Welcome, visitor!   Register   Login

Post an Ad
Menu Post an Ad

Starting Seeds and Onion Sets

    Farm & Garden    March 12, 2018

Despite the slow start to spring (as snow flurries Friday morning reminded me), this is a good week to start seeds indoors for early crops and for plants that take the whole growing season to mature.

I used to start leeks in mid-February, but now wait until the first week of March and find they grow just as big as always. And starting later means less time spent babysitting seedlings. While onions grown from sets mature around mid-July, earlier than onions from seed, growing onions from seed allows you to try many more varieties than are sold as sets. The downside is that seedling onions take most of the summer to reach maturity. You can grow your own sets, however, which gives you the wide choice of varieties along with the earlier harvest, which allows you to plant another crop after the onions. Choose storage varieties for onion sets and sow seeds thickly enough to keep the crowded bulbs very small. You can grow a lot of sets in 1-2 square feet. I sow mine directly in the garden in the last week of May, at a rate of 2-3 seeds per square inch. I don’t add compost or other nutrients before planting because I want tiny little sets, smaller than a dime. The smaller the onion sets are, the earlier you can plant them next spring. It doesn’t seem logical, but to make a long story [somewhat] shorter: the larger the onion sets are, the more likely it is that a cool spell will vernalize them, meaning make them produce flower stalks rather than bulbs. Planting large diameter sets (larger than a nickel) later in the spring reduces the chance of flowering because cool weather is less likely–but then the plants don’t have as much time to grow roots before the long days of June stimulate bulb formation. Which means smaller onions at harvest time.

After that onion detour, back to starting other seeds indoors: Sow tomatoes, peppers and eggplant now, if you haven’t already done so. Celery and celeriac seeds should be started now, because the seeds are minute and seedlings take a long time to grow to a good size. If you want an early crop of cabbage and cauliflower, start a few plants now and plan to start more next month for later harvests. If you don’t have leafy greens overwintering in the garden and are in a hurry for something green, sow some of those indoors. For such early plantings, stick to annuals, such as lettuce, spinach, Chinese cabbage, leaf radish, leaf mustard and other annuals. You can try biennials, such as Swiss chard, collards, endives, and they might be just fine, but it depends on the spring weather. If there is a late cold spell in April it can cause them to flower this summer instead of next year as they should (again, see the vernalization info mentioned above). If you have overwintered chard, spinach, kale, lettuce and other greens in the garden there is no need to plant early seedlings—the old plants have big roots and leaf growth will be rapid as the weather warms.

Starting seeds indoors requires bright conditions for the seedlings, such as under grow lights, in a south-facing sunroom or bay window. There is rarely enough sunlight to grow them on a windowsill. If they don’t have enough light, seedlings grow long stems and lean toward the light. To make up for less-than-perfect indoor light, put the seedling trays outdoors in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse whenever there is sunshine. Take care to open the cold frame or greenhouse vents enough to keep temperatures from getting much above 21oC (70oF). It won’t be much longer before you can also set seed trays outdoors for a few hours on warm, sunny days (continue to bring them in at night as it will be too cold for them).

Early Zucchini: Fans of the earliest possible zucchini should start seeds by mid-March for really early plants. This only works if you have a sunroom or greenhouse where you can keep the large, rapidly growing plants until you set them out around May 1st. For such early plantings I grow the parthenocarpic variety ‘Partenon’ from William Dam Seeds because the flowers don’t have to be pollinated for the fruit to develop (Salt Spring gardeners will be able to buy this variety from the Chorus Frog Farm stand this spring).

Spring Pests: It is the time of year to remind you to control climbing cutworms: these big fat caterpillars have been in the garden all winter and continue to eat ragged holes in leaves of vegetables until the end of April. After that they transform into pupae (those mahogany coloured “bullets” you see in the soil in May and June) and later in the summer the moths emerge from the pupae. The cutworms hide during the day, but come out to eat leaves at night. It is not hard to find them on leaves by the light of a flashlight just after dark. For photos of this insect check this.

Slugs are active and laying eggs now so you might want to start using iron/ferric phosphate slug bait to control them around garden beds that will planted next month. Some of these products are certified for organic growers (e.g., Sluggo). It works best to sprinkle small amounts of the bait over the soil in an empty bed, replacing it every week or two. Because the bait attracts slugs, don’t encircle the plants you are trying to protect with a ring of bait. The iron takes a couple of days to work, which gives slug time to eat the bait and your plants before they are affected.

Onion Seedlings

Brassica Seedlings

Comments May Not Be Seen by the Author

No Tags


Post an Event

Community News

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) Incident On Island ...

    by on December 12, 2018

    Do you have a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm installed in your home? – Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue recently attended a carbon monoxide (CO) incident at a home that was too close a call for those exposed. Although it was originally thought to be false alarm, firefighters took reading of the air with a 4 […]

  • Watch: Salt Spring Unicorn Riders Associ...

    by on December 5, 2018

    Recently Rachel Notley while speaking to an Alberta Teachers’ Association was heard grumbling: “Maybe on Salt Spring Island you can build an economy on condos and coffee shops but not in Edmonton and not anywhere in Alberta,” and “Here in Alberta we ride horses, not unicorns, and I invite pipeline opponents to saddle up on […]

  • Let’s Try and Win the $60,000,000 ...

    by on December 4, 2018

    December 7th, 2018 Draw! – If this ticket wins the full amount of the big draw of the LOTTO MAX on Friday this week, with an estimated $60,000,000 jackpot, we’ll share a portion of the winnings with everyone from Salt Spring Island, BC that has subscribed to our Salt Spring Exchange email newsletter, liked and […]

  • First Cold Snap

    by on December 3, 2018

    Just a quick note that the first cold weather of the year is forecast for this week, with night time lows by Wednesday and Thursday forecast to drop well below freezing in some parts of the region. That’s the signal to finish mulching everything if you haven’t done so already. Now is the time to […]

  • Buy Local, Including Your Local Media

    by on December 3, 2018

    The BC Buy Local campaign celebrates local business to promote the contributions that BC businesses make to our local economy and our communities. The goal of the campaign is to illuminate the local market, making BC-based businesses, products, food and wines more visible to consumers. Think about this too when you spend time online, where […]

  • Hands On – Video Series Features S...

    by on November 30, 2018

    In this digital age there has been a shift in how we relate to our physical things. It is more common to buy things than make them. It is more common to stream music than to learn an instrument. There is great satisfaction in working with your hands. If you are baking bread you know […]

  • A Surprise Proposal; Facilitated by Stra...

    by on November 28, 2018

    This past July a mystery person using a pseudonym posted an ad on the Salt Spring Exchange, three people sent it to me, I had to know more… The first person who sent me the mystery classified ad requesting, “a photographer for a surprise proposal,” was my Mom. And like all things your Mom sends […]

  • Salt Spring’s First Neighbourhood Small ...

    by on November 28, 2018

    The Salt Spring Island Foundation, in partnership with Salt Spring Island Community Services, is pleased to announce the recipients of our first Neighbourhood Small Grants. The Neighbourhood Small Grants program offers grants of $50 to $500 to local projects and events run by people who are passionate about giving back to the community and who […]

  • Salt Spring Island Electoral Area –...

    by on November 16, 2018

    What is a Public Alert Notification System? (PANS) – In the case of a public safety incident, the Public Alert Notification system will be used to deliver critical and potentially life- saving alerts to residents and stakeholders who have registered. This information can help you and your family know what to do, where to go, […]

Pin It on Pinterest