Onion Seedlings in February

February 7, 2017



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.

However.  However!

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.



  • sbaskitchen

    February 7, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Like you, I start a lot of my seedlings inside, in readiness for the warmer weather. It’s quite exciting checking each day for that little bit of green indicating germination.

  • pat@alldayieat

    February 8, 2017 at 11:06 pm


    1. sproutandsprig

      February 9, 2017 at 12:04 am


  • carolee

    February 14, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    A nicely written, informative post. Reminded me that I need to get some onion seeds started. I love to grow cipollini, those little flat Italian gems that are terrific grilled or marinated. The others I generally grow from sets or plants, because my indoor seed-starting space is so limited now. But, you have inspired me to grow more from seed….which means yet another seed order! 🙂

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 15, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! I don’t know that I’ve ever tried cipollini – now it’s on my list!

  • The day after President’s Day – sprout & sprig

    February 22, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    […] may have started some seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago, but the true impetus of the gardening season, in my opinion, is when […]

  • abbeycoseattle

    April 13, 2017 at 1:12 am

    We just started our seeds this week! We admittedly are the worst gardeners ever so wish us luck

    1. sproutandsprig

      April 13, 2017 at 3:18 am

      Ha! Don’t worry about it, they’ll grow!

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