User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

Starting Onions From Seed, Any Experience Here?

I am about to blunder blindly into starting Walla Walla onions from seed. I can probably set them out around May 10, possibly a bit earlier. Average last frost is somewhere around May 20. I have not been able to find a hint of how long the seed takes to germinate nor how long the seedlings take to reach setting out size. Not wanting to put all my onions in one basket I will do three methods, seed started indoors, mail order plants, and direct sown as early as I can.

Hoping for a clue here as I have none otherwise.

User avatar
nes
Green Thumb
Posts: 631
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:20 am
Location: Rural Ottawa, ON

I don't know much about onions either. I set out bulbs last year & they got flooded & I got one onion... :(

I'm trying seeds this year, but I started mine indoors last weekend to help the bulbs get a little bigger by the end of season. I'm really hoping I'll have a good enough haul to have onions all winter :) (we eat ALLOT of onions!)
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

we started the last batch of our onion seeds about a month ago in our unheated greenhouse. they took about 7-10 days to germinate. that being said we already have a few hundred in the ground that were planted months ago in the fall. onions can handle frost. and even the 5 inches of snow we had here for 3-5 days. we start them in 200 cell trays then they go into the ground when 4-5 inches tall.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

Tigerlilylynn
Cool Member
Posts: 77
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 5:03 pm
Location: Middleburg Hts., OH

This is my first year for onions (and most other things) but what I've read is that if you start inside from seed you should trim them to keep them around 3" tall so they have enough green for photosynthesis but focus on growing the bulb.

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

onions are photo period sensitive, meaning that they wont start to form bulbs until the day length reaches there requirement. all winter they grow roots and some leaves(good for green onions), then come late spring is when they start to bulk up.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

soil wrote:onions are photo period sensitive, meaning that they wont start to form bulbs until the day length reaches there requirement. all winter they grow roots and some leaves(good for green onions), then come late spring is when they start to bulk up.
All well and fine but I don't think they would do much growing of roots and leaves when the ground is frozen hard as a rock three feet deep.


On the onions you started in the greenhouse, how long was it from seeding to setting out the plants?

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

well my soil doesn't freeze 3 ft deep. it probably freezes 3-4 inches tops on the coldest days.

as far as from seed to ground, id say a month maybe a little less.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

The frost is out of the ground here by late April. While I have seen snow as late as May 5 there is usually no accumulating snow after April 15. We do, however, get overnight frosts as late as May 30 but that is rare. I have read that onions are cold hardy but, like all gardeners in the far northeast, it goes against everything I know to put plants out too early. In your experience, will onion transplants survive (uncovered) overnight lows of 20°?

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

in my experience my onions have had temps get down to the 20s at least 10 times this winter, and low 30's practically every single night except for this past month. they are alive and well. but then again i don't live in the far northeast. if your seedlings are nice and strong and healthy, planting after the ground has thawed and there is only a slight chance of frost even a light snow i would not feel worried about onions.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

User avatar
Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1862
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

I have no luck with onions, seeds, sets, or plants.

But, every year I try.

On you tube, I saw a guy, start the green onions that you buy at the store in a green house... Yep, the eating kind... he brought them home and planted them

When they were decent sized plants, much bigger than I ever grow... he moved them to the garden...

So, in addition to seeds, sets, and plants... I will be buying some at the grocery... not to eat, to plant...

I want to see if I can do it that way! ha ha
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

cincycuse
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:10 pm
Location: Ohio

Not to hijack your thread but I'd like to know about planting onion seeds. I planted red onions and white onions about three weeks ago. I used the Jiffy Greenhouse and put 3-4 seeds per peat pellet. I have several pellets where all seeds germinated. Should I cut all but one, if so, when? They are about 3-4 inches tall now.

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

do you want green onions or bulbs? if bulbs cull now and eat them.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

cincycuse
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:10 pm
Location: Ohio

I want the biggest, fattest white and red onions you've ever seen :lol:

User avatar
Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1862
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

If you learn how, please teach me...

I buy 5 pounds a week!

I can grow scallions, or chives, just no bulbs.
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

garden5
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3062
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:40 pm
Location: ohio

OK, this is my first time with the onion seeds, but I will try to help you out with what I know.

