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

Starting storage onions from seed

Onion seedsIn the past, I've direct-seeded onions at the beginning of March.  The first year, we had a great harvest.  The second year, I put the onions in the worst part of the garden and the clayey, waterlogged soil resulted in puny onions.  And last year was even worse --- I didn't even get any of the onion seeds to sprout!  Clearly, I need to do something different this year.

Year two's mistake is easy to remedy --- I'll be planting my onions in the deeper soil of the mule garden from now on.  And I suspect that part of my problem last year was shoddy seeds, so we've changed our loyalties to a seed company with a better reputation (Johnny's).  Still, I want to try giving our precious Alliums a bit of extra protection in the 2011 garden.

Sprouting onion seedThe first method I'm using is more work (from me) and more energy (from the electric grid), but I want to hedge my bets and make sure I get at least some onions this year.  So I've started a flat of onions inside and might start one or two more.  The problem with starting seeds indoors is that I'm committing to running grow lights for a couple of months, and I also have to give the seedlings extra TLC at the transplanting stage, but it does make me happy to play in the soil in early February.

Meanwhile, I'll be starting some onion seeds directly in the ground under quick hoops within the next few weeks.  Onion seeds are supposed to need the same soil temperature for germination as lettuce, so I could probably plant them under quick hoops right now, but I want to tweak our design a bit before I build another quick hoop structure.

Potato onionsOf course, we're growing several beds of potato onions too, but I'm still not sold on the idea that these perennial onions will make big bulbs.  We'll just have to wait and see which method gives us the best onions in 2011.

"I did want to let you know that after several months of using our chicken nipples (I used the 5 gallon buckets method), I am still in love!  They have been a HUGE time and mess saver," wrote another happy customer of our homemade chicken waterer.

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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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