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Seed Starting: Onions



To be completely honest with you, I am not a fan of onions. I just don’t like the taste of them. They are a member of the Allium family however and do have a place in every garden. So, what do I do with the onions I grow? I donate them to local food pantries, soup kitchens and sometimes people I know who are in need as part of the Plant-A-Row For The Hungry Program.


I even plant onions in my flower beds around my roses. Members of the Allium family planted around roses do several things – the roses have a stronger smell, a biochemical is released that repels aphids and prevent black spot on roses. Now, don’t ask me exactly how this works, because I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that it does work. This is why there are so many varieties of onions, garlic and even ornamental Alliums growing throughout the property.

It is a good idea to pre-chill onion seeds for at least 30 days before planting them. This is easy to do. Simply put the seed packets in a plastic bag or other sealed container and put them in the refrigerator. Keep them dry. I often store seeds left over from previous years – or seeds I bought in the fall – in the refrigerator. I put the seed packets in small plastic bags, then put those in plastic containers with a lid.

Another option is to direct sow your onion seeds in the fall. This gives them a natural chill. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in heavy soils and 1/2 inch deep in light, sandy soils but do not cover the seeds because they need light to germinate. Onion seeds take 14 to 365 days to germinate. I have had onion pop up from previous years sowings. When this happens, I allow them to grow until they are ready to harvest.

Here are the varieties of onion seed I am sowing this year along with a little bit about each variety. I typically plant onion seeds on January 10.


 Onion Evergreen Bunching:

This variety is grown exclusively for green onions and is best used fresh. The young green stems are a good chive substitute.

This variety takes 10 to 12 days to germinate. Space the plants 12 inches apart. It is ready for harvest in 60 days.



Onion Spanish Utah:

This is a good variety for storing – or growing in the ground over winter. The young green leaves are a good chive or scallion substitute. You can harvest them as soon as they begin to form a globe – however if you want to store them, wait until skins form over the tops of the bulbs and the tops fall over. Hang the onions in a well ventilated area for at least a week after harvesting before removing the tops and placing the onions into storage.

This variety germinates in 7 to 12 days. It is ready for harvest in 100 days.



Onion White Lisbon Bunching:

This is another variety of green onion. The tops of this variety remain fresh and crisp long after harvesting but it is not suitable for winter storage.

This variety germinates in 10 to 15 days. It is ready to harvest in 60 to 75 days.



Onion White Sweet Spanish:

This variety was sent to me to try. It did not come with any growing instructions.


Are you interested in knowing even more about seed saving and starting? Check out my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Seed Saving & Starting! 

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