Rather be outdoors
Ready to start growing? Its officially time to get out the seed-starting systems, the grow lights, the seed starting soil and all of your garden dreams.
This is the perfect time to start growing your onions, which are the first seeds I plant for the upcoming garden. Even if onions happen to be the cheapest vegetable at the market, growing your own is important for several reasons, including keeping pests and insects out of your garden. I also get pumped about onions because they are the very first seed you can start indoors so I grow a lot of onions every year.
Even if you haven’t stocked up on your seed-starting equipment, growing onions is relatively easy. Go raid your recycling bin and look for some takeout food containers. The best ones are the sets that have a black plastic tray on the bottom and a clear plastic top. Make sure it is clean, and using either a pair of scissors or a pen, punch holes into the bottom of the black plastic for drainage. Onions are pretty forgiving, so I will often use whatever soil I have leftover in the bag from my houseplants or my winter projects. Ideally though, sterilized soil specifically for seed starting is best if you have it.
When planting onions, you want to scatter seeds on top of the soil in your planter. Do this the same way you would plant grass seeds, aiming for a fairly even scattering of seeds. Next, lightly cover them with a little dusting of soil. Onions prefer to have some light to germinate. Water gently and cover with the clear lid. Make sure to put your tray in a spot that gets lots of sunlight.
Keep an eye on your onions to make sure they never dry out. Once the shoots have started, you can remove the clear lid to let the air dry out the top of the soil in between waterings — this is important to prevent fungal growth on the soil.
When choosing your onion seeds (or sets), look for long-day and short-day on the description. Long-day onions are better suited in the north when the daylight hours are longer than in the south. This is important because the length of daylight impacts how a bulb onion grows. Onions with large bulbs, called globe onions, often need a longer period to grow. This is why they are often sold as little onions, called sets. Planting these is similar to garlic except you plant them in the spring.
When it’s time to transplant your onions into the garden, create either rows or trenches with your fingers, about two inches deep is perfect. Next, gently lift each baby onion and lay it into the trench with the roots down and the tops sticking above the top of the trench. Spacing depends on the variety you choose, so check the package.
Once your trench is filled, push the sides together to cover the roots of the plants and to stand them up. Don’t be afraid if they look limp to start. That’s normal. Water well.
Onions love a little ash. Seriously though, they are huge fans of phosphorus and potassium so adding wood ash or bone meal will naturally help them grow.
I use onions around all of my tomatoes and peppers. They are happy growing companions and keep the bugs and rabbits at bay.
Carson Arthur is an international landscape designer and media personality with a focus on environmentally friendly design and low maintenance outdoor rooms.