Onions Sets or seed?

sackofmommyJanuary 3, 2007


My husband and I just started market gardening last year and I have been an avid gardener for many years however, I have always used onion sets. Last year we started and transplanted some from seed and we're very impressed with the results, we are in zone 3 in Northern SK. Any advice on which you've found have the best results? Last year our sets turned out less than stellar. And any particular varieties for keeping quality and growth for our fairly short season?

Thanks in advance.

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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Seeds are far better than sets. because sets are second year onions almost all will go to seed making foir an onion that is not sellable and most will not store well.

Seeds give you 1st year onions that will almost never bolt to seed, are all sellable and will store well.

you want long day onions for Sask. Copra is a wonderful yellow storage onion that works well in the north.

one trick with seeds, start them indoors under lights as soon as you get them (now is not too early, even for your area) and start them in deep pots so the roots have room to grow. This will give you nice sized seedlings for transplanting.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 7:24AM
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HI -

I have used plants (expensive), sets (cheaper), and seeds (cheapest). The most successful has been buying plants. I have tried sets - I will never use them again  the onions were horrible and the lack of variety disheartening! The bulk of my plantings have been the variety Copra. It is a spectacular storage onion for northern long days. With proper storage, it keeps until May or June. In the past, I have always purchased my plants (about 3500) from Dixondale Onion Farm in TX (http://www.dixondalefarms.com/). For me, this yields about 600 pounds. Last fall I saved tons of seed and will start them in early February to give seeds a try, but I will still buy a few bunches just in case the seeding doesnÂt go well.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 7:28AM
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mommagoose(z5 NY)

I too use Dixondale farms. Before switching to them I bought plants from Piedmont Plant Company. Be sure to order the variety that grows best in your Latitude. Onions are daylight sensitive. Onions are heavy feeders and require up to 1 inch of water a week. I used Copra for a bunching onion at the market. I also raised Walla Wallas, Sweet sandwich ( stores well right into the next year and gets sweeter after the new year)Big Daddy, and Candy For a really big mild onion I buy Ailsa Craig, although they are more suseptible to weather and do not keep very long.
I too have grown from seed and if you want to start them by January 29th ( my birthday) It takes a long time for those blades of grass to get large enough to set outside.I used to transplant seedlings in the field the last week of April when the seedlings were large and easier to handle
Good luck with your project and have fun.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 1:14PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

Seed definitely! I had big "utah sweet spanish" onions larger than softballs. Start seeds right away! It takes forever for them to grow...but even if they're small, plant them out in the spring anyway. I got the biggest onions from plants the size of a fat spaghetti noodle 2 years ago. Also if you're in an area where the weather is decidedly colder and the days are shorter in winter, use a "long day" onion for best results. Or Candy, it's day neutral. Also when you plant them, mulch them right soon afterwards and when you're mulching, lay down a soaker hose and mulch right over it.Put a piece of furnace tape over the end where you hook the hose up to it just in cause you don't need the hose right away, it won't get dirt in it. No waste, and if it turns out dry, you can hook it up and water easily.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 7:47AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Any recommendations on where to buy seed? I did a quick search after reading this thread at some of my usual sources, and they all seem to have sets only.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 5:17PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Fedco, johnny's selected seeds both have onion seed, though Johnny's has back ordered my copra seeds.

Loodean lets us know how the copra seed saving went. Copra is a hybrid but perhaps you will not get many off types. Fedco has an OP copra called Clear Dawn that they developed over the past 5 or 10 years that a colleague likes a lot but I have not tried it yet.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 9:00AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Oh for goodness' sake! I must be half-blind, lol! Johnny's was the first place I checked, but I checked the website instead of my catalog, and I must have missed the seeds. Sure enough, as soon as I read your post, ohiorganic, I flipped open my catalog and there they were, plain as day!

I think for my first attempt I'll try Copra.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 11:08AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I too buy my plants from Dixondale. I generally grow copra, ailsa craig, cippolini and this year I'm gonna try candy. Growing from seed is a long tedious process...IMO. I go in with a couple of friends to buy plants and that really cuts down on the cost. Also, Dixondale's plants are much easier to handle (than my tender seedlings) and the actual time spent planting is much less. My handy dibble makes the job go fast. I recieve the plants on March 27 and harvest before the end of July. Just in time to amend the beds and start a fall crop.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 5:18PM
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