Late February is time to start some leek and onion seeds indoors. Here in Southwest Idaho, we’re 11 weeks from the average last frost date of May 10th. It’s on the early side for seeding my sweet onions, but this has been a warm winter and I’m anticipating being able to do a lot of earlier gardening this year.
My favorite reference book says onion seeds should be seeded 10-12 weeks before the last frost date so they have time to develop a strong root system, or 8-10 weeks prior if you have heavy clay soil. So I’m seeding a batch now at 11 weeks, and I will do more later since we do have heavier clay soil here.
I had a stack of foil trays from the dollar store handy so I used those this time. I poked holes in the bottom so they can drain. I did about 15 seeds per tray so that gives me 60 Candy Onions, 30 Walla Wallas, and 15 Leeks (American Flag variety). The Leeks take the whole season and come on basically all at once. We don’t use a ton of them so 15 will be plenty.
I get almost all of my seeds from Berlin Seeds in Ohio via mail order. They don’t have a website (they’re Amish Mennonite) but their information can be found here. They offer 100% non-GMO seeds at reasonable prices and have most of the varieties that I am looking for.
I have a metal rack of shelves with my growing lights setup on it. These are just regular flourescent bulbs on a timer. Regular bulbs work well for veggies. You may need special grow lights for flowers or other types of plants. I cover the seeds with plastic wrap or with the clear lid that comes with the seed trays from the store to keep moisture in until seeds sprout. That way I don’t have to water them again until they’re up.
My second favorite gardening book comes with a handy form page for keeping track of plantings. After seeding, I write down the type and variety, number of seeds, and the seeding date. I also keep track of when I set them out. It’s helpful to track harvest dates to so you can time things better next year. For these sweet onions planted around the last frost date, I know I will be harvesting them (Lord willing) this summer in July some time. So I don’t have to track the harvest date precisely. But some onions will be for winter storage, for example. I’m not planting those yet, but when I do I’ll keep track of when they’re done so I can make sure I time the harvest for right around the cool-down time before the first frost.