Posted 09-29-2003 at 04:23:21
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No wisdom here, but I'll tell you what I do here in western Maryland. I've grown onions here for quite a few years, but only started growing from seed about 4-5 years ago so I'm still learning.
Every year I plant one or two of my "old reliable" varieties, along with one or two "new to me" varieties. Seems that few varieties are productive every year, depending on the weather...in a rainy cool year one will do better, in a hot drought another so I hedge my bets. You need to watch for "day length" of varieties, as that is a biggy if you want to produce big bulbs.
I start my seed in shallow plastic flats (about 1.5" of soil deep) in seed starter mix. I have tried mixing my own, but it never seems to do as well. I plant them about 3/4 or 1 inch apart in little rows, with about 1-2" between rows in the flat. I can get about 100 seeds per flat this way. Onions grow slow (not like tomatoes) so I start them early...end of January or early February here. I keep em good and damp til they sprout in about a week. I use flourescent grow lights, and always keep them as close to the plants as I can get, maybe an inch or two. Have to move them as the plants grow.
Once the weather stabilizes a little, so there aren't hard freezes at night, I move the plants (now maybe 10 or 12 inches high) to my cold frame. About once a week I'll fertilize with a really really watered-down mix of miracle grow...don't want to give them too much at this stage, but don't want to let them die either. If they're "searching" for food, they'll build a huge root system, which lets them really take off when they get into the garden.
Once the soil in the garden can be worked, I plant. I use a middlebuster plow as my garden is very long and narrow, and lay out the rows. I plant the plants (usually very very strong roots by then!) about 6" apart in rows. I am usually really good about weeding for the first month or two and then get overwhelmed, but the better you can weed them the bigger they'll get.
that's what I do. Hope there's something helpful in this mess!