The 2011 Garden Begins: Sowing Allium


I’ve been waiting for this. The new start. Another gardening year begins. Turns out leeks and onions need a good, long, head start in life, and the packs of seed suggest seeding in flats 2+ months before the last day of frost. Here, depending on the source, is about May 7. That, by my accounts, makes me late. And I hate being late.

Sowing leeks and onions is pretty darned easy, made easy by the fact that when you go to transplant them, you literally can pull the crowded little guys apart and they don’t seem to mind too much. Many plants wouldn’t take so kindly to crowding. So sow in flats, they germinate in about a week, and keep them trimmed to 4″ or so until it’s time to put them out. Not rocket science. Unless you include ‘planning ahead’ akin to rocket science – which may actually not be that far off.

This year, 4 varieties of leek: Giant Mussleburgh, King Richard, Pandora, and Lincoln. 5 varieties of late season onion: Copra, Red Long of Tropea, Patterson, Norstar, and saffron shallots.

Any guesses on another veg needing a ridiculously early start? No? Celery and it’s brother celeriac. It’s true. I grew Tango celery for the first time in 2010, and will forever grow it for the opportunity to have fresh, vibrant celery flavor available from early summer through nearly Christmas.

The final items sown were some cells of arugula [I've saved seed since '09] and mild mesclun. Afterward, I went to my 2010 garden notes [because I do things like that], and noticed that last year I seeded these on March 10. Apparently I’m predictable.

13 Responses

  1. Mel says:

    Do you sow everything in those little plastic trays? I could definitely use some tips in this department, as I’m just starting to build all my garden infrastructure.
    My only concern is that I don’t have garden space ready to go as soon as the snow melts – I’ve got a lot of ground to dig up. So, those little guys may need to stay in those trays a bit longer.

  2. Mike says:

    It sounds like you are off to a good start, I look forward to seeing your crops green and growing this spring and summer. We are growing the Copra onion for the first time this year…can’t wait to see if they are as good at growing and storage as I have read.

  3. Kasia says:

    Kevin, I’m so inspired by your planning ahead. I’ve been trying to remind myself that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ but I’m an eternal procrasinator and it’s infuriating… Last year we moved to a house in Highlands and I started a garden very late in the season. Only got a few things out of it. So this year I’d like to get an early start. This weekend might be the time to do it! Where do you go for your gardening supplies?

  4. Judy Z. says:

    I didn’t hear garlic on the list of things you are starting or did you plant it in your garden in the fall which some sites recommend. I haven’t had great results planting in the garden so thought I should try starting earlier. I’m hoping it would transplant as well as you say the onions will.
    I went so far as to buy garlic at the grocery store to plant as it isn’t available at the gardenening stands or stores anywhere that I have been. I haven’t got as far as pulling in some of my potting soil to let it thaw.

  5. As soon as I wrote that to E, I thought – OH, silly me – Kevin has probably posted that already – and sure enough. I haven’t posted a thing for 2 weeks. My first time ever. Spent the entire day just catching up on e-mail.
    Love this post. Thanks for the seeds. I am PUMPED!
    (I want to see Miss E’s pot and seeds!)

  6. I am eager to hear the answer to the garlic question AND to WHERE you get your seeds.
    Also – can you upload a plug in so we can get your answers in our mail box without checking back?

  7. meansoybean says:

    Nice post about leeks! I really like the garden section of your blog.

    Will definitely have to remember to do the pail thing if there are any left in the ground by snowfall. I’m starting some yellow onions tomorrow.

  8. Mel – mostly in flats, yes. I use some jiffy pellets, but decreasingly so. Soil is cheap, and the plastic trays, if handled gently, are reusable for a few seasons. They’re also dirt cheap, no pun intended. I just got a u bar digger that you may want to borrow to break some ground…
    Mike – the copra were good, but size was small [soil issue] – stored great.
    Kasia – glad I can be of assistance! I buy stuff here and there – but mostly Hole’s, which is expensive but good. I order all my seeds online [Johnny's, Richter's, Salt Spring Seeds, Vesey's, T&T], and tools at Lee Valley.
    Judy – I have some garlic in the ground from the fall, but my main crop of seed is in my cellar. It was something I neglected last fall. Thankfully, I neglected it the fall prior too, and still had good results. This coming season, I hope to leave in an ample ‘allium garden’ – leave in maybe half the crop, and allow them to go nuts over time – a naturalized allium garden, if you will. Perhaps I should start seeding them in the ‘forest garden’ portion of my yard….that’s a heck of an idea.
    Valerie – Oh how I wish I had time to tweak my site at the moment. One of these days. Yes, I keep saying that, don’t I. Darn.
    Meansoybean – thanks! My dad called me recently and told me his leeks stored far better than expected in his heated garage [about 4C] – dug up dirt and all and plopped in a wheelbarrow.

  9. Kasia says:

    Thanks Kevin! I wrote down all the resources you listed and will be checking them out. I have your blog in my blogroll now so I can get post updates in a timely manner. I love your gardening advice.

  10. Carissa says:

    I have had no luck with leeks– two seasons in the garden and they haven’t grown much bigger than a pencil diameter. Maybe not enough sun?

  11. Kevin says:

    Carissa – maybe. The ones in the shade of my apple tree didn’t exceed that by much, but the ones with full south facing light got many times bigger. If you try again, let me know how it goes.

  12. Judy Z. says:

    Hi, Kevin,
    I found a website that I thought might interest you. I had no idea that there were so many varieties of garlic and the history of them is fascinating.

    It is very tempting to order on of every type but I don’t think my garden or my budget would appreciate that.

  13. Kevin says:

    Judy – SO COOL. Thanks for forwarding Boundary Garlic Farm’s url – what a cool resource.

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