While in most parts of the country it’s still a little early to be starting vegetable seeds for transplanting into the garden in spring, some vegetables need a long period of growth indoors before they’re ready to take on the outdoor environment. Allium family vegetables, such as leeks and onions, require eight to twelve weeks of growth in pots indoors before they’re ready to be transplanted outdoors. In many locations, the beginning of February is a good time to start sowing leek and onion seeds indoors. The task provides an opportunity to get your kids involved in gardening and to teach them a little about seeds and seedling growth.

922Leeks and onion seeds are not long-lived. Unlike tomato and other seeds that can be stored for a few years and still germinate and grow well, leek and onion seeds should be purchased fresh every year or two. How you store them influences their life span, too. Explain to your kids that seeds are actually alive but dormant. They like a dry, cool, dark place for storage. If placed in a room that’s too warm or humid, they will have a shorter storage life.

Choose varieties adapted to your climate. Some leek varieties mature quickly for summer harvesting, while others are cold tolerant and are grown for fall and winter harvesting. Explain to your kids that onion varieties are dependent on the day length. Short-day onions are grown in southern climates and are planted in fall to mature during the short days of spring. Long-day onions are grown in northern climates and are started now, in early February. They form their bulbs in response to the long days of summer.

Once you have your varieties selected, fill a seed tray with moistened potting soil and broadcast the seeds on top of the soil. Cover them with a