Although onions are most easily grown from setting out sets or plants, you don’t usually get much choice in varieties. We like to grow onions from seed because some of our most favorite varieties are only economically available that way. Start your onion seed in deep, larger packs about eight weeks before you plan on setting the plants in the garden. I plant my seeds about 1/8″ deep, water them in well and then put the whole container inside a plastic bag to hold in the humidity and put it in a very warm spot. I put mine behind our wood stove. The seeds will germinate in less than a week and as soon as they do, put them in the sun and continue caring for them.
They will eventually get too tall. No problem. Just give them a “haircut” with a pair of scissors, leaving the plants about an inch and a half tall. This encourages them to get thicker. You may have to repeat them a few times before setting them out. When the soil is ready in the garden, set the plants out about three inches apart, burying them to the level they were in the pot. As they grow, thin them to stand six inches or more apart, using the thinnings as salad fixings. When ripe, the tops will start falling over and drying. Harvest on a dry day and let lay in the garden for a day or two so the leaves an skin dries. Brush off any dirt and bring in to lay in a protected spot to cure. Cut the tops off about an inch above the onion and store in a moderately cool spot. Some onions will only store a few weeks so either eat them up or freeze or dry them for future use. Others, like Clear Dawn, will store well all winter.
Remember, onions are insect pollinated an different varieties will cross unless very isolated on your homestead. To prevent this in smaller gardens, grow only one variety per year.
To save seed, leave a few onions in the garden and toss a little mulch over them. In the spring, remove the mulch and let them grow. They will then send up tall seed stalks which will flower and later make seed heads. Let the heads dry, then harvest gently into a paper bag. Shake the bag and stalk to release the seeds. Store in an airtight container until next year. Note below:
ONIONS about 100 seeds per pack Note: As we live in the north, all of our onions are long day varieties which do well here but not so well in the south, where short day onions are best. In the south, long day onions sometimes don’t bulb up well.
Ailsa Craig Here’s a giant of an onion from Scotland! They sometimes reach 3 pounds or more. And boy do we love them! They’re mild and sweet. Perfect for onion rings and in salads or on a burger. They are white with a golden skin. Long day. About 110 days from seed. It will store for about 2 months, then start to soften so use them up early on.
Clear Dawn If you loved the hybrid, Copra, you’ll love this open pollinated version. Clear Dawn is THE best storage onion, staying solid until well into spring. It is medium sized, blocky and very solid with mild, sweet, white flesh. Long day; best from midwest to north. About 104 days from seed.
Dakota Tears We love this super good storage onion. It is medium sized, hard and has great onion flavor right out of the ground or the following May. This is a great mainstream storage onion. Long day; best from midwest to north. 100 days from seed
New York Early A wonderful sweet flavored, hard storage onion which lasts until spring under decent storage conditions. We harvest a bucket full from only one short row! The flavor is very good too. Very hardy! 95 days from seed
Walla Walla Sweet
Walla Walla Sweet This is the big, sweet onion that made Walla Walla, Washington famous for its onions! Such big, juicy, sweet onions with glistening white flesh. It is a long-day onion, doing best grown in the Midwest, northward. About 125 days from seed. Unfortunately, it does not store well.