Fall is coming soon. Your onions still don’t look like onions. It’s almost harvest time for everything in the garden. Those onions you planted from seed are just little wisps blowing in the wind. You followed the seed packet directions to the letter. What happened? Why is growing onions from seed so hard? What could you be doing wrong?
Planting onion seed in the garden rarely works.
Who knows why those people who package the seeds tell you to do it. You see, planting onion seeds in the garden doesn’t give them time to grow. You’ll have much more success when planting bulbs. Since they have a head start on growth, they’ll be ready to harvest on time. Yes, it’s that simple. But what if you want to start your own seeds, rather than buying bulbs someone else nurtured?
Indoor onion seed starting.
If you want to start your onions from seed, you have to start early.
This is the main reason starting onion seeds in the garden doesn’t work out. It takes several months of growth to get onion bulbs. It takes the rest of the growing season to get full grown onions. You have to start your onion seeds indoors in January or February in order to plant the resultant onion bulbs (sets) in the spring.
It takes patience to start onions from seed.
It takes a lot of time and patience to grown onion bulbs from seed. Onion sprouts are extremely delicate. You really have to baby them and watch them closely. They can’t have too much sun or too little. Over-watering is also a concern.
You’ll need a lot of seeds at first.
If you like both small green onions and large full grown onions, you’ll need to sprout a large number of seeds. Start with a couple hundred seeds for good measure. It may sound like a lot. Remember, the green onions you harvest for summer salads are quite small. The good news is that after several seasons, you will have onions popping up naturally in your garden. The longer you grow onions, the less seeds or bulbs you will have to buy.
Use loose potting soil.
You’ll need to pull your bulbs cleanly from the soil for outdoor planting. Therefore, your soil should be looser than normal. One trick to try is adding cornmeal to the potting soil. Make sure to use GMO free cornmeal to avoid organic seeds being contaminated. Sand or chemical free sawdust can be used as well.
Let your onions go slightly dry between watering.
Wet soil causes fungus growth. It also tends to hold seeds too tightly. The soil you start your onions seeds in will need to be damp for initial sprouting. After that, allow your soil to mostly dry before watering. This forces deeper root growth and healthier onions.
Sometimes nothing works.
Starting onions from seed is a fussy process. Not everyone is up to the task. There will be years when your seeds simply aren’t successful. Don’t despair. There’s always next year. If this happens to you, just “suck it up”. Go buy some organic GMO free onion bulbs. Most good greenhouses carry them. One failure doesn’t make you a terrible gardener. In fact, the learning experience can make you a better one.
Portions of this article were originally published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.