Onion Planting Choices – Seed vs. Set vs. Plants

Onions are a mainstay in vegetable production at all levels of  backyard growing,  community gardening and urban farming.  A producer has several choices of different forms that onions can be started from including seed, set or transplant.

Onion seed can be purchased from multiple suppliers and onions grow readily and easily from seed.  It is important to note that the onion (Allium) family seed is generally only viable for the year it is purchased and new seed should be purchased each year to ensure satisfactory germination rates.  Seed can be started in the ground early in the spring as well as under lights in a seed start grow station then transplanted in the ground in early spring when the soil is workable.  Seeds should be started under lights about 6-8 weeks prior to the transplant date and please note that onions are notoriously slow to germinate.

A common form of onion varieties that growers use for planting is onion sets.  An onion set is a live dormant onion bulb that was started from seed the previous year.  They are planted in the ground in early spring as soon as the soil is workable.

A third form of onion to plant is a purchased transplant.  These onion plants were grown the the prior year and come in banded bundles of 40-60 plants per bundle.  They are usually planted around early April in central Ohio.  They are a little harder to source than onion sets but generally will come labelled with what onion variety they are.  They may appear to be dried out but they are dormant live plants and need to be planted soon after purchase.

 

Each of these ways to plant onions can result in a good harvest and should be selected according to the management style and preferred variety of the grower.  The critical component for success is to know what day-length the onion variety is.  Onion size development depends to a great deal on the amount of day light they receive during the growing season.  The amount of day light needed by an onion variety to form a bulb is known as its day-length, and this varies depending upon what part of the country you grow in.  Central Ohio is a long-day onion location as we have a longer period of day light during the growing season as compared to the southern part of the United States.  Long-day onion varieties perform better here compared to short day varieties.  This is important when you make a choice of what form of onion you wish to plant whether it is seed, set or transplant,  that you pick a long-day onion variety.

 

 

Be careful when selecting what form of onion you wish to plant that you can verify if it is long-day vs. short-day to maximize production.

Illinois Extension Factsheet on Growing Onions

 

Spring Planting Weather Projection 2018

When I am planning when to start seeds in order to get ready for an upcoming spring or fall planting season.  I take the frost date into account, but then I adjust that date according to the weather projections as that gives me insight into how I can maximize production by using weather data plus season extension.

For example,  the fall frost date in central Ohio is around mid-October.   The fall climate prediction data was for a delayed frost date and a warmer fall.  Once I read about this I planted my fall vegetables using this data in anticipation of a longer fall growing season for summer vegetables.

I planted green beans and zucchini in the first week of August 2017.  Both are about 50-60 day vegetables so they would mature long after the frost date normally, and both do not like frost.

Germination was about a week or so later

Because of the delayed frost date, I was able to enjoy a harvest late into fall and ate green beans and zucchini fresh for Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Picture taken Mid-October. Notice due to delayed planting their are no cucumber beetles or stink bugs infesting the plants.

This year the climate prediction center states that we will continue to have a February with temperature swings and periods of heavy precipitation.

For the growing season the prediction is for a gradual warm up from March through May with a wetter than normal spring.  Summer is looking like the warm up continues with a drier than normal precipitation forecast.

BIG THANKS TO THE C.O.R.N. Agronomic Newsletter for data assist. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK FOR THE CLIMATE DATA FROM NWS/NOAA

 

Make sure you check the prediction models when you are making your plans.  It might save you some time and trouble and might  get you some extra production.

Vegetable Seed Viability

If you are like me you have a box of seed packets,  some open, some not that you have accumulated over the seasons. I am one who sees a new variety of vegetable and feel like I want to try to squeeze that in to see if it grows easy and tastes great.

The problem is that over time these seeds loose their viability and their germination rates decrease.  I hate to waste anything so I end up keeping these seed packets way past their prime, even if I was to thick sow seed.  Most vegetable varieties have a certain amount of years that seed remains viable if stored correctly.   There is not a lot of information based on research out there but I did find a helpful link.

Colorado State Extension Seed Viability Times

I decided to try a simple germination test of three seed varieties.  I  put ten seeds of lettuce, onions, and cucumber in moist paper towel and observed for germination.  I  had always read that allium spp did not last year to year and was curious if true.

While this is not the most overly scientific test in the world, I found my results pretty spot on to the germination times listed.

I had 100% from the cukes, about 70% from the lettuce and none of the onion seeds germinated at all.

 

Make sure you store seeds in a cool and dry place.  Now is the time of year to sort them,  see what is viable and make a plan for what you will need to purchase.  Seed starting time is rapidly approaching.

2018 Spring Gardening Workshops

I will be doing a series of workshops in Franklin County at several locations with several different local partners.  All workshops are free and open to the public.  Check out dates, times, and locations below.

 

This series in in partnership with the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden and Greater Columbus Growing Coalition.

This series is free but asks for registration to plan attendance –>  Click HERE for Registration Link

Click Here to Print the PDF of the Flyer –> CMNMG GCGC Final-21ngo4a

 

This series in in partnership with the Parsons Area Merchants Association and Faith Missionary Baptist Church.

Click Here to Print the PDF of the Flyer –> SouthSideBuckeyeISA_Flyer-1wew8sq

 

This series is in  partnership with the Godman Guild and Local Matters.

Click Here to Print the PDF of the Flyer –> Local Matters_ISAflyer_1.8.18-1mz6ah0