I decided to plant the onions today. I didn't see them growing any bigger 40 to a tub, and the weather was pretty good. I could have waited a few days, but I didn't want to wait until next weekend.
The rootball slid right out of the tub, and was a large mass. They wrapped around the bottom, nice strong, thick roots.
The first four pictures are Ailsa Craig, a large sweet Spanish-style long-day onion, the bottom one is Cabernet, a red intermediate to long day storage variety.
After sliding them out of the tub, they were gently teased apart while brushing the dirt away. A little bit of root was lost but it mostly stayed intact. For onions that are tangled together, a dip in a glass of water will get them to easily slide apart.
Most only had 2-3 healthy leaves on them. I suspect there just isn't enough nitrogen they were getting in the tubs, and the roots are too constrained. Next time I will go more heavy on the fertilizer. They are very hard to burn. My sister in law is actually an environmental science teacher, and as an experiment her students are giving them extreme doses of Miracle Gro, with no ill effects thus far. I can say though, I was very surprised, they WILL wilt at this stage if the mix dries out. But they had a nice bottom of stem going, and root system, so I hope they will be put out nice new leaves.
The soil for planting was worked with a spade, after adding a dose of compost and a little Espoma fertilizer. After planting some extra side dressing of Espoma was added. They are planting by making a hole with a spade or a finger, and putting the base of them stem just below the soil line -- they should not be planted deep or it will interfere with bulbing. I will add a very light layer of mulch once they get established.
They look so tiny.... I planted the Ailsa Craig's about 5" apart, and the Cabernet about 4" apart.
With my backup onions, if these do well with the transition, I will plant a scallion patch somewhere. Otherwise, I will be glad I had backups! I am going to give them a lot more nitrogen and see what happens.
The leeks are still very small and will need a couple more weeks.
1 week ago I sowed my sweet peppers, and last night I sowed my eggplants. They are in seed starting trays with Burpee seed starting mix. No germinators yet... the peppers should come up in the next few days. Next week I will start tomatoes and basil and that should just about wrap it up for the indoor starts this Spring! I am aiming for an early May 8th plant-out date for the peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes, and have plastic warming the soil and am prepared to provide cover.
As I wasn't thrilled with the Nature's Care Potting Mix this year, I went to a garden center and bought Espoma Potting Mix, and am looking forward to trying it.
My first sowing onions and leeks started getting some yellowing, especially at the tips. I trimmed them up and gave them some low-strength Miracle Grow, and they are sending up healthy 3rd leaves, while the 1st leaf is not looking good. Maybe overwatering, lack of nutrition, conditions indoors, I am not sure -- but I anticipate all these leaves will probably wither after transplanting anyway, it is the bulb area and the roots where it counts. I have started hardening off and was considering planting them today, but they really still aren't ready, I will wait another week. The leeks and second onion sowing are looking good but growing slow.
This is my first artichoke sowing, I will look to start hardening off and vernalizing next week, and my second sowing that are still cotyledons I think I am going to try putting in the refrigerator to vernalize -- yep, the whole plant! I will report back my results! Without sufficient cold exposure, artichokes will not produce buds in the early summer, though they might in the Fall. These are Imperial Star Artichokes which require little vernalization time. The second sowing done in seed starting mix came out all with "helmet heads" -- the seed coat was stuck to the sprout - and I will stick to starting these in potting mix in the future.
So I decided to make a little cheat sheet for seed starting, based on my experience the last 2 years. The dates listed are growing with a T5HO grow light, in warm room temperatures, with an average last frost date of April 20th (50%).
Onions and Leeks: Extremely slow growing, cold weather transplants
Artichokes: Slow growing and need cold treatment.
Brassicas: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts: Fast growing, Cool weather transplants
Sweet Peppers: Slow growing but need everything really warmed up outside.
Eggplants: Grow faster than peppers, also need it really warmed up outside.
Tomatoes: Fast growing and more cold tolerant than peppers or eggplants.
I am also going to try starting basil indoors this year, it had difficulty getting started outdoors and was loved by pests, and can benefit from the extended season especially due to basil downy mildew in the summer. Everything else is direct seeded in the garden.
One of the best seed starting calculators is available from Johnny's
The onions are doing well. The seed leaves have yellowed and then shriveled. They still look like they have quite a ways to go, but they weren't intended to be planted for another month. The leeks on the other hand (on the right, Megaton) are much less vigorous.
Only 2 out of the 7 artichokes I planted (02/14/2016) had germinated. They came up in about a week. They are really small compared to last year, I am not sure what to make of it. I do not think the cotyledons are going to grow any more. I almost immediately transplanted them to solo cups, as I learned last year that they have a large, rapidly growing taproot and need a lot of root space, and in addition they do not transplant well and sulk for a while after transplanting. I planted the rest of the seed I had as a backup and maybe to get more plants and they have not germinated yet.
Yesterday one of the four Numex Suave habaneros I planted (02/14/2016) finally peeked its head out. It took forever, not only for them to germinate, but once the stem started peeking it took many days for the cotyledon leaves to come up above the soil, even with supplemental heat (I had them on a radiator and later got out a heating pad.) Luckily, I only really want one of these guys, but sowed some backup ones just in case.
I am not really happy with the Nature's Care potting mix for seed starting, it did great last year but this year it seems more dense and rich and not good for germinated seeds, it is primarily peat and compost. I went out and bought some of Burpee's Seed Starting mix, which is primarily made with coconut coir, with perlite and very little nutrition. I am hoping for much better luck germinating in this lighter mix.
