onion seeds

onion seeds

This is what you do when it’s 48F/9C outside: turn off the furnace and open a window. Then, gather your seed starting stuff with the tray of newspaper pots you made earlier in the week. Take it all out on the deck and don’t put on a jacket because it is warm outside. Spend half an hour filling all the paper pots, wetting the soil, and then planting four onion seeds in each pot. Sprinkle more soil on top of the seeds, spray with water and cover with plastic. Leave this out in the sun to get toasty warm before bringing it indoors to put on top of the refrigerator where you hope in a week or so you will see onion sprouts.

Yes, my friends, gardening season is upon us. There is still snow on the ground but the back of winter has been broken. Everyone I know is heaving a big sigh of relief. We made it!

What I planted today are red cipollini onions.

Grow, grow, grow!

Grow, grow, grow!

They are small onions that, if all goes well, will be ready to eat sometime around the middle or end of July. The first time I had ever heard of them or tried them was when Bookman and I had a CSA farm share and they came in our box. Oh, were they good! Very mild but still oniony if that makes sense. I’ve never seen then in the store. Hopefully they will grow and give me lots of onions. I’m a bit nervous about it because the only other time I ever tried to grow onion, long ago before my current garden, it was a disaster. The seeds sprouted but the plants never got very big and when it came time to harvest instead of having big yellow onions they were just weak green stalks with little nubs at the end.

The next season I tried long-day onion sets (you have to match your onion variety not only to the length of your growing season but also the length of your day because daylight stimulates bulb growth or something like that) and the results were onions that were the same size as the seed bulb I had planted. So past experience says I don’t have much luck with onions but I am determined to figure it out. I have read that root vegetables are nitrogen hogs, and when the seedlings get planted out I will seed beans in between them. Keep experimenting and one of these days I will hit the jackpot.

Now I have to start making another round of paper pots to plant peppers in. We bought so many different kinds of pepper seeds from sweet bells to pepperoncini to cayenne. I can’t even remember all the kinds we got. They will be fun to experiment with too. Their seeding will happen either next weekend of the one after that. I have to check the seed packets to pin it down.

It feels so good to have sun and warmth and the beginning of the garden.

Meanwhile I’ve also been reading more about chickens and looking at chicken coop photos to figure out what my coop design will be. Chicken coops it turns out are as various and interesting as their chickens and their keepers. Some people build with upcycled/recycled/found materials, others go brand new everything from the local home supply store. Sure you can buy pre-made coops and you can even buy plans, but where is the fun in that? Figuring out what I want is like playing with Lincoln Logs/Tinker Toys/ Legos — I like the window on that one, the removable nesting boxes from there, the access door here, the siding from that, and oh that’s how you do the insulation, I like that roof better, and ventilation, so many different ways to do it. Such fun!

This afternoon a couple friends came over. They have chickens so naturally we talked a lot about them. Now I am even more excited. If it wouldn’t be such a tight deadline rush, I’d get them this year instead of waiting for next spring.

On another note, allow me to recommend a lovely book called First Ladies of Gardening by Heidi Howcroft. I reviewed it for Library Journal and liked it very much. The women gardeners and their gardens featured go from Vita Sackville-West and Sissinghurst to Helen Dillon and her garden in the middle of Dublin. They are all private gardens and all the gardeners are amateurs which is quite inspiring given what their gorgeous gardens look like. If she knew nothing about gardening when she started and made that then surely I can make something halfway decent.

The book focuses on English gardens and except for two gardens they are all on very large estates. This is disheartening because I will never have acres to garden on. Nonetheless there are still good ideas to be found in plant and color pairings that I can manage in my own space. The photos are breathtaking and all the women seem so personable you just want to take a garden ramble with them. It is not a how-to book, it is not an extensive biography nor is it solely coffee table eye-candy but it manages to combine all the elements into a pleasurable book to dip in and out of.

Meanwhile, the Daylight Savings time change has me all messed up, what with the clock saying it is later than I think it is all day long. I suppose in a few days I’ll get used to it, but at the moment it feels wrong. And I know getting up for work Monday morning is going to be no fun. But it is supposed to be sunny and just as warm tomorrow so I can’t complain too much.