The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Seed onion experiments

OnionsI'm bound and determined to grow our onions from seed rather than sets because it costs much less and the onions will store through the winter rather than giving up the ghost in late fall.  One year, I had a beautiful harvest from seed, but the next two years I got just a few small onions.  So this spring, I decided to try out several different methods to figure out the simplest way to grow onions effectively from seed.

Here are the six "treatments" I used in my 2011 onion experiment:

  • 1. Early start with biochar under a quick hoop --- Direct-seeded on February 18 into soil treated with biochar under a quick hoop
  • 2. Early start under a quick hoop --- Just like above, but no biochar
  • 3. Transplant into quick hoop late --- Started indoors in February, then transplanted into a quick hoop on March 8
  • 4. Transplant into bare soil late --- Same as above, but transplanted into soil not covered by a quick hoop
  • 5. Direct seeded into quick hoop late --- Started directly under a quick hoop on March 8
  • 6. Direct seeded into bare soil late --- Started directly into bare soil on March 8

Onion experimentsIt looks like the pros who tell you to start your onions inside and then transplant them are right since treatments 3 and 4 are the clear winners.  (It doesn't seem to matter whether you transplant into a quick hoop or not.)  However, I was interested to see that if you're lazy and don't like starting seeds inside, you can get results nearly as good by direct-seeding into biochar-doctored soil under a quick hoop at the same time you would have started your onions inside.  My sample size for that treatment was extremely small (half of a bed), so I'd hate to have anyone plan their entire year's onion harvest around that observation, but it's definitely worth further experimentation.

Our chicken waterer is the result of Mark's experiments at bringing clean water to our backyard flock.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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i had poor luck attempting to direct seed scallions last year. it was however the wrong time and seeded somewhat haphazardly. currently i have excellent onion starts inside. i carefully took note of the packet instructions 'do not let the soil dry out prior to germination'. large number of bulb onions habe launched and the scallions are starting to come up. misting heavily 2-3 times a day and watering irregularly 1-2 times a week. this is sort of an experiment since i havent transplanted bare seedling before and these are all in a flat undivided tray. its a blend of leftover dirt/potting soil, orchid chips and coffee grounds and paper since that is all the reasonably sterile material i had on hand.
Comment by conspiritech Tue Feb 26 09:54:58 2013

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