It’s the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and my husband has been eerily quiet down in the den. I’m taking the moments of quiet to lie on the living room couch in front of the lighted tree reading a novel set in Key West. Snow flurries float by the window, but I’m transported to the tropics through the power of words. When I guiltily look at the clock I realize that two hours have passed since there’s been a peep from the den—not a creature was stirring.
I stealthily slide toward the stairs leading down to the den to see if I could spy my husband wrapping presents.
I see the back of his head as he sits on the couch. Newspapers are strewn across the coffee table top with no hopes of visitors arriving soon. I grow more excited with each passing minute of his industrious labor. As I snoop, something different appeared to my wondering eyes. Instead of wrapping my presents as I’d suspected, I note the bucket of soil and trays of onion seedlings waiting to be placed under grow lights. My illusions of big or small presents are shot when I realize the activity taking place in the den.
After my spy session, I stir the pot of stew simmering on the stove. I smile as I realize my husband was preparing Christmas presents for us. The soup starter mix we’d frozen in the summer contained some of the onions he’d started la year ago. The ones he begins today, will sustain us next year. Now that’s a gift that lasts.
Here an excerpt from From Seed to Table on growing onions:
The seed catalogs appear in the mailbox daily beginning in December. Before Christmas, we ordered seeds for onions, and to minimize shipping costs we also ordered other seeds such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, radishes (both red and the long white variety), lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley, basil, and flowers. After consultation with Llewellyn’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, my husband had determined the best time to start the onion seeds was in the waning days of 2012.
That meant he started sprouting onion seeds while we were in Florida over Christmas 2012. He buys the cheapest and thinnest single-ply paper towels and places a layer of seeds on one sheet. Then he piles sheet upon sheet until the top of the plastic sealable container is full. He dampens the towels with water and keeps the container in a warm place. He treated his seed sprouting container as if it was a pet, carrying it inside wherever we visited and adding water as necessary to keep the towels damp.
This year he sprouted seven varieties of onions—long-day types—of yellow, white, and red, and short-day type of yellow. He places one variety at a time on the sheets. Then he bundles the seed packages together with a rubber band in the same order as he placed them on the paper towel layer. This way he can keep track of which type is which when he plants. When the onions are ready to harvest, it’s easy to distinguish the red and white onions. The others may require a taste test.
By the time we arrived back in Pennsylvania on the last day of 2012, the seeds had sprouted in their paper towel womb. The thin paper towel helps those tiny little sprouts from sticking to the layers.
During the first week of January, he put the seedlings into four-pack containers filled with regular potting soil with a very small quantity of organic and rock fertilizers. He uses a five-gallon bucket for potting soil (two-thirds filled), throws in a handful of the fertilizers, and blends this into a mixture. Once the packs are filled with dirt, he pokes holes in each section with a pencil. Then he “pokes” the onion seedlings into the soil.
Now the seedlings are growing happily under grow lights in cupboards in our family room. Unfortunately, we don’t have a heated greenhouse, but we’ve found a way to manage. Some people use heating pads, but we’ve done all right with four-foot florescent grow lights.
From Seed to Table is now available in a paperback edition for only $5.39 on Amazon.