As with all things I learn by doing. I have never had the patience to successfully grow onions from seed and always subjected to the higher prices of onion sets. Then I learned that onion sets do not produce good sized bulbs that are best for storage. I had shied away from growing from seed because of the delicate little leaves that easily got tangled into a daunting mass. This year I hitched up my big girl pants and gave seeds another go.
I bought my seeds in co-op with friends and the one that ordered them picked out Copra for the variety. I did my homework on this new-to-me variety and like pretty much everyone I started my onion seeds in a flat (or in my case a big foil lasagna pan). I got a little bit late of a start but everything germinated well and soon I had a pan full of little green hairs. I started to get a little anxiety when I saw how tangled everything was getting with in a week or so. Then I stuck them in the greenhouse and kind of ignored them except for watering. First they started to look dead and I thought they were goners. But, I kept watering and once gave them a little miracle grow. Last week suddenly I noticed that there were strong tall shoots growing and my hope was restored! Thursday night I decided it was time to put them in their own little cells to give them room to grow to planting size.
First I got all my supplies together: seed starting soil, cell trays, tools, extra trays and the seedlings of course. I started by carefully using a fork to get as far under the roots as possible and loosen the tiny plants so I could pull them apart by the tops. Don't try to handle them by the base or roots or you could damage them. If some of the leaves break, don't worry if it's just the tops, you will be doing this on purpose in a bit.
Once teased apart I sorted them by size into a tray. The ones that were barely sprouted I just tossed and didn't bother. By the end of the night I ended up tossing the medium sized ones too for lack of a place to put them.
I wasn't able to get pictures while I was putting them in the cells, my hands were covered in dirt! But, it was simple. Just sprinkle about a 1/4 inch of soil in each cell and them holding the roots kind of suspended in the cell, use a spoon to fill it in with soil around the roots. You don't want to bury the base of the plant very far, maybe an 1/8 inch. After you get them in the cell all snug snip the tops so they stand about 3-4 inches tall. This will encourage the bulb part of the plant to grow and keep the tops from being to heavy and flopping. Water very well and let drain completely so the soil is moist all the way through but not sopping. I then returned the new cell trays to the greenhouse.
So, why bother to do all of this? Normally in Maine you start onions in early February to make sure you get sizable bulbs by late summer. They would then be about the size of a pencil when you plant them in the garden. To give them proper nutrition and space to grow they really need their own cell or to be re planted in a flat spaced apart. The benefit to cells is when you go to plant in the garden you don't have to disturb the roots as much and therefore they won't have as much shock. So, transplant those babies!
And in closing here are some more farm pictures!