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applestar
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Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what next?

wisconsindead wrote:Hey Applestar,

Do you grow your onions in clusters? What dimensions do you plant for spacing once you take them outdoors?
Haha you are asking ME? I'm going to split this off into it's own thread so other, more experienced folks can give us some guidance :wink:

But last year, I planted purchased (bigger) transplants about 5-6 inches apart and my own seedlings in clusters of 3 at same distances apart because my itty seedlings didn't look as sturdy. Sometimes the extras in the clusters died. (it seemed like most of the time they dried out, but others could have been munched by slugs or something)
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sweetiepie
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

I usually plant sets and seedlings outdoors at about the same as you applestar 5 to 6 inches apart with great hope they grow to fill in the space next to each other. I plant mine four across in rows and put a soaker hose between the middle rows. All bets are off when I direct seed, I tend to plant a little thick but that is ok, I use fresh and thin the row out as the summer goes on. I try save my seedling plants for onion rings.

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Onions: If you want nice big onions for winter use, plant onion sets in mid April. When they are mature the tops tip over. You can pull the onions now and let the tops dry up well, then bag the onions and hang them in a dry spot.

For green onions plant seeds in early spring. These will make loads of green onions. If thinned and the remaining left to go full season you will get some small onions that you can dry for storage. Here at this locale they get about the size of walnuts.

I am sure procedures vary all over, but here the onions are planted in rows. At the local garden store I can get bundles of small plants at times or bags of sets. Either one works for large onions.
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jal_ut
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

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digitS'
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

It is a shame that onions cannot resist weeds a little better than they do. However, that "fit in anywhere" characteristic makes them good neighbors for vegetables. There once again, they will lose out in competition and not develop well if you don't clear out all the salad greens, or whatever the onions share space with before they crowd the onions too much.

Closer than 5" is possible if the young bulb onions are used as scallions. I don't think it would work well to set them out as bunches. They may well just look like chives or shallots at the end of the season.

I have direct-sown shallot seed with good success. I had grown shallots from saved sets for about 20 years before I ever saw a shallot seed. I like shallots :). They make fairly good scallions when they are young but the valuable bulbs are being sacrificed if you do that. I feel like I really have something special with shallots in the garden and kitchen.

Bunching onions are grown about the same as bulb onions and can be very useful. Remember to pay attention to your location's daylength when choosing bulb onion varieties.

Sowing seed in February in an unheated greenhouse works fairly well for me. Yes, I will have larger bulbs if I order the plants from Texas but there isn't a great deal of difference. Onion like a fertile soil and the lack of plant nutrients, especially nitrogen, will do a lot more to retard growth than what size the plants are when they are set out.

Setting out tiny onion plants in the early weeks of the season can be tedious. Think of it this way, you are gonna have lots and LOTS of onions in a small space even if you can't get beyond that small space with an exhausting amount of transplanting. Sit on a stool. Take your time. Remember they like good, well-prepared soil.

The best thing I found to get through the transplanting quicker was using my index and middle finger for planting. It's a little unnatural to pick up a seedlings between those two finger and not use the thumb for anything but, try it! The soil is soft and raked smooth. You just "scratch" the little onion plant into place. At some point as you are pulling your 2 fingers through the soil, you release the plant. Then, you can "bump" it back upright before picking up another onion plant. Scratch it in, bump it so it stands upright. Move on ... 5 or 6 inches ... or, closer.

Steve
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wisconsindead
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

This is what I was referring to. I see people growing their onions in clusters or groups for full sized bulbs, not like you would grow them for green onions or chives.

Image

I plan to plant my onions the weekend of April 8-9 (Zone 5b). This should be fine, but I have been confused about how to order my plants. I have 30 inch beds.

Here are my onions right now. I hope they are not too large/tangled to separate come next weekend.
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digitS'
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Some people clip the tops to keep them more "under control" while they are still in their starting containers. I've done that a couple of times when the weather has kept me from getting them to the garden soon enough. Not infrequently, I've clipped the roots to make them easier to plant. The weekend of the 8th is quite a ways, away ...

I also grow them in beds.

No. I wouldn't transplant onions out grouped together like that.

Steve
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jal_ut
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

You might like to try some Egyptian Walking Onions? These are also sometimes called Walking onion, Bunching Onion, Tree Onion, Top Onion.

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wisconsindead
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

digitS' wrote:Some people clip the tops to keep them more "under control" while they are still in their starting containers. I've done that a couple of times when the weather has kept me from getting them to the garden soon enough. Not infrequently, I've clipped the roots to make them easier to plant. The weekend of the 8th is quite a ways, away ...

I also grow them in beds.

No. I wouldn't transplant onions out grouped together like that.

Steve
Are you suggesting that my onion plants are looking pretty big to be waiting another 10 days to plant? I don't plan to plant them like that. I plan to ease them apart. It was a means of saving space/growing as many as I could indoors.
jal_ut wrote:You might like to try some Egyptian Walking Onions? These are also sometimes called Walking onion, Bunching Onion, Tree Onion, Top Onion.

Image
I'm not desiring bunching onions. I'm wondering why people do it vs. planting them so they do not touch. Why would someone grow full sized onions like that? It must serve some purpose.

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applestar
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Well... I read a lot of gardening books and watch gardening shows -- especially when I started out, but I still do because I want to know the different techniques and then try them and then decide which one works for me.

