Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saving Allium Seed & Transplanting Leeks


In the past couple of years, I've been experimenting with onion seed storage.  Alliums are one of the few vegetable seeds that do not store well so it's usually recommended that you purchase fresh seed each and every year.  The issue I have is that I enjoy growing a variety of different onions and leeks which means that, in most cases, I only sow a small portion of the seed packet.

When I spend over $30 for allium seed,
it irks me that so much of it is going to waste

So my question was this - was it possible to save the leftover seed for an additional year?  This would cut my seed cost almost in half since I usually have leftovers for every variety except Copras.

My usual seed storage method involves placing the seed packets in a zip lock which then goes into one of several Tupperware containers that I keep in the cold cellar.  A list of the veg is taped to both the top and the front of each container so that I can easily determine which one to grab.  All of the containers also hold several packets of silica gel to keep things nice and dry.

Each seed packet is marked with the year of purchase or collection &
the zip locks note how long the seeds for that particular veg should remain viable.

I've had excellent results using this method with other seeds but when I tried saving onion seed this way, germination in the subsequent year was zero.

I often hear that saving seed in the freezer is the absolute best method to extend it's viability so in 2015, I decided to give this a go with some leftover leek seed.  Lo and behold, the following spring a good portion of those one year old seeds germinated.

This past year, I used the freezer storage method for the leftover Ailsa Craig and Red Wing seeds:  I placed the seed packets in a zip lock bag together with a silica gel packet and then bagged this again for a double layer of protection.  Then off to the freezer they went.

The verdict?  Success!  In fact, I had over 80% germination on the Red Wings - a total surprise.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I did not pre-germinate the leeks, but sowed them (rather thickly) directly into the plugs.  These too were from seed that I purchased last year and stored in the freezer and, as you can see, we had very good germination on those as well:

Year old leek seeds gone wild in the middle plugs

A couple of weeks ago, I transplanted 8 leeks for each variety into larger cells to give them a bit of breathing room.

Transplanted Leeks

Transplanting the leeks is a bit of a pain and I'm not altogether convinced that it's necessary.  I've decided that this year, I'm going to find out if it's worth the bother.

I have left one unthinned plug for each variety in the plug sheet.  When the time comes to transplant the seedlings outside, which is only a couple of weeks off, I'll use some of the transplanted seedlings and some seedlings from the plug sheet.  Then we wait to see if there is a worthwhile difference between the two at the end of the season.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

14 comments:

  1. Margaret-I just LOVE your organization!! If you aren't a professional organizer, you sorta missed your calling honey-LOL!
    So happy you had great germination on your frozen seeds. I guess all seeds have preferred storage methods...and it's just a matter of figuring it out.

    I was in Menards the other day picking up some seed starter and was shocked
    (horrified, mortified !!!! ) that they now had the seed racks out in the gardening wing---the unheated, wildly-fluctuating temperature wing. OMG.
    Can you imagine what that is doing to those thousands of packets of seeds. Hot one day. Cold the next. Not to mention the humidity, etc. EEEESH!
    Won't ever buy those spur of the moment impulse seeds there again.
    (on that note-I buy my vegetable seeds from reputable mail order)

    Oh my gosh, another novel. Sorry.
    Happy Spring to you......have fun digging

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    1. Oh, you're so funny! I've seen that exact same thing at Home Depot - they had their seeds in the greenhouse portion of the store and, if I recall correctly, they were in the sun! I was half tempted to grab a manager and tell them to move the dang thing indoors. Those poor, unsuspecting customers - many will likely think the seed didn't germinate because of something they did!

      Today was a GORGEOUS day - it finally looks like we are officially into spring - hurray! Have a wonderful week :)

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  2. It's a shame that the seed packets contain so many seeds when you only need a small proportion of them. There's an online seed supplier over here which sells seed in smaller quantities at a lower price which is such a good idea.

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    1. There is one online supplier (Pinetree) that sells small quantities at equally small prices - I buy from them every year. The only thing is they only sell a limited number of varieties so I have to purchase most of my onion seeds elsewhere.

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  3. Seed storage is something I've always neglected, but have never had problems because of. Long may that continue.

    I have sown a load of onion seeds this year but it's turned out to be more hassle and time spent dealing with them than I am prepared for so the sets went in. Planting individual delicate onion seedlings and untangling roots proved too much for me :) I wanted hundreds. I did transplant 100 spring onions into the poly tunnel but last week dug them up and replaced them with something that gives better yield for the space. I will stick to sets of onions and spring onions will have to have their seed sprinkled in situ where space allows.

    ....I did try honest :)

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    1. You are right in that onions are definitely very fiddly to transplant out - last year my back was aching afterwards. I'm thinking I'll save myself some pain by planting them up over a two day period this time round.

      I've not grown onions from sets before, but we have very little choice around here when it comes to variety for those. Most of the sets that are sold go by the generic "red onion", "yellow onion", etc.

      I hope that your spring onions do well wherever they end up being sprinkled :)

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  4. Judy made a dish of braised leeks recently - it was delicious! Thanks for the tip on freezing seeds.

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  5. It's a pity seed. xompanies don't supply seeds in smaller quantities but it looks as though you have storage cracked.

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    1. It would be nice if they offered half sized packets...at half the price.

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  6. You are sooooo organized and methodical. I wish I had your talent and patience. I do not have much luck with growing onions, not from lack of trying, giving it one more year. Plan to just grow whatever leftover seedlings I get from Locust Grove where I am a volunteer.

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    1. Oh, that's so nice of you to say, Norma :) I probably seem much more organized on paper than in reality...which often involves scurrying around with a dozen tasks to do and not enough time to do them.

      I hope you have good results with the seedlings you get from Locust Grove - I have a feeling once you grow a good bunch of onions, you'll be hooked.

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  7. It's fascinating to hear about the results of edible seed-starting from an expert! I've never tried growing onions from seed--I always start with onion sets, which of course is cheating. ;-) Also, I've never had much luck using seeds of any kind after storing them more than a year. Maybe I'll have to re-visit this idea. Since I don't use grow lights, the results of starting them in the sunroom are somewhat different. But I don't have a large operation like you do. Fascinating stuff! :)

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    1. Oh, using sets isn't cheating - it's just a different method! Better to take a shortcut than not do it at all :)

      When it comes to vegetable seed, most last longer than a year, many even up to 4 or 5 years, so long as they are kept dry and cool. I'm not sure, however, if the length of time for storing flower seeds is comparable - but now that I'm growing more of them, I'll be finding out and will let you know :)

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