SLC
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Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

I hope there is something I can try!

I planted different types of onion seeds a couple of months ago indoors in the Burpee trays with the water on the bottom. They are growing, but not standing up straight. They never really did except when they first started. I thought maybe once I started bringing them outside that they would start standing up. I've been bringing them outdoors for about a week now, but they aren't standing up.

They are about 1/8" to 1/4" around and about a foot long or so, which is probably why they aren't standing.

Should I trim them? Will that help? I probably won't be able to transplant them into the garden for a few weeks.

I really don't want to give up on them! Any advice??

Here is a picture if that helps (when you click on it, it turns the correct way):
onions.jpg

gumbo2176
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

I'd just trim them back. I grow green onions and cut them back all the time and they send up new shoots. Even store bought green onions that I get in bundles of about 15-20 can be cut back to the white portion and I'll put them in a cup with just enough water to cover the root portion and let them send out new roots----but they have to have a bit of root left on them to do this. Then they can be planted in soil and grow to be harvested as needed.

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applestar
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

There are a couple of things going on here.

- if you are keeping water in the tray all the time, they are probably overwatered. Onions have thick fleshy roots and are pretty good about being barely damp, not so much when waterlogged, so they might be getting stunted in root development.
- when the seedlings first unfold and stand up, the onions grow roots that are equal to the unfolded/doubled height. I find that they want that room to stretch up AND down at that critical time, otherwise the tops don’t stand up straight..
They grow much better with 4-6 inch soil depth and I use recycled ice cream tubs —they can be teased apart easily when thoroughly soaked just before planting
- they might have wanted stronger light and stretched out a bit too.

I do think they look ok otherwise.

If you can, consider popping them out and planting them in deeper containers — if you don’t want too many together, try 4-6 per 1 qt deli container (I make triangular holes cut with utility knife for drainage) or 5-6 inch deep nursery pot. Bury them by 1/2 inch to 1 inch to help them stand up. You will probably NEED to trim them to untangle them for individual planting, and you may as well do that now so they can recover/regrow before planting out.

I think you can plant them sooner than you are thinking. I plant my onion starts at same time as when I plant potatoes — about 3 weeks before last average frost. So start hardening them off after about 3 days post-uppotting recovery out of direct sun.
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jal_ut
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

Boy, I dunno. I can only tell you what I do with onions. We can get the little onion sets which is a small dry onion and go plant them right out in the garden where they will grow. Don't plant them deep, just deep enough to stay put. Full sunshine. They come up and put on a nice large bulb. If planting seeds I just plant a row. The seeds germinate and the little onions make some very nice green onions or if let go full season make a small walnut sized bulb. I have never tried to grow onions in a pot or box.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

SLC
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

Thank you for the input!

How much do you think I should trim them? They are about a foot long now....never trimmed.

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applestar
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

I don’t know for sure — my Tendency is to only cut minimum amount necessary — usually only ones that bent and creased or are annoyingly tangled, or are obviously going to be damaged unless cut before handling — because I always thought that the leaves are energy factories. I’m not sure if trimming encourages new leaves to grow — personally have Not found definitive fact-based statement to that effect.

Point is, onion bulb layers are base of each leaf, so more leaves there are, the fatter the bulb, and I would think you don’t want to set them back. And in the north, the long-day onions start to fatten/bulb when days start to lengthen, and you need the onion plants to have attained respectable number of leaves by then, or this is my understanding — I Have yet to feel I have succeeded in growing really good big onions... I’m starting to thing that for me, my location which is northern-limit for intermediate and southern-limit for northern/long day varieties is part of my problem. :?

But at the most basic/generalized level, most plants are better not to have more than 1/3 of total foliage removed at a time.
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Gary350
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

2 years ago I had onions that were all curled up like yours. I filled some 2 gallon pots with potting soil then packed it sorta tight. I poked about 15 deep holes with a pencil in the potting soil then slide my onions 1 by 1 down each hole. In about a week the onions were all straight so I pulled them out of the deep holes and planted them in the garden.

If your plants are small enough slide them inside a soda straw until they get straight. McDonald's has large diameter straws.

SLC
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Re: Can my onion seedlings be salvaged?

UPDATE: Not one of those onions survived. :(

I trimmed them down and the long leaves made it look like a lot more was in there to begin with, when in fact, most had died off already anyway. Once I trimmed them, they looked better, but still never made it.

At the same time, I experimented by planting new onions in a 4x6 pot and just threw a bunch of seeds in and have trimmed a couple of times, and they seem to be doing much better. I'll probably transplant them to the garden by this weekend, even though they probably won't grow very big cuz it's so late in the season already. But at least now I know to trim them next year! I think they will do better.

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