I started my seeds indoors about a little over two months before I planned on planting them. They germinated in about ten days. After they reach about 5 in. tall, cut them back to 3 in. or 4 in. This helps encourage root development. Now, you can use lights or window lighting (I'm using the latter). Some say that you should not allow your seedlings to be exposed to more than 12 hr. of light per day, or they will bulb prematurly. I don't have any first hand experience on that subject, but it probably would not hurt.

You can plant them about a week before your first frost date. Keep them moist, but if they start turning yellow and limp, hold off on the watering for a little bit. Mine are a month old, so this is as much as I know so far.

If you are planning on starting in May, now would be a good time to start your seeds. You can direct sow them, but from what I hear you will get smaller bulbs that if you started them indoor ahead of time.

Good luck!
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

cincycuse
Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:10 pm
Location: Ohio

So, should there be one germinated onion per pellet? Right now, I have several pellets with more than one germinated seed, should I cut all but one as should be done with others veggies?

User avatar
Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1862
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

Onions always get too hot, when I try to grow them.

Has anyone tried container growing them, or growing them in the shade? Or even perhaps overwintering them, which is how I have to grow garlic?

And I absolutley do not understand the day length thing with onions.
For some reason, my brain just won't wrap around that theory. -wall-
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

Tigerlilylynn
Cool Member
Posts: 77
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 5:03 pm
Location: Middleburg Hts., OH

Ooo a container with wheels or on a rolling pallet might just do the trick to adjust the light and heat. In the container gardening book I have he grows 18 onions in a "large" self watering container. Large being about 26x19 and 10.5 deep.

For what it's worth he also says long day onions are better in the North and short day in the South.

brownsfan62
Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Westlake, Ohio Zone 5b

I planted Walla Walla seeds about three weeks ago, and most of them germinated. I have trimmed them back twice to 3" so far, and I anticipate doing it a couple more times given that my garden is still covered in a foot of snow. So far, so good with the seeds.

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7453
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Another thread on onions

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=21238&highlight=onions
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

User avatar
Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1862
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

Okay, there are zone maps...
Is there such a thing as a day length chart?
I notice that Texas and Utal planted long day...
It is my understanding long day is for northern gardens... Well, where is the line?
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7453
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

It is my understanding long day is for northern gardens... Well, where is the line?
Onions varieties do exhibit light sensitivity in regards to when to bulb. Some will bulb with 12 hours of light and others need up to 16 hours.

You need to get the onions to a good size before the days are long enough to bulb so you have lots of leaves and good plant vigor to make a bulb.

Onions are cool weather crops. In the Southern states you can probably plant onions in January or February. You would want them to bulb before the weather got too hot, yet the days are still not that long say in April when the onions should be bulbing, so a short day onion will bulb earlier before it gets hot.

Farther North and at higher altitudes, you won't be planting that early. You will probably be planting when the southern onions are bulbing, so by the time the plants reach a respectable size and are ready to bulb the days are quite long. If you plant the short day onions here, they will bulb before the plants get sufficient size to make a big onion.

Is there a line? Probably not a distinct line, but you may take 39 degrees North Lattitude as a rough dividing line if you wish. I mention altitude because at higher altitudes, planting times are later, so you are more likely to need long day onions.

My advice is; try something and see if it works for you. It is not a big stretch to try 4 or 5 varieties of onions. Also, ask at your extension office.

My thoughts are that if you can plant onions in January or February, go for short day onions and if you must plant in March or April, go for long day onions.

Onions are hardy and can be planted early. As soon as your ground dries out enough to do it. Some frost and snow is not going to hurt them. Here in Northern Utah at 5000 feet elevation, that is usually early in April. Everything East of the Rocky Mountains is at a much lower altitude and I would think March would work for planting onions in most areas north of 39° North Latitude.

I hope this helps?
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7453
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Sunrise/Sunset

https://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.php
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28242
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

jal_ut, that was a good thorough explanation and I feel closer to figuring out how to get these little buggers to grow! 8)

I'm attempting to grow them from seed for the 2nd year. Last year, I started the seeds Mar. 1, this year, Feb. 5. The little seedlings are at about the size I planted out last year -- still pretty tiny. So hopefully, in 3 more weeks or so, they'll be more of a transplant size. I also have some onion sets coming sometime this month, and I have all those onion bottoms that I'm going to transplant out.

