"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Onion Seedlings and Such

With the days slowly getting longer the sun is finally able to climb above the wall of trees that surround our gardens and shine down upon our greenhouse warming it up inside, 81° today...a regular hothouse. As we have little room and even less patience for seedlings in the house I am trying to get them moved into the greenhouse a tad earlier this year. I moved some of our potted plants and all of our onions and leeks that have germinated thus far into the greenhouse to make room for recently seeded tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers...and so our gardening season begins.

The onions, leeks, and scallions can handle a bit of cold weather after a few days of acclimation. As a matter of fact, the soil in their containers has partially frozen a couple times now during the night with no obvious side effects. We made the decision to make do with last year's leftover onion seed, due to a backorder on this year's seed that was slow to arrive, and seem to be having excellent germination with the Yellow of Parma and Jaune Paille des Vertus storage onions but our Borettana seed has not performed as well, perhaps a bit of patience is in order. I also planted a couple flats of Red Globe, Sweet Utah, Candy, and some scallions that are doing splendidly. As soon as our celery and celeriac have finished germinating they will also be booted into the cold to shiver with the alliums.

These former denizens of our basement dungeon are more than happy to brave the cold as fresh air and sunlight is what they really crave. The Swiss chard, sorrel, endive, and parsley are starting to green up a bit.

The first dandelions will be those that were held over from last summer, I have yet to see any outdoors but soon they will begin to appear.

Rhubarb coming up in a pot...I'm really not sure why, just because I wanted to see how it would do I suppose.

The last of our celery is starting to put out new growth as well.


ThyHandHathProvided said...

What gorgeous green plants. I can't wait.

granny said...

Your plants look terrific! Hard to believe its winter over there!Im having a hard time trying to get my onion seeds to germinate...any hints?? Thanks Mr H :0)

Roasted Garlicious said...

Mr. H... i can't wait to get a greenhouse... what i can see of your's its a perfect one for me... all your plants look great!!

Stefaneener said...

So many plants! It looks great. How cool does it get in there at night? Do you have some way to bank heat?

Ayak said...

It's all looking really good Mr H

Anonymous said...

This is great information - I can take my onion seedlings outdoors? What is lowest temperature you get at night? We are now above freezing and I’m running out of space indoors.
Oh, I see on your sidebar that current temperature is 26F (our night average is around 35F, so it should be OK)

Other veggies look so lovely and green! You have a lovely greenhouse to keep them over winter.

Ruralrose said...

This is where you shine above others. I have had no fresh veggies for 4 weeks now. I will be going back over your dungeon posts today. Thanks for sharing this, I want to do it too. Peace

LynnS said...

Good going, guys! You're living in Springville already! It is wonderful to see your greenhouse is already filling up.

We re-opened our greenhouse yesterday --turned on the heat and the water. Today I will begin seedlings. It seems so late to start on March 1 but I believe we're about a month behind the normal weather pattern here.

Mike, I thought all onion seeds were viable for a few years. Seems like some of them may not be. Here's hoping you just have some stubborn seeds. Have you thought of adding a bit of bottom heat?

randi said...

talk about a sight for sore eyes... looks like you're off to a thunderous start guys..March!

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Wo, I'm only a tad bit jealous...ok A LOT! We're still under a foot of snow out back where the garden is. My low tunnels are still undercover! But my seedlings indoors are a pretty sight for sore eyes. Those plugs need to be potted into something now and I'm afraid I don't know what. I never anticipated those sponge plugs to do as well as they did and one problem I have is throwing a perfectly good plant away....just can't do it. I'd rather plant it and have it die, then to throw it out. Pack rat at heart!

Mr. H. said...

ThyHand - Thanks, they are starting to green up and very happy to be back in the sunlight. I am looking forward to reading you latest post.

Granny - Our winter is slowly coming to an end while yours is still ahead of you...it really is strange to think about. My best hint would be to use new seed if at all possible because onion seed quickly begins to lose viability after a year or two depending upon how it is stored. That, and the seed will germinate in 7-10 days if the soil is warm but take much longer if it is too cold.

Roasted Garlicious - I hope you are able to have your own greenhouse soon. I know our little one makes a big difference when it comes to spring seedling storage.

Stefaneener - I have an old, but economical, oil heater in there that gives me a 10° safety net but as the onions are out there so early in the season it still gets below freezing some nights. The tomatoes and such will have to wait at least another month before going out there and I will have to use the heater on really cold nights to protect them.

Ayak - Thanks, it's coming along. Pretty soon I will barly be able to get into the greenhouse it will be so packed with plants.

Vrtlarcia - Once the onion seedlings have germinated and established a few roots they will do fine during cold nights and begin to grow as long as the daytime temperatures are warm. They need to adjust to the cold weather though, I put mine in the greenhouse during some cloudy weather knowing that the night time temperatures would be slightly above freezing for a few days to help them acclimate. They will grow slower this way though.

