct-seeded in fall then the plants would have to weeded around 3 or 4 times at least, plus fertilizer would have to be broadcast around the plants. So instead they start an acre's worth of plants in a tiny space in the fall and the field can be easily weed-managed and prepped in spring before setting out. The setting out labor is worth it. In my experience it is also worth doing it that way on garden-scale.

If I was in short-day territory I might try putting down planting fabric and fall-seeding in holes cut in the fabric.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 10:51AM
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west_texas_peg(8a West Cen TX)

I just might try AnniesGranny's method of seed strips (glue seeds to newspaper).

I planted seeds this past Fall; have some that bulbed. Not sure if they were short day onions or not, plus we had no rain during the Winter.

Think I will try again with the glue and newspaper trick.

Peggy

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 11:30AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

pnbrown

What is planting fabric? Landscape fabric?

I don't have to worry about weeds in my containers since they're on a high deck. Well, not many, mostly little trees that sprout from those airborne helicopters and whirligigs that I miss when they land.

As for spacing them, I think you could go blind with the seeds! Peggy, I've occasionally made seed tapes too, though not for such small seeds!

But, to my main question, PNB. You're saying that vendors of onion transplants OR commercial onion growers just plant them close together and then they can be separated and spaced after reaching transplant size? So you seem to be saying that if I plant them at the right time and have some kind of reasonable spacing, I could leave them there to grow in the spring -- is that right?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 12:19PM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

I would bet you can leave them. I had a few carrots I planted late summer in one of my raised beds that weren't big enough to eat in the fall. I tossed a few inches of hay over them and they lived through the winter - I'm in Z5 in Colorado at 7000'. We had sub-zero temps at least a couple nights and many days well below freezing. I also fall planted garlic and they are alive and well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 12:34PM
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west_texas_peg(8a West Cen TX)

I have grown carrots in the ground over the Fall into the Spring. My husband loved going out and searching for them among my flowers. The trees had mulched them so it took a little bit of searching to locate them but we had fresh carrots all Winter.

Last Fall was the first time I tried planting onions from seeds...had just a few from a trade (no idea if they were short day onions) but they did fine in the ground during our 7b/8a Winter...no ice or snow this year but we did have freezes.

Peggy

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 3:51PM
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pnbrown

I know that the texas and georgia growers seed in fall and transplant in late winter - that's how the short-day onion likes to grow. So yes there's no reason that the plant has to be moved.

Walla-walla is the only long-day that I know of that can be fall-seeded and over-wintered without bolting, for those in higher latitudes.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 6:27PM
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