I don't feel that I' have the technique down yet, so I'm still mostly in the "listen, experiment, and learn" mode. :wink:

User avatar
Ozark Lady
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1862
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:28 pm
Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

My onion seeds are still in the package.. :oops:
Perhaps I should try for a fall crop, since I understand that they are only viable for 1 year.
Or just grow green onions... that I can do! ha ha
I just plant them with the radishes and lettuce, which will be this week!
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

applestar wrote:jal_ut, that was a good thorough explanation and I feel closer to figuring out how to get these little buggers to grow! 8)
I agree Jal. I have researched and researched but it is so confusing with onions. I have seed going and sets ready to pounce as well. Maybe this will be a a good year for once.

Thanks
Dono :D

User avatar
nes
Green Thumb
Posts: 631
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:20 am
Location: Rural Ottawa, ON

Agreed - Great explanation!! :)

Does anyone know if "red beauty" onions are long or short day? They are a hybrid:

"Red Beauty is an early bulbing, hybrid variety with a refined neck, globe shape and good, deep red colour. Start indoors in short-season areas for a larger bulb. Short-to-medium storage. Maturity of 105 days. Approximately 200 seeds/package."
(veseys.com)
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

Well, the die is cast! I have 144 tray cells seeded on 3/13, today I started seeing green threads appearing on some of the cells. I put two seeds in each cell, will probably cut off the weak sister. I planted directly into cells instead of starting and transplanting because I felt it would be very hard to do transplants with one hand working only about 15% for me.

These are long day onions, any opinions on just how much light I can put on them? There must be some size they reach before thet go on a bulbing orgy? Should I give then an arbitrary 8 hours and then cut them off from all light? There is only one room I can start seeds in so I can't shut off lights to just the onions. I'm leaning towards putting domes over then to protect the plants with black plastic over the domes. Does that seem reasonable?

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

Alan in Vermont wrote:Well, the die is cast! I have 144 tray cells seeded on 3/13, today I started seeing green threads appearing on some of the cells. I put two seeds in each cell, will probably cut off the weak sister. I planted directly into cells instead of starting and transplanting because I felt it would be very hard to do transplants with one hand working only about 15% for me.

These are long day onions, any opinions on just how much light I can put on them? There must be some size they reach before thet go on a bulbing orgy? Should I give then an arbitrary 8 hours and then cut them off from all light? There is only one room I can start seeds in so I can't shut off lights to just the onions. I'm leaning towards putting domes over then to protect the plants with black plastic over the domes. Does that seem reasonable?
Long day varieties start to bulb when day lengths are about 14-16 hours. If you start onion seeds indoors, keep lights on only 12 hours each day to give the plants a suitable night. Onion seedlings will form bulbs too early if exposed to long days at any time during their development. You will not get anything bigger than sets
This info cam from here it's short read give a go please. https://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h247onion.html

garden5
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3062
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:40 pm
Location: ohio

gixxerific wrote:
Alan in Vermont wrote:Well, the die is cast! I have 144 tray cells seeded on 3/13, today I started seeing green threads appearing on some of the cells. I put two seeds in each cell, will probably cut off the weak sister. I planted directly into cells instead of starting and transplanting because I felt it would be very hard to do transplants with one hand working only about 15% for me.

These are long day onions, any opinions on just how much light I can put on them? There must be some size they reach before thet go on a bulbing orgy? Should I give then an arbitrary 8 hours and then cut them off from all light? There is only one room I can start seeds in so I can't shut off lights to just the onions. I'm leaning towards putting domes over then to protect the plants with black plastic over the domes. Does that seem reasonable?
Long day varieties start to bulb when day lengths are about 14-16 hours. If you start onion seeds indoors, keep lights on only 12 hours each day to give the plants a suitable night. Onion seedlings will form bulbs too early if exposed to long days at any time during their development. You will not get anything bigger than sets
This info cam from here it's short read give a go please. https://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h247onion.html
Thanks for the link, Gix; pretty good reading and also clarifying on the terminology. I guess what we are growing are transplants.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

Thank you, Gix, that was just what I had been looking for.

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

G5 what you and I are growing i suppose could be called transplants but they are realy seedlings. They are not sets that is for sure. (we have been pm'ing each other with our seed progress)

Your welcome Alan I hope it helps, I'm no expert by any means, I'm still trying to get it right myself. I beleive Jal has it down.

