How I do onions from seed


No, it doesn’t take 2 years to get large onions, it means you only have one year and the next year you might as well throw them out [unless you want seeds]

I’ve grown beautiful big onions from those 1/2-dead plants in bundles. If you don’t start your own, that’s the way to go.


Yes, seeing the condition of the plants they sell is what made me go to growing my own onion starts from seed. Although I did get decent sized onions from those mail-order plants.

Another reason to grow your own is if you are selecting for traits and growing your own seed (have been doing that for a while to get a large sweet onion that stores). And for me it also allows me to start my onion seed way earlier than the commercial places do for what they ship here.


Also from what I’ve read, the smaller sets or plants often produce larger onions. I wouldn’t go back from starting my own seeds tho. Results are much better.


I’ve used those for years and get onions the size from baseballs to softballs. A really easy one is Candy. Tasty and grows every where, but not the best keeper.


We always get bundled sets and have good luck with them. Our onions this year have grown large for the most part. Our bundles this year were from Walmart and not only were there several named varieties the day length was listed. First time to see that from Wally…


Candy’s not the best keeper, but much better than say Walla Walla

Mine from last season kept thru March


My wife uses the onions primarly for cooking and she doesnt like bland/sweet style onions. She needs something with a good onion flavor that makes your eyes water when cutting them up. Her preference is red onions but there arent any that keep as well as copra, so I grow both.


Copra is the king keeper and pungent too.


Just started onion and shallot seed last night. I may be a week or few late for my zone. 8 weeks to alf. First time trying onion seeds.

For folks who are successful, how do you sew the seed? In large flats or in plugs? I sewed in plugs - 5 seeds per 1.5x2" plug. Couldn’t envision how you’d cleanly separate plants out of large flats at xplant time.


I sew in flats using a peat based soil. Its pretty easy to shake the soil away from the roots when it comes time to plant, sets them back a bit I suppose but not a huge issue I dont think. Mine got too big last year before I was able to plant them out so Im waiting a bit longer to start them this year…

I usually put 4-5 inches of soil in my flat. tamp it down gently by hand so the surface is fairly flat, sprinkle seeds by hand on top of that layer and then sprinkle another layer on top of that, fairly thin, maybe .25 to .5 inches, I also pat that layer down by hand. Then I water lightly using the sprayer on my sink, covering the whole surface but not soaking the soil (which should already be slightly damp before planting). I cover the flat with clear plastic and put under my lights until seeds start to break the surface. Once most of the seedlings are about 1 inch tall I remove the plastic and let them grow.


I’m going to do this next year, I use 2 inch flats now. So i have to transplant when younger I’m in a warmer zone so started mine already, but like the idea of a deeper starting bed.


Huge difference in crop when growing onion from seed, I’ll never plant sets again. Has anyone tried planting the seeds in the fall? I understand they’ll over winter fine and begin growth bright and early in spring. It would be nice not to have to deal with flats of onions.


No, it means the onions will go to seed the 2nd year and the bulb will turn to leaves

You need to pull them the first year when the leaves start to turn brown and flop over


I had a bunch of onions not bulb out last year, I think because they were too large when I planted them, they didnt take off in the garden like the usually do but started growing mid summer. I dug them and planted them out of the way later in the fall, just to see what they do this year. If they go to seed, thats fine. My onion seed is getting pretty old already so I could use some fresh stuff.


I’ve been growing and planting my own seed for, well, a long time. Mine are a mix of whatever open pollinated keeper varieties have been available (not many) and selected over the many years. But I think the main variety is likely New York Early, a yellow. As many of you do I start them about now, in flats (mine are about 4" deep), broadcast or in rows depedning on how I’m feeling that day (widish rows are the easiest to manage). Since my seed varies in quality (we’re on the edge for growing onion seed) I usually plant thick and don’t thin enough. But even when crowded they pull apart easily enough. Keeping them thinned is best though (I tell myself that every year).

I’ve planted in the fall, mulched, and they generally do make it through winter but then they start growing too early and get frozen out. If they were in a cold frame that would probably work. For me it’s more reliable inside but a milder climate seems like it would work. I’ve also planted early spring and gotten a crop though they’re small.

A way around having to start seed is to grow your own sets. I’ve been doing this more now. In spring I plant either broadcast or wide rows seed fairly thick with a light mulch. Throughout the summer I pull some for salads. In the fall when they’re died down pull them (or rather scoop up a handful and sort out the bulbs), toss the smallest aside (and they’ll likely root, survive winter with no care, and grow next year!), cure as you do regular crop. Sort them for the sizes you like for sets (I go for about half inch), toss the smalls, eat the larger ones (or plant them next spring for quick greens).

Then I worry come spring that I’ll have enough and buy some generic sets from whereever and marvel at the low quality. Then stick them wherever I have a spot, and later marvel at how much i prefer my own.

When I harvest my main crop in the fall I pick out 6 - 8 of the best looking bulbs to replant to grow seed the next season. Unfortunately, onion seed is viable for only a few years, three seems to be max. Sue


This is my second year growing onions from seed. Last year I think I kept my onions in the flats too long before transplanting them which resulted in some plants dying (probably due to my neglect after I started seeds for the tender annuals). As I wandered through the garden yesterday I saw garlic, garlic chives, chives, and Egyptian onions sprouting new green growth. This tempts me to put out the onions from seed soon. I really need to fight this urge as we will probably have a few small snows in March (or maybe a couple feet of snow like last year).


Interesting Sue, how you do onions from seed. How you grow them. Here in lower MI our season is long enough to mature onions of any size from spring to fall. I will have to try saving seed some time. I have been growing shallots from seed too. they are more fragile and many die off, the ones that make seem to have a really good shelf life. I still have a few left, maybe i will plant one of them for seed?
Here’s last year’s crop, well some of them. Prepping them for braids when possible.

Onion Harvesting

Real nice looking onions, Drew, what are the varieties? Growing seed is easy and the blooming plants are beautiful - bees and butterflys like them, too. I always plant the bulbs in the fall but you might get seed planting early spring. Most years I do OK maturing the seed but they didn’t like last year’s constant rain very much. Sue


I have had some onions that I missed stay all winter, but never produced seed the next year. I saw instructions to plant them back into the ground in the spring.
Some I grow are hybrids so the seed might not be true?
On types the whites are Whitewing , the yellows are Cortland. The reds are Blush. The elongated ones are Zebrune Shallots
I also have grown Camelot shallots. Zebrune is very mild in taste, still harsh on the eyes. Camelot is strong.
This year I have limited room, so not growing a whole lot. I will be growing Zebrune and trying Yellow Of Parma. I like to experiment and will grow others in the future, looking hard at Tropeana Lunga Onion. As far as regular yellows and white the above two I grew last year were great, I will grow them again. Not sure when though/? I want to try others.


Hybrids may or may not come true from the seed they produce. It also will depend on if there are related varieties growing nearby which may have crossed with them. But in general, growing out a cross (hybrid) and selecting seed from the best plants for a few generations is how new varieties are made. So give it a try if you have the time and inclination.

Odd that your “leftover” onions don’t produce a seed stalk their second season. But perhaps your winters are too harsh. I generally select the “best” onions from storage in the spring and plant them for seed and it does seem to work.