Planting onion seeds in the fall or late winter...

Beekissed

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...can this be done in Zone 5B-6? I'd love to do this, have always wanted to try it, but don't know if I'd be throwing money away in doing it.

I'd be planting Candy onions and have read it can be done, but would love to hear from someone who has actually done it. Just read on the Burpee site that it can be done in "late winter" but they didn't specify what month that would be...what do they consider "late winter"..February? We get a really hard freeze in Jan/Feb, with temps in the teens below zero for several weeks, so I can't imagine trying to plant seeds in that.

Need advice from all you great gardeners out there!
 

dickiebird

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I'd plant some inside in trays or containers right now.
Get them going and move them outside in the early spring.

THANX RICH
 

Beekissed

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I was trying to avoid that, hence the planting directly into the soil. I've read it can be done but no specifics can I find. I even saw a YT vid on it but can't find it now.

https://www.pick-a-pepper.com/readarticle.php?itemid=284



We usually have a pretty mild winter until Jan/Feb, then we get some really wicked cold and snows, so was wondering about planting some seeds now or in really early spring, but avoiding planting in trays inside. I don't have much room for it and usually start all my tomato, pepper, cukes and melons inside, so all the warmest window spots are taken.
 
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journey11

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I wintersowed my evergreen bunching onions last year. When the weather is cold and will stay cold, like in December, you can start them and put them outside. Cut a milk jug in half, poke some holes for drainage, throw away the cap--don't need it, fill bottom half with dirt, plant onions (or whatever), water well, tape jug shut with a little duct tape, label it, stick it outside in a sheltered/shady spot, forget about it for months, then watch for sprouts when things hint at warming up in the spring around March. It gives them just enough warmth and protection to get a little jumpstart, about a month or so early. Divide and transplant under a row cover or into the garden when the weather is more amicable. Sprouts in the jug will be protected from frost, but toss a blanket over them if there will be a hard freeze (only after things have sprouted--throughout the dead of winter this is not necessary.)

But even rotten, shriveled onions that I have tossed out into the compost have surprised me by popping up in the spring. Helps if they have a little shelter, out of the prevailing winds and such. Onions are pretty tough. My Egyptian walking onions are in a sheltered spot and give me green onions usually into December and again early in the spring, coming back from the roots and the little bulbils they drop. Some are more cold hardy than others. The wintersowing works really well for onions from seed though. By the time they sprout, the weather is letting up and they only need covered for those random late freezing spells. When it gets warm enough, you open the tops of the jugs.

I've also done well starting them in flats like Rich mentioned, treating them like you would any other seedling, tomato, broccoli, whatever. But I prefer the leave it and forget it nature of wintersowing them. They come up when the time is right.
 

Beekissed

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But I prefer the leave it and forget it nature of wintersowing them. They come up when the time is right.

THIS...this is what I want too. I would like to plant my garlic and onion seeds right now, while we still have temps in the 40-50s in the day, right in the soil, cover them over with mulch and then rake it back in the spring to let them do their thing. I want to get more in the rhythm of when these seeds would more naturally germinate and grow. I want to see if direct sowing many things in the fall/winter and letting them sprout right in the garden when they would do so naturally turns out a healthier plant.

I've never been able to do that before trying this BTE method, but now I can work and plant in the garden at any time without having to till, so I'm eager to explore the possibilities.

I'm also going to direct sow some tomato seeds I saved, just to see if they will "volunteer" in the right place come spring.
 

digitS'

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My schedule is to sow seeds in flats about the first of February. When I have tried a January date, I was faced with shearing the yellowing onion seedlings before there was good enough weather to prep the soil and get them into the open garden.

They can and will go out very early, probably as seed as well. However, if transplants are set out too early there is a danger that they will just bolt to seed before making nice bulbs.

.... in really early spring, but avoiding planting in trays inside. I don't have much room for it and usually start all my tomato, pepper, cukes and melons inside, so all the warmest window spots are taken.
Since the flats are started so early in an unheated greenhouse, I have to protect them from severe freezing. I figure anything that would freeze tops and roots will be too much so the flats are covered during those February nights.

Tomatoes and peppers are started indoors, in the house, while the onions are out in the greenhouse. The tiny seedlings are in small containers at first and take up little south window space. By the time the tomatoes and such need more room, the onions can come out of the greenhouse on nicer March days. I don't really need the room in the greenhouse in mid-March but the onions require hardening off anyway. At night, they can be moved back inside.

Yes, there is lots of handling involved. Tomatoes meet onions in passing, morning and night. You see, I'm likely to carry the little containers of tomatoes, etc., back into the house at night so I can delay starting the greenhouse heater until as late as possible. The onions can take the cold but it's "room temperature" for the warm-season plants.

Steve
 

Smart Red

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I planted some onion seeds for scallions one fall. The weather didn't cooperate and most of the seeds didn't germinate because of the dry weather. Imagine my surprise the next spring when I had all those tiny onion seedlings popping up in neat-ish wide rows.

I think that, unless the onions are a warm zone variety, they should do just great with a fall/winter sowing.
 

catjac1975

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I planted onions in trays in my greenhouse several weeks ago. The directions say 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting. I am trying to grow onions the size of the plants I have been buying for several years. The plants grow much bigger than the onion sets I used to get . My onions this year were as big as you get in the store. The plants are quite expensive and certainly not organically grow. So, time will tell if I can get a good sized bulb for out door planting in the spring.
 

digitS'

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A google search for "959914UNH Onion Trial" will allow you to download the 5 page results of their research.

It's interesting that Walla Walla performed worse than the others. However, Walla Walla is moving into the heirloom column. Even with that variety, there are a number of improved strains that, I believe, are commercially grown rather than the original. It's also the variety I had trouble with.

It's somewhat interesting to me that the protected growing would speed things up only about 3 or 4 weeks for my growing. That's for "maximum" size of bulbs. They have given good care and lots of room to the plants. I wonder what maximum of maximum might be. Finally, I'm not in favor of any bolting, marketability or not.

@Chickie'sMomaInNH , you talked about this here: LINK last winter. I got a little distracted by @Smiles Jr. 's tunnel inside a tunnel ;).

Steve
 
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