Here in south central Alaska, our growing
season is fairly short.
Planting outdoors usually happens around
Memorial Day and harvest happens between
late August and early September. Frost tends
to follow very soon after harvest, so planting on-
ions and leeks from seed happens early and indoors
in Alaska, usually in early March.
Not only do we have to keep our short growing
season in mind, we are forced to remember that
onions are affected by our extra-long daylight
hours as well. Located in gardening zone 4, we
have almost twenty hours of daylight on June
21, the Summer Solstice. Some plants love this,
which is one of the reasons why such massive
cabbages and pumpkins are grown here in
Alaska. An Alaska-grown cabbage now holds
the world record!
Onions can be split into three different types:
I was fortunate to get a ton of used seed
starting trays from a local farmer. Check
with your local nurseries or farms at the
end of the growing season to see if they
are cleaning out their inventory. I’m
set for years! Because they were used,
I washed them out in a bleach solution.
Use ten parts water to one part bleach for your wash.
Be sure to rinse them well and allow them to completely air dry before using to plant. This removes
any potential disease or fungus that may have been
Every winter, around mid-November, we lose direct
sunlight here on our homestead. This is due to short
daylight hours and being located on the south side
of the mountains. Our direct sunshine comes back
in late January. To avoid getting leggy, skinny seedlings, I set up an incandescent light to ensure they get
plenty of light. These lights need to be very close to
the surface of your starts: one inch above the dirt and
then the seedlings. I have a few plastic domes that fit
over the seedling trays, which helps keep them warm.
Optimum soil temperature ranges between 50 and
95 degrees; 75 degrees is perfect. I occasionally also
use a heating mat that is specifically designed for seed
I usually plant Cipollini onions, a long-day variety
which takes one hundred days to mature. These are
a shorter growing season onion. They are a rather
small, flat onion, which are delicious and great for
cooking. They also supposedly store well.
How Your Garden Grows