Ruralrose - One of the easiest ways to get good fresh greens in the winter is to simply pot up some extra beets. As soon as they are brought into the warmth they will begin to grow like crazy and don't require very much light at all.

Lynn - It feels like spring other than the ground is still frozen solid. I broke my shovel trying to dig something up just the other day...foolish me.

I put a large black stock tank in our greenhouse and filled it with water as it is still way to cold to keep our hoses thawed out. It even helps to warm the greenhouse a bit...maybe.

Onion seeds are viable for a couple years but sometimes I think the seeds are older than the package claims. All I know is that with any luck this will be the last year I buy any onion seeds. We have a few different varieties that were handpicked to be saved over for seed this year...I can't wait to have my own onion seed supply.

Randi - We are trying, seed starting is my least favorite part of the whole procedure but a necessary one. Pretty soon we will be buried in seeded flats.

Mr. H. said...


That is a bit of a dilemma. ThyHand (first commenter) has an excellent article on her blog about making paper pots. If you had the room you might consider that as a option. If it was me, I would fill a few flats full of dirt and plant the little sponges in order to buy some time.

michelle said...

The greenhouse looks great, you have a really nice one. It's interesting that your Borettana seeds aren't doing well, neither are mine and the seeds were purchased last fall. All the rest of my alliums are doing fine, but 3 separate sowings of the Borettanas have pretty much failed to germinate so I'm pretty sure it's not something I'm doing wrong, it's the seeds. The celery with the red stems is beautiful.

Mr. H. said...


I forgot to mention that we do put the seedling trays up on a mantle above our fireplace to germinate so they do get some bottom heat...especially the peppers, and eggplants.

villager said...

Ooooh, the sunny greenhouse with all those plants and seedlings looks so inviting! We've had few sunny days here, and our greenhouse has struggled to get much warmer than 60F. I'm moving plants from the basement as fast as I can though, and spring isn't far away.

Mr. H. said...


My Borrettana seeds came from Territorial Seed Co., maybe they are just poorer germinators than the others...hard to say. I really like the Red Giant celery as it is so darn hardy, I have lots of extra seed as I saved my own last fall if you are ever interested.

Heiko said...

I'm always amazed as to how many different varieties of everything you grow. I can't grow onions from seed to save my life, so I do 2 types from baby bulbs. But even like this the red ones never seem to do that well.

And you grow dandelions? Aren't there enough growing in big outdoors?

Sylvie said...

It's just amazingly beautiful Mike.

I am stating pretty much everything in the house and then moving to the greehouse as soon as the whole flat has germinated. So I still fiddling with lights... but if I don't do that, the mice get the seeds.

I really really have to give a try to your potted plant idea. Don't have a basement though, but I'll think of something!

It's me ...Mavis said...

And so it begins...
This is going to be a good year for the garden... I can feel it already!
I wish you would do one thing though...as tedious as it is... weigh your produce. I'm super curious to see how much food you harvest... and if you need an incentive... I have a bunch of free DayQuil I can send you :)

Mrs. Mac said...

Can you believe the weather the past two days???:):) Hubby has just gone and planned too many lunch dates taking away from time spent in the garden (uuuggg)!

Mr. H. said...

Villager - Nice to make your aquauntance, it sounds like you garden in a similar climate over there in Indiana. Yes, spring is coming and none to soon.:)

Heiko - I do try and grow as many different varieties of things as I can, it keeps me interested.:) Unlike you, I can't grow and onions from sets if my life depended on it, they always bolt on me, especially the red ones.

I pot up dandelions in the fall and then force them to put out new growth in the winter and early spring when, normaly, the ground is buried under snow and there are no dandelions to be had. I'm not very good at the whole seasonal eating thing and prefer to extend the season as much as possible.

Sylvie - That is pretty much what we do as well, get them started under the lights and then off to the greenhouse as soon as possible. As for the potted plants, a cool back room would do the trick as the whole goal is to simply slow their growth until you are ready for it.

Mavis - Ah yes, I can feel it too. It was so warm out today, somewhat unusual for March around here. This is going to be a great year for a garden, between you and I willing it to be so how could it not.:)

Weigh our produce, I will give that some consideration but it does sound like a daunting task.

Mrs. Mac - The weather has been unbeleivably warm. What was it today, maybe 50-55°...so very nice. I really am curious as to how long this warm spell will last, perhaps we really will have an early spring this year as it already feels that way. What a dramatic change from last years record snowfall

kitsapFG said...

I use my small greenhouse much as you do to move plants out of the indoor grow light set up and out into more natural (but still protected) environment. Right now, I have trays of kale, onions, lettuces, and cabbages in the greenhouse. The sun is rising higher on the horizon with each day and our greenhouse is also starting to get more sunshine directly into it.

