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

No Tags

  

Post an Event

Community News

  • New Free Wi-Fi connects Lady Minto Hospi...

    by on 8 hours ago

    Free public Wi-Fi is now available to patients and visitors at Lady Minto Hospital thanks to financial support from the Lady Minto Hospital Auxiliary, Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, Country Grocer, Island Health and the Salt Spring Exchange. “We are thrilled to be bringing public Wi-Fi to patients and visitors at Lady Minto Hospital. We know […]

  • Community Alliance Releases Governance R...

    by on 12 hours ago

    The Governance Working Group, one of six working groups of the Salt Spring Community Alliance, includes volunteers who supported both sides in the 2017 incorporation referendum and some who remained neutral. We came together believing there were ways we could enhance how local government works within our current unincorporated system. We believe it is important […]

  • Clean Air Bylaw includes cannabis, vapin...

    by on 14 hours ago

    Island Health, in partnership with the Capital Regional District, supports all efforts to promote outdoor public spaces free of smoke from tobacco and vapour devices, as well as cannabis (when legalized). Island Health enforcement officers and CRD bylaw officers continue to provide education and awareness around the CRD’s Clean Air Bylaw (no.3962). Island Health enforcement […]

  • Parting Words from Wayne McIntyre, Elect...

    by on 18 hours ago

    While I have advised those who have asked that I don’t intent to run for elected office in the forthcoming local government elections, I felt it was timely to release something more formal. First of all I want to thank the community for giving me the opportunity to represent Salt Spring as the CRD Director […]

  • Long Harbour Terminal – Night Work...

    by on September 11, 2018

    Please be advised that night work will be required on the Salish Eagle while berthed at Long Harbour terminal. Work will commence after the last scheduled sailing on the evening of September 12. This night work is necessary in order to prevent a service disruption. All efforts will be made to minimize the level and […]

  • Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 201...

    by on September 11, 2018

    Salt Spring Fire Rescue (SSIFR) responded to 71 Incidents for the month of July. Operations Update Due to dry and hot weather, SSIFR declared a full fire ban July 18, in an effort to reduce human-caused fires on the island. Since July 12th Salt Spring Island has maintained a steady “Extreme” Fire danger. Work is […]

  • The Court’s Ruling

    by on September 11, 2018

    When the Federal Court of Appeal announced its decision to quash the Justin Trudeau Liberal government approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) many of us in Saanich North and the Islands celebrated! Not only did the decision recognize that the federal government needs to respect the law with Indigenous people, but it also […]

  • Island Leaders in Canada and U.S. Call o...

    by on September 5, 2018

    In light of the Canadian Government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and stated commitment to expanding it despite a court ruling quashing the expansion permit, elected representatives from the islands in the Salish Sea, on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border, have written an open letter urging Prime Minister Trudeau to abandon the expansion […]

  • Neighbourhood Small Grants Launched on S...

    by on September 5, 2018

    Carolling by canoe on Cusheon Lake, the Firefly Lantern Festival, public pianos, Earth Day in Centennial Park, Art Jam, and a neighbourhood potluck party on Park Drive. What do all of these have in common? They are all colourful and joyful expressions of Salt Spring culture, local projects and events run by people who are […]

Pin It on Pinterest