Onion Seedlings in February
We’re so close to spring, and yet also so far away. The northern Oregon coast, where I live and garden, was dusted with a couple inches of snow this week. Temperatures were up to the 50s just a few days before; I thought briefly that it might be time to put away my winter coat. But no. Not quite.
February is the perfect time to plant onion seeds!
Since I live in the Pacific Northwest I need to grow long day onions (I was super confused about long and short day varieties when I first started gardening, but basically if you live in the northern part of the world you need to grow long-days, and if you live in the south you should grow short-days or day-neutral varieties).
I chose to grow three different types this year:
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions
- Australian Brown Onions
- Ruby Red Onions
I grew Walla Wallas last year with great success, but they don’t keep for very long. We ran out of them within just a couple of months. The Australian Browns and Ruby Reds are storage onions, supposedly able to last 5-6 months, so hopefully I will be able to cure and store them long enough to still be eating homegrown onions in the winter!
How to start onion seeds indoors (with no fancy equipment)
I don’t have any fancy grow lights or other special equipment, and I’m still able to grow all my vegetables from seed. The only thing I would caution is that it’ best to start with fresh seed every year, as onion seeds have a very short shelf life and you’ll have very low germination rates with old seed.
- Moisten your soil mixture and pack it into your containers (this year I’m using a mix of peat pots, 4×6 inch black plastic pots and yogurt containers. Use what you have!)
- Make sure to gently tamp down the soil, otherwise it will settle over time and expose your seed or your root
- Some people sow their seeds very thickly, but I prefer to sow only about 2 seeds per inch. This will give them room to grow. Onions are very heavy eaters, so the more space the better
- Cover your seedlings with a thin layer of soil (roughly 1/4 inch deep. I don’t know how to measure that, so I just wing it usually)
- Keep your seeded flats covered with a clear plastic top (or plain old plastic wrap) and put them by a south-facing window. Use a heated seedling mat if you have one, or just try to keep the room warm
- When the seedlings emerge you can remove the plastic covering the top
- Remember to keep the seedlings moist, but not over-watered
- Fertilize with a liquid fish emulsion once a month, even after you’ve planted them out. Onions love to eat!
- If your onion seedlings get too tall and start to flop over, don’t be afraid to give them a haircut. This will direct more energy to their bulb. Just make sure to leave them about 2-3 inches of green
Hardening off and transplanting your onions is worthy of it’s own post, and it doesn’t need to be done until April so I will leave that for later. Until then, just enjoy the tentative, trembling emergence of something green in the depths of a very dark and wintry February.