Last week, we started our garden indoors with onions, lavender, and rosemary. Both lavender and rosemary take almost a month to germinate, so starting them early is a necessity if they’re going to be ready for planting by April 12, the date of the average last frost. To start them, I’m using little two inch pots made of strips of newspaper. I made them with this wooden pot maker: http://www.amazon.com/PotMaker%C2%AE-The-Original-Pot-Maker/dp/B00062ZNXQ Once I got the hang of using it, the pot maker worked really well.
Although onions germinate quickly, they need an extra-long growing season, often five months or more, so giving them a head start indoors can ensure plenty of time to develop from seeds to scallions to nice, respectable onions. This year, we’re planting Red Creole Onions, an heirloom variety well-suited for the South. I was surprised to learn that the South’s most popular onion, the Vidalia Onion, is actually a hybrid, not an heirloom. Although Vidalia Onions taste great, I wouldn’t be able to save seed from year to year if I grew them.
For starting the onions, I used plastic cell trays, and out of 72 seeds planted, 68 germinated. I should also give kudos to my red wigglers. They’ve been working hard all fall and winter eating vegetable scraps, and I now have enough worm castings to fertilize my seedlings in a few weeks once dampening off is no longer a threat. Dampening off happens when new seedlings shrivel up due to various fungi. To prevent this, gardeners use sterile soil media to start seeds. This sterile soil media lacks any nutritional value for plants, so gardeners often water with a weak liquid fertilizer or compost tea to meet the seedlings’ nutritional needs. In a few weeks, I’ll use a compost tea made from worm castings—that is, my own natural MiracleGro 😉