Your basement wintered crops appear to be really enjoying the exposure to some sun after their dark winter.

Heiko said...

Isn't it funny how things go? I can't grow onion from seeds and you can't from sets. I wonder why that is? Something to do with the soil, th climate? You never quit learning in this game!

Mr. H. said...


The plants always do so much better with a little natural light...less leggy. I might seed some early kale tonight...thanks for the reminder.:)

Mr. H. said...


It's hard to say. I think our onion sets tend to bolt because we have such dramatic temperature fluctuations in the spring.

Silke said...

Oh, it's the greatest seeing these signs of life after winter, isn't it?! We were just out this weekend looking at our pomegranate getting tiny leaves, our yarrow coming back and even finding some early bird nests. I love this time of year!! :) Silke

johnny said...

Just started my onions. Usually I plant them out in a bed with several layers of row cover as it is usually a bit warmer this time of the year here. The soil in the low tunnel I set up has been holding in the mid 40's as we haven't had much sun and more snow is on the way. We are having a north country winter here in the mid-atlantic and even though its supposed to get up into the 50's next week I'm afraid to wait any longer, especially since the row cover method seems to delay germination. So I've seeded my onions in some trays I had laying around and set them up with bottom heat, until I can get around to constructing a cold frame. This year I am trying all new (to me) varieties:
Dakota Tears
Red Bull
White Wing

Crystal White Wax Mini Onion
Rossa di Lucca Spring Onion

I'm having serious greenhouse envy atm :=)

Mr. H. said...


Yes it is, I noticed yesterday that our chives were even starting to poke up out of the ground. Soon, soon.

Mr. H. said...


Those sound like some very interesting varieties of onions. I have heard that the Red Bull is supposed to be a really good storage onion. I hope they all germinate well for you. It looks like I will have to replant a few of our leeks as they are struggling to germinate but other than that so far so good.

The greenhouse is great but without any heat the low row covers do even better. I can never overwinter anything in the greenhouse but have always had luck holding over the hardy greens under our row covers. I do have a little oil heater in the greenhouse but it only gives me a 10°difference. So when it gets in the low twenties it really does not help much, thus we only use it in the spring.

Mr. H. said...


Here is a cool chart that shows the different time frames for germination based on temperature.


johnny said...

I came across that site the other day. Haven't had time to really sit with it yet.

I've never had problems germinating onions under the row covers but its usually about 10 degrees warmer this time of the year.

I've also had trouble losing seedlings after I transplant to either onion maggot or some root unidentified root disease and it occurred to me that maybe I'd get a healthier transplant if i stopped trying to cheat:) and start them in some sterile (hopefully) potting soil. This year I hope to defeat the onion maggot and thrips with insect barrier. Last year was so cold rainy I'm nearly certain it was some disease, maybe pink root, but it could have been maggot. It was my worst onion year ever, but even still I had a small crop that kept pretty well. Where I live there are a lot of leeks and scallions grown commercially so pest pressure is high.

Mr. H. said...


Our onions never do well on cold rainy years either. The last couple summers have been so nice that we have had a pretty good crop, although I did run into onion maggots, only a couple, for the first time last year...hope it's not a sign of things to come.

I totally understand your dilemma with the pests due to high concentrations of commercial farming of that crop in your area. We were gifted with aphids about 5 years back when a large rapeseed operation started up a few miles away. The rapeseed fields have given way to a housing development now but we are still fighting the aphids.

karenandjeff said...

Just wondering how your home made seed starting mix is working out. After reading your post, I was excited to find an abandoned ant hill on our property and we are now using it in our compost to balance out the kitchen scraps. It seems to work perfectly for that!

Maria Stahl said...

You grow dandelions on PURPOSE?? :)

I had an old farmer friend who said he always loved to see the first dandelions each spring, because their blossoms were what sustained his hungry honeybees till other things began to bloom. I have never seen them as pests since that day.

Mr. H. said...

Maria Stahl,

Hi, thanks for visiting. Yes, we love to eat dandelions and other "weeds." The nutritional properties of such greens are often far superior to that of regular salad greens and vegetables. They also taste good once you adjust to the bitter flavors...really.:)

Heiko said...

Mike, just had a thought. If you are forbidden to eat your wife's hyacinth bulbs, I'd be willing to share some with you, which you could see if you can naturilise them somewhere. If you want to give me your address on my comments (I won't publish it) I'll stick a few in the post.

Mr. H. said...


I will talk to you tonight.:)

Aanee @ Flower Delivery Dublin said...

Yeah I need to get myself a greenhouse. I hope the plants take for you as they look great.
BTW, the vivid images you post are great. It really gives me ideas how to setup.

Aanee xxxx
Flowers Dublin

Mr. H. said...

Aanee - Thanks, they all did really well for us this year.

Related Posts with Thumbnails