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Planting for seed: Onions are biennial, producing bulbs one year and seeds the next. The first step for growers interested in saving onion seed is to decide whether to plant seed or bulb. The following descriptions of each method are provided by the Kohala Center: 1) Seed to seed method: Immature onions are more winter hardy than mature bulbs, so if using this method, plant seeds in summer. Mulch in fall to ensure winter survival! 2) Bulb to seed method: Large bulbs naturally produce the most seed, however, they are less winter-hardy. Therefore, if using the bulb method, harvest in fall and select the largest bulbs for replanting in spring. Clip tops to 15 cm and cure for 3-4 weeks. Once bulbs are dry, store for 2 weeks in a dry, airy location at about 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) - a refrigerator works well. Before replanting in spring, cut off the top quarter of bulb to promote sprouting. Replant only disease-free bulbs.
Harvesting flowers: Wait until flowers have mostly dried on the plant to harvest. Harvest as soon as most have dried, but before seeds begin to drop. Some recommend harvesting when seeds are exposed in 10% of umbels.
Harvesting seeds: Once completely dry, onion flowers will drop seeds naturally. It is also possible to rub flowers to free remaining seeds. Blow a light current of air across seeds to remove chaff.
Dry: Allow seeds to dry in a cool and moisture-free location for 2-3 weeks. Stir seeds throughout this process.
Label and Store: Onion seeds do not keep for very long and usually last no longer than 1-2 years.
Onions thrive in temperatures between 68-72 degrees F. Onions are insect pollinated and need 1-3 miles of isolation from other varieties to avoid cross pollination. If sufficient space for isolation isn't available, hand pollination is another option. To hand pollinate onions, use a fine paintbrush to mix pollen between several flowers. It is best to do this during a time when few insects are present. Before and after pollination, flowers should be covered with cages or bags to avoid pollination by insects.
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