I just planted some of my seedlings today as well as some sets I bought. I am interested to see if anything come of either. I did plant some sets in a large pot that are doign great, wether they bulb or not is still up in the air.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28242
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

So how big did your seedlings get? My onions are still pretty tiny -- no more than 1/16" thick at the base. :roll: I'm going to give them until end of March and plant them at the same time I'll plant my potatoes.

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7453
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Alan, my experience with Walla Walla onions shows mixed results. They do not all bulb properly, so I get some nice onions and lots of small ones. They do come on early, meaning they are short day type, and they don't store well at all. I have heard they are supposed to be day neutral, but I don't believe it.

You may have better results with Yellow Spanish onions. These are long day onions and would likely do better that far North.

If you are starting your onions indoors, you can just plant them in a flat, then when ready to go in the garden, you can separate them to bare root and plant them. They will do fine. Many onion plants are sold bareroot in bundles of 75 or so. These do very well. They are pretty tough.

You can plant onion seed or sets directly in the garden as early as your ground can be worked. Here that usually means early April, depending on the weather. They need to get started early so the plant can have some good size and vigor by the time the days get long enough to trigger the bulbing. Then you will get nice big bulbs.

In Arkansas, plant short day onions and plant them very early. I don't know what your winters are like, but you need to plant onions (in the garden) a month before your average last frost date.

Have a great garden.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

applestar wrote:So how big did your seedlings get? My onions are still pretty tiny -- no more than 1/16" thick at the base. :roll: I'm going to give them until end of March and plant them at the same time I'll plant my potatoes.
If that was meant for me. Mine were just a touch bigger than that probably. I planted a few yesterday and saved some more for later planting. They have already had 3 haircuts if that means anything to you.

I'm hoping for the best, I have never done very well with onions. But I always planted sets and transplants from the store before.

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

According to Gurney's, where I got my seed from, WW are a long day onion. Univ. of Minnesota Extension Service, in that link Gixx posted, says not to set out plants until danger of frost is past.

Once again we are proving that if you ask 10 people a question online you will get 11 different answers. Not criticizing, jal, just making the observation. Sure would be nice to get a consensus. :)

User avatar
jal_ut
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7453
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

You are not likely to get a consensus. What I suggest is put some out early and some later when the danger of frost is past and see for yourself what works for you. Also, don't limit yourself to one variety. Plant 5 varieties and see which does best. Every plot is different. You just have to try some things and see what works for you in your circumstances.

My experience with onions tells me I can plant onions a month before the average date of last frost. Seed, sets or plants. All will make it planted then. Here that is Early April, whenever the ground is right.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

I agree with Jal on the early planting. That site is probably covering it's butt for people that may plant way too early, who knows.

I believe that if your ground is not so saturated they will rot, onions should be plated early even if they don't grow very much when the time is right they will do their thing. Being planted in as opposed to above the ground they have that added cold weather protection.

Like I said I just planted some and will plant again in a few weeks or so. I also have some in pots that are maybe 10 inches tall right now growing indoors. they are more of an experiment, that seems to be doing well. I just put some more in pots a few day's ago and they are already (3-4 day's later) starting to poke through. These were sets.

Oh and Alan you are very right about the differing ideas. I have researched 20 - 30 different sites and they all have their own twist to them. Good luck do as Jal says try a few different ways and see what works best for you in your situation.

garden5
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3062
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:40 pm
Location: ohio

I agree, Gix, what we really have on our hands (or in our pots) now are seedlings.

Since everyone's micro-climate is different, I don't know how close we will come to finding a one size fits all approach to growing onions. Although, there are a few blatantly conflicting or incorrect theories that are floating around that could be eliminated. This would reduce some of the confusion.

Good luck with your onions, all. :)
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

User avatar
Alan in Vermont
Senior Member
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:20 pm
Location: Northwest Vermont, Champlain Valley

Eight days after planting the onion seedlings are coming along nicely. I have covered two domes with black plastic so I can cover the onions but keep the lights on for the other plants. There are tomatoes starting in the flat behind the onions in the first pic.

[img]https://i872.photobucket.com/albums/ab282/AlaninVermont/my%20garden/onions-3.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i872.photobucket.com/albums/ab282/AlaninVermont/my%20garden/onions-2.jpg[/img]



Return to “Vegetable Gardening Forum”