Below I have some cauliflower seedlings, they also had trouble pushing through the mix. In the front I have started Green Magic broccoli and Hestia brussels sprouts in the new mix. The Hestia sprouts are new this year, and supposedly heat tolerant and I am excited to try for some late Spring sprouts! I will also be starting Quickstart cabbage, but since this sulked last year in cold soil and did great in the summer, I will wait to start them.
Since the weather has been so mild, I also sowed a few Sun King broccoli seeds I bought a couple years ago and have not grown, just to see what happens.
Next week I will sow my sweet peppers. Even in this warm weather it is very bad to rush the heat loving plants. Better to be too late than too soon, or you could wind up with unhappy rootbound transplants. The habaneros and most hot peppers are super slow growing (or so I read, this is my first year growing them), so I am not as concerned.
So it has been 2 weeks since sowing my first round of onions in tubs, and 1 week since sowing leeks and a second round of onions in seed starting trays. Seems like longer.
So here were the onions this morning:
They were about 5" tall, and following advice I have found on Gardenweb (http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/3627591/seed-starting-time), I decided to trim those straggely ends off today.
The trimmings smelled awesome, I will eat them when they get bigger. You can see through the tub the roots have already reached the bottom of the tub. The large tub seems to be working fine, next time I will just stick with that. It does stay moist for many days, but the onions don't seem to mind.
The Megaton Leeks (on the left) sprouted very fast, 4 days or so, and 8 days post sowing the second wave are all coming up like crazy:
The way this winter is going, I am hopeful to get these all in the ground nice and early, before the end of March. Looking forward to starting the artichokes, maybe next weekend.
The onions that were given a haircut basically stopped growing the seed leaf at that time, probably coincidental. They have started growing their first true leaves, but this seems to be going much slower. You can see them at the bottom of the seed leaf if you look closely.
The leeks and onions in the seed starting tray are growing at a similar pace to the tubs.
It has been 3 weeks since the tub onion sowing, and 2 weeks since the trays.
Some of the onions in the tub needed a haircut, but most did not. The seed leaf has definitely stopped growing, probably from when the first true leaves appeared.
The onions in the trays are actually not growing quite as vigorously as the tubs, believe it or not. I will definitely stick with the tubs next year. It is very dry in the house with the heat and I think they prefer the more even moisture the tubs can provide. Now I will have to transplant these seedlings into a clump and that won't be an easy task. I am waiting another week. The picture below of the seed starting tray has the same age seedlings as the first tub pictures above. The leeks (on the left) are also less vigorous than the onions, despite germinating sooner.
I started my first onions last Saturday, 1/23/2016, during the blizzard, and I started more onions and leeks today 1/30/2016. Onions and Leeks are both alliums and have very similar growing requirements. I started the leeks a little later, as if they are transplanted out in the garden too early, they can wind up bolting (going to flower), which results in a thick fiborous stem that isn't edible... at least, that's what they say -- last year, some of my leeks bolted, and harvested quickly they tasted just fine! Don't always believe the gloomy sentiments you read on websites, they don't always hold true! All the same, I would prefer them not to bolt and not have to be prematurely harvested. I was going to wait another week, but with the weather as it is, we can expect an early spring this year.
Last week I tried to sow some directly into a large tub. They started popping up a couple at a time on about the 4th day... here is a current photo:
I started them out next to a radiator, which made for fast germination. I really poured the seeds in there though -- there should be a lot more coming up.
Unfortunately as I suspected, the tub is staying way too wet for days after watering, and these seedlings could get damping off or root rot. I was trying to take a shortcut, just growing them in one tub and not trying to transplant tiny seedlings when I want them grown in a clump in the first place -- just like the bundles you buy from Dixondale or other sources. These are likely to be ok anyway, but today I decided to start seeds in a seed starting tray, and try to transplant them later. I would give them all lots of space -- but I just don't have it under my 4' long T5 Jump Start grow light, which was packed last year. I suspect without the grow light, growing onions indoors would be virtually impossible. They look like they get extremely leggy.
The varieties are Ailsa Craig for long-day large sweet onions, which are very popular, and Cabernet for a red variety (there were not many good options for long red day onions that were available on Johnny's where I got all my seeds this year and last year -- they all had a long DTM/days to maturity -- which is tough for onions as they may not get big enough to make big bulbs by the time bulbing is triggered by the long days, as onions are highly day-length sensitive.) The leeks are Megaton, which looks promising. Last year I grew a Dixondale long-day sampler, which had Walla Walla, Ringmaster, and Red Zeppelin. The Walla Walla did ok, the white Ringmaster did terrible -- they were tiny seedlings that didn't take off -- and the Red Zeppelin was so-so. This year I wanted to try growing from seed, but if you want to buy ready to go plants they are cheap and easy from Dixondale, who supply many resellers: http://www.dixondalefarms.com/product/long_day_sampler/long_day_onions
Here are my seeds sown today, about 5 seeds per cell.
Here is a cool video from Cornell of onions germinating:
You can read more here at Gardenweb:http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/3627591/seed-starting-time
I still have almost a month until my next sowing, which will be artichokes. The peppers are next, and that isn't until mid March.
About this site
My name is Peter and I am a gardener in the Lower Hudson Valley. This is my third year growing a very large garden, from seed. This is my journal.