onion seed coat

tanagerzoo(z7 DE)February 19, 2006

I've never grown onions before in any way shape or form. This year, I decided to give it a shot starting seeds indoors and then transplanting in March or April.

Anyway, I've started about 5 different varieties. Germination has been excellent. However, I don't know if what I'm experiencing is normal or not. They aren't behaving like my tomatoes or other veggies ;o)

A long thin green shoot is shooting straight up to the lights. But at the end, it has the seed coat. And that seed coat is not popping off. It seems to dry up and fall off. And no cotelydons emerge.

Being onions I'm hoping that that is normal. If the seed coat falls off on another veggie, that usually means death.

I've been searching the archives and the web, but either my question is too silly to answer ;o) or it never happens to anyone else.

So, am I okay and with luck will get onions? Or am I experiencing fatally sticky seed coats? Should I have soaked the seeds before I sowed them? Do I need to start over again?



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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

You likely also noticed that they come up bent double with the seed hull last to leave the planting soil. Its just a shell and they do fall off sooner or later.
Sounds like you have had good results for the first time with onion seed.
Most of of us in the warmer zones transplant in the fall. Mulch if needed. Root developement is excellent and results are bigger onions.
However, I also plant some in the spring. Bulbs are smaller, but quality seems to be better and as they are harvested somewhat later, I have useable onions a little longer.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2006 at 9:32PM
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tanagerzoo(z7 DE)

Thanks so much for replying. That's exactly what they did (bent double...) Now I can relax and not expect them all to keel over dead one morning.

I wasn't sure in the mid-Atlantic if I should do fall or spring planting. But in the fall, although I did plant garlic, onions hadn't occured to me yet. I did read something about the 40 degree longitude location being significant to onions. We are just a hair below it, but wasn't sure what it meant.

I usually mail order my seeds, but again, I wasn't together regarding the onions. so I just picked up seed packets locally. You'd think they would only sell packets appropriate to your location, but I kept finding short day varities, like Ganax type. Aren't they like Vidalias that only grow in the deep south?? Anyway, I'm having fun experimenting and next year, hopefully, I'll know better what works in my garden and what won't!


    Bookmark   February 20, 2006 at 8:07AM
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UncleJohn(z4 NH)

I read that you should keep your onion seedlings trimmed. I did that last year, keeping them to 3" - 4" and that worked well for me. I am planning on doing it again this year.

I would think that Delaware is in between short and long day, so you may be ok with short day seeds.

Seed companies will sell you what you order without concern to your location. Most will have a guide telling you what range you are in, and suggest accordingly.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2006 at 9:53PM
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Have to disagree with you, Uncle John. While onion plant houses, such as Dixondale, do, indeed, have charts and other info as to day length, most seed houses do not.

Indeed, based on my experience, the average seed catalog doesn't even indicate that onions are day length sensitive, and just lists the seed helter skelter.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 7:08AM
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UncleJohn(z4 NH)

Thanks for the heads up. I guess I have been fortunate in that I have been buying my onion seed from FedCo and Johnny Seed and both indicate day length. I recommend them.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 10:02AM
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I have read several different definitions of 'day neutral.' By comparing around, it looks like most of the 'day neutal onions are actually middle latitude oninons. In other words, they will bulb reliably in the middle latitudes. I would love to hear if anyone knows if there are any that really do ignore daylength entirely. There is enough misleading information being presented by reputable sources that it gets to the point where you have to grow it to trust it. I am fortunate to be right by TAMU and on almost the same latitude as Dixondale farms. As a result I can get very trustworthy data on most major commercial onions. It still makes me laugh when I see a long day onion with the word Spanish or Italian in the name. I am going to try at least one Long Day and one 'day neutral' each year just to test for the chance seedling or variety that will bulb this far south. I have noted that from even the best seed or start sources a least one onion in each planting does not quite resemble it's brethren.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 2:31PM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

Planting onion seed in the fall, outside in a cold frame or just a small place in the garden, even just in a row, plants do not need to be topped. Oct 1st here and transplant out Nov 15th. I do agree that when starting seed in the spring, plants should be trimmed to 3 or 4".
Thanks for the FedCo. Two interesting onions that I haven't yet tried,

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 12:04AM
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I think the closer you are, physically, to the middle zone the more likely it is that you'll get bulbs.

Here in Kentucky, on the border between short-day and day-neutral, virtually any onion I plant will produce some sort of bulb. Not necessarily the full potential of that variety, though. Obviously, short-day, and neutral varieties do better. But even long-day varieties produce some sort of bulb, albiet on the small side.

One of these days I'm actually going to try growing Alicia Craig Exibition, just to see what happens.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 8:51AM
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Kentuckyheirloomer, I am growing Alicia Craig. I just want a huge green onion. I doubt it will ever bulb, but a large bulb means large leaves. I will leave a few to go full life cycle to see what it does, but you may have more luck than me as far as bulbing. If I have a dividing onion bloom at the same time, I will try to get a cross. A huge multiplyer would be really fun!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:24AM
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Just guessing, but I think ACE would, by me, produce a bulb about the size of a golf ball.

This year I'm experimenting with two long-day varieties: Bkorettana Cippolini, because I want to see if they'll grow here or not; and Red Torpedo Tropea, because it resembles the Amish Bottle I like to grow, which also is, in theory, a long day length. So time will tell.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:36AM
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    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 11:29AM
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No, Oneofeight, they are not multipliers, which is the problem. They're a standard dry onion, with a long, torpedo shape.

The only source I know of is Jeptha Yoder, an Amish gentleman in Pennsylvania. Jeptha grows and sells sets for these. His price is more than fair, but the postage kills you. The last time I ordered them the postage was more than twice the cost of the sets.

After three years of trying, I've given up trying to grow seed. One way or another I get to harvest none.

That's why I'm experimenting with the Red Torpedo this year. If it works out to be similar enough, it will become my main crop onion, because I'll always be able to get plants from Dixondale.

I know Coho was growing them for awhile, and had some small success with seed. Whether he has any to spare depondent sayeth not.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 4:35PM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

With good rich soil, I found the bottle onion sets to grow very well. However it is a spicy small torpedo shape onion. Also, every one divided into two bulbs after harvesting.
I had poor sucess with seed growing as I planted the bulbs in a out of sight, out of mind spot. I am trying again this year. Planted all my seed last year and all the bulbs this season. So far have lost about a third. Rest look ok.
I think if I do this again, I will buy some more of Jeptha's sets. Seed did not grow nearly as large as the sets did.
There are several Italian Bottle onions. Some of them may be spicy. The one I grew 3 years ago was large, but sweet.
Trying another this year.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 11:52PM
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