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Planting Onions and Leeks from Seed

Posted by on February 19, 2016

Here in south central Alaska, our growing season is fairly short. Planting outdoors usually happens around Memorial Day and harvest happens in early September. Frost tends to follow very soon. So planting onions and leeks from seed happens early and indoors.


Starting Onions and Leeks from Seed - IdlewildAlaska

Not only do we have to keep our short growing season in mind, but onions are affected by our extra long daylight hours too. Some plants love this, one of the reasons Alaska grows such massive cabbages and pumpkins. Onions can be split up into three different types, long-day, short-day, and intermediate-day onions. Fairly self-explanatory. Short-day onions need about 10 hours of daylight to start forming a bulb, and long-day onions need 14-15 hours of daylight to form a bulb. The intermediate-day, or day neutral onions will form a bulb in about 10-12 hours of daylight and do well in many regions, but this is when you need to look at days to maturity- how many days until you can harvest. Read more HERE.

I was fortunate to get a ton of use (slightly damaged, but still very usable) seed starting trays that have 98 cells. Check with your local nurseries or farms at the end of the growing season to see if they’re cleaning out their inventory. I’m set for years! Because they were used, I washed them out in a bleach solution. Be sure to rinse them well and allow them to completely air dry before using to plant.

I don't have a big sink, so I used the bathtub to make a big batch of 10-1 water/ bleach mix.

I don’t have a big sink, so I used the bathtub to make a big batch of 10-1 water/ bleach mix.

Every winter, around mid-November, we lose direct sunlight here on the homestead. This is due to being located on the south side of the mountains. Our sunshine comes back late January. Even now, we only get a few hours of sunlight. To avoid getting leggy, skinny seedlings, I set up an incandescent light to ensure they get plenty of light the young seedlings will need.


I also put together a “seedling watering can.” As you can see from the picture, it’s very high tech. I took a used plastic jug and made several very small holes in the lid (using a small nail). This way I can gently water the seedlings without damaging them.

Homemade Watering Can - IdlewildAlaska

The trick is to keep the holes really small so the water stream will be light.

I happened to have a few plastic domes that fit over the seedling trays, which will help keep them warm.



I planted Cipollini onions, a long-day onion, which take 100 days to mature (one of the shorter season onions). They’re a rather small flat onion, which it great for cooking. They supposedly store well, which is my main goal.  The seeds should be planted about 1/4 inch deep in good soil. When they’re large enough and it’s warm enough outside, I’ll plant them about 5″ apart, with 6″ between rows. I had limited seeds, so instead of broadcasting seeds and thinning later, I made sure there was only one seed per cell by the use of tweezers. It took a while, but it was worth it. Onion seeds are stinkin’ tiny.

Planting Onion Seeds - IdlewildAlaska

Darn tiny seeds.

I also started a few White Lisbon Bunching onions, a type of small green onions. These are only 65-70 days to harvest.


Leeks also take a long time to mature, 100 days. They also need to be planted 1/4″ deep. Once transplanted, they need to be 6″ apart, with 24″ between rows. I love leeks, they’re so good in soups especially!

I’ll transplant all these outside around the end of May, as soon as it’s warm enough.

Starting Onion and Leek Seeds in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Yes, that’s a Tinkerbell lamp I’m using for my plant light 😀


If you don’t want to use the tweezers method like I did, you can broadcast the seeds in a tray of dirt and separate them later. Check HERE for more info.

There are several ways of storing onions. I may try all three of these ways and see which works the best. I’ll probably make some of my own dehydrated onion pieces too! Read more detailed info on how to harvest onions HERE.

We use onions in almost everything we cook – the hubby and I love them. I can’t wait to harvest my own!

I also started some Small Sugar Pumpkin seeds, since they also take 100 days to maturity. Mmmm, pumpkin pies! I love me some pie.


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3 Responses to Planting Onions and Leeks from Seed

  1. Margy

    I want to try leeks as my “new” plant in the garden this year. I grow onions from sets and get a good crop each year. I still have dry onions hanging to get me through until the new ones are ready. – Margy

  2. Gwendolyn Verner

    I’m just preparing my seed starters for the leeks. Found some good ideas here to try, and surely recommending your post to my sister too. She’s thinking about growing leeks for few months already and as it’s the right moment, she’ll be very glad yo read all this. Thank you for sharing this helpful information!

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