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Friday Favorite: Growing Onions from Seed

February 28th, 2014

I love onions, love love love them. I’m fairly certain not a day goes by that I don’t include onions in my diet. As a result I grow lots of onions. After being disappointed in the varieties of onions available in plant/set, I began starting my onions from seed.
starting onion seeds 1
This year I’m trying a few open pollinated varieties and would like to try producing some of my own seed for the future. That’s one reason I chose to grow ‘Clear Dawn’, which is a stabilized open pollinated version of ‘Copra’ a popular long-storing onion.
starting onion seeds 3
My ‘Redwing’ onions from last year are storing like champs, which is very rare for red onions. I’m growing them again along with ‘Red Bull’ which is supposed to be an open pollinated long storing red onion. I’ll compare how it stores alongside the ‘Redwing’ onions.
starting onion seeds 4
starting onion seeds 5
‘Red Weathersfield’ is considered to be one of the healthiest onions, it contains high levels of antioxidants and other goodness. It’s also supposed to store well, we shall see how it stacks up to the other two red varieties above.
starting onion seeds 6
I’m also starting a few varieties of leeks, they are great when you don’t want too much oniony flavor and they are great for augmenting the onions in the winter since they’re so cold tolerant.
starting onion seeds 2
This is the first year I’ve been able to grow enough onions for my kitchen. My onion harvest is still storing well and I have a good number in the pantry. When the garden thaws I’ll have a few overwintered leeks as well to help make them last until the 2014 harvest comes in.

What’s your favorite vegetable to start from seed?

Nothing Wasted

January 11th, 2014

I mentioned earlier this week that I was going through my seed stash and being ruthless about weeding out old seed.  Last year, I did a few experiments with seed for the same vegetable from differing years (seeds were from the same company).  The fresh seed germinated much quicker and the seedlings were much stronger and were more resistant to stress induced issues (like too much sun, not enough water, etc).  
new seedlings
After my experiments, I decided it was worth it to start each year with seed that is as fresh as possible.  Some seeds stay fresher longer than other, brassicas and tomatoes are among those, thus I’ll keep those seeds for a few years.  Onion seeds on the other hand really shouldn’t be saved from year to year.  I will no longer be pushing the dates for viability of seed, it’s just not worth my time to risk things not germinating or seedlings not thriving.  For a downloadable seed shelf life chart head on over to this post and download the PDF.
sprouts 2
The seeds could have been thrown in the compost pile, but I decided to sprout them for my chickens instead. Of course you could sprout them for yourself if you don’t have chickens. I knew these hard working ladies would appreciate some lovely green sprouts in the middle of the winter, they’re still laying so well, I decided to give the sprouts to them instead of eating them myself. They’ll give them back to me in the form of big, beautiful eggs.
sprouts 1
Sprouting seeds is as easy as can be, and you don’t need any special supplies. A glass jar and a piece of cheesecloth will do. Simply soak seeds for a few hours or overnight, drain out water and set jar upside down, tipped slightly in a bowl to drain excess water. Rinse several times a day when you remember, draining the water each time. Rinsing is important to keep mold away! In a few days sprouts will start to appear, when they are to your liking – enjoy!
What could be easier than that. This is also a good way to watch how seeds germinate and to monitor the different germination times with different vegetables.

What do you do with your old garden seed?

The Elusive Golden Beet

July 25th, 2013

I love golden beets, there’s just something about that beautiful golden color. Red beets are great too, but the golden ones are my favorites for roasting. Each year I plant seeds for golden beets and end up disappointed. Germination is never as good as it is with the red beets I plant, sometimes none of the seeds germinate.
golden beet harvest
This year was no different. I planted almost an entire packet of golden beets this spring and only about 15 germinated. The seeds were fresh, or they should have been as they were purchased this spring. My first thought was that I had planted them too early and the soil was too cool. However, I planted more seeds a couple weeks ago and not one seed germinated. I planted red beets last week and they’re already popping out of the soil.
golden beets 2
Luckily, I do have a few golden beets in the garden, not as many as I’d like. Next spring I’ll be ordering seed from a different source to see if perhaps the seeds I’ve had in the past were not very fresh (I have tried seed from a few different places). I’ve been very impressed with seeds from Johnny’s and High Mowing, so I’m planning on ordering a packet from each to see how they fare.
golden beets 1
If I do find a source of seed that germinates well I might consider trying to save seed from them. Freshness is often a key in good germination.

Is there a vegetable you can’t seem to grow no matter what you try?

Friday Favorite: Starting from Seed

April 12th, 2013

There’s nothing I love more than starting my own plants from seed. Partly, I do it to save money. When you have a garden as large as I do, you could easily go bankrupt trying to buy plants. Starting from seed is a great way to get a lot of plants for minimal monetary investment. I also like starting from seed because you can find really interesting varieties.
tiny asparagus seedlings 2
Take this asparagus for example, it’s ‘Precoce D’Argenteuil’, an old French heirloom which is prized for it’s tastiness. I also started ‘Mary Washington’ asparagus seeds this year as well. (source: Baker Creek)
tiny asparagus seedlings 1
Not only can you find rare and unique varities, it’s so much fun to watch the life cycle of a plant starting from seed. These tiny asparagus spears make me smile. Even though I know it will be 3 years before I can harvest anything from these plants, when I finally do I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what these plants have seen throughout their lifecycle.

What’s your favorite seedling to see in spring?

Planting Spinach

March 27th, 2013

It’s official, the 2013 edible gardening season has begun.  I have already planted lots of seeds, mostly for onions and herbs, but the season doesn’t officially start for me until I plant seeds in real soil in the garden.  On Monday, I spent time planting a large section of spinach.
planting spinach 1
Of course, I couldn’t just plant spinach seed, curiosity always gets the best of me.  It’s a common theory that soaking certain seeds will make them germinate faster.  Soaking them in a diluted kelp liquid is supposed to make them germinate even faster yet.
planting spinach 3
On Monday there were a few different cups of spinach seeds soaking, one in plain water, on in diluted liquid kelp.  I planted both 12 rows of each of these and 10 of unsoaked seed. What variety of spinach did I plant? ‘Space’ from Johnny’s Seeds, which is supposed to be a good cold tolerant spinach.
planting spinach 2
I must admit, I hope that the regular seed germinates just as fast, soaking seeds is a bit of a pain.  It’s much more difficult to plant wet seeds with precision.  Drying them on a paper towel first helped a lot, the seeds were much easier to handle when they weren’t dripping with water.  It is still a little inconvenient to do this, especially if you’re planting a large section of spinach.
planting spinach 4
After planting, the row was covered with greenhouse plastic over hoops.  This is the same bed that was covered last week before the snow to help the soil stay dry and warm for planting.  It’s amazing the difference this made, had I not done this, there would be no planting of spinach until most likely 2 weeks from now.  The soil in the rest of the garden is still frozen solid and covered with a few inches of snow.  It will take a while for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw and dry out enough for planting seeds.

Do you ever soak seeds before planting them?  Do you notice quicker germination?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.