One example for growing onions that might explain what you are seeing -- back in the 80's I was getting organic gardening books in one of those monthly book clubs, and they had a few really great anthology gardening tip reference books. If I remember correctly, the recommendation to prick out onion seedlings and plant them in 3 or 4 " square pots, one to a corner, had been made by Eliot Coleman -- one of the organic gardening greats. He said to plant the cube of 4 onion seedling clusters without separating them, and they will simply push eachother apart as they grow.
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digitS'
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

My flats of onions are probably tighter than that.

It's not likely that they would grow that tall in the flats because of crowding and depletion of nutrients.

Eliot Coleman was an expert at using square feet (& inches).

Steve
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

"I'm not desiring bunching onions. I'm wondering why people do it vs. planting them so they do not touch. Why would someone grow full sized onions like that? It must serve some purpose?"

The bunching never gets a large bulb. You use them like green onions. The beauty part is you can pick a few any time of year. You always have onions. Another name they have been called is "Forever Onions".
The little bulbils on top can be clipped and eaten or planted. The large clump can be divided and eaten or replanted.
When the tall stems fall over with the bunch of bulbils on top the little bulbils will grow a new clump. So they "walk". This is why they are sometimes called "Walking Onion".
Yes, every garden needs a clump of these.
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

wisconsindead: "I plan to plant my onions the weekend of April 8-9 (Zone 5b). This should be fine, but I have been confused about how to order my plants. I have 30 inch beds.

Here are my onions right now. I hope they are not too large/tangled to separate come next weekend."

I would separate them to a single plant and if going in beds put one every 5 or 6 inches both ways. Give them that much space so they can make a large bulb without the bulbs touching. Onions are quite resilient. You can take them bareroot and plant and they take right off growing.
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sweetiepie
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

wisconsindead wrote:This is what I was referring to. I see people growing their onions in clusters or groups for full sized bulbs, not like you would grow them for green onions or chives.

Image

I plan to plant my onions the weekend of April 8-9 (Zone 5b). This should be fine, but I have been confused about how to order my plants. I have 30 inch beds.

Here are my onions right now. I hope they are not too large/tangled to separate come next weekend.

I have read that if you cut the tops off to about 3-4 inches that they will put more growth down into the bulb while they are waiting to be planted. I have done this and it does seem to help.

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Last year I planted my Candy onions 5 or 6 inches apart and by season's end they were touching each other. I don't really think they were interfering with each other but this year I think I'll give them an extra inch just for the heck of it.

I love the look of your onions seedlings in the flat Wisconsin. Mine don't look nearly that good. I've been trimming them off; they would probably be that tall by now otherwise, but they're not nearly as thick. I plant mine in a deep dishpan, but am beginning to wonder if that's even necessary. Your shallow flat seedlings look great. Do you remember when you started the seeds? And what is the planting medium?

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Taiji wrote:Last year I planted my Candy onions 5 or 6 inches apart and by season's end they were touching each other. I don't really think they were interfering with each other but this year I think I'll give them an extra inch just for the heck of it.

I love the look of your onions seedlings in the flat Wisconsin. Mine don't look nearly that good. I've been trimming them off; they would probably be that tall by now otherwise, but they're not nearly as thick. I plant mine in a deep dishpan, but am beginning to wonder if that's even necessary. Your shallow flat seedlings look great. Do you remember when you started the seeds? And what is the planting medium?
Thanks. I am using Fox Farm Ocean Forest potting soil. I planted the seeds on February 12 (expression and new york early varieties from Johnny's Seeds). And I have them under a set of 4 T5 bulbs with the tips growing (and burning) in the lights themselves.

Thanks everyone else for the input. This is helpful.

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Onions are not aggressive plants they do not grow well in hard soil or in computation with grass, weeds or other onions. How other people grow onions may not work for you or me, you need to experiment to learn what works best for you in your soil and your weather conditions. TN soil is hard clay I use my garden tiller to till in peat moss, about 30% peat moss with 70% soil to make the soil easy for onion roots to grow. Onions like, soft soil, full sun, nitrogen and water.

You can not grow large onions from a small onion set. Onion sets with 3 leaves will have 3 rings. Onion sets with 12 leaves will have 12 rings. Onion sets with 7 leaves will have 7 rings. A 12 ring onion set will grow a large onion but a 3 ring onion set will never become a large onion. Plant large sets if you want large onions.

I plant onions in 3 ft wide beds, 7 rows per bed the spacing is about 4.5" between rows. Beds are 30 ft long. My bed starts out with onions 3'x3' then garlic 3'x3' then different onions 3'x5' then beets 3'x3' then chard 3x'3' then lettuce 3'x3' then radishes, 3'x1' then Napa 3'x3' then potatoes 3'x6'. This is not technically a raised bed just boards to keep the peat moss/soil mix in place.

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

What I call onion sets are small dry onions, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter. These are just pushed into the soil far enough that they will stay put. Do not bury them deep. A couple months later you get this: Image
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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

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Re: Onions from seeds -- now that I have seedlings, what nex

Nice bulb onions. I do plant in October from seed. We don't really have a choice since sets are not usually available in Hawaii, only seeds of Texas granax and a local red onion. I do start them like bunching onion and transplant them out. I usually cut part of the tops because onions always fall over when they get transplanted and they grow the tops back almost immediately.
I do grow mostly bunching onions because that is what I use most. I cannot grow enough onions to supply me for a year and sweet onions like Texas granax don't keep well so have to be pickled shortly after harvesting or they get hot.

Bunching onions grow year round, I just snip off the tops as I need them and they grow back. I keep several gallon pots of them and they are enough to supply my needs for the year or until they bloom and get fat whichever comes first.
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