Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Growing Onions

One of the easiest vegetables I grow in my garden is onions. I buy the onion sets...so what is that? You'll find them for sale in grocery stores, nurseries and hardware stores. They are labelled on the the box or plastic mesh bag as onion sets. These small onions are easy to grow and can be harvested any time once they are established. The size of the onion set in the bag varies from the size of my thumb nail and smaller. Usually I buy about 4 bags and they come in bags of 100. They are planted by making a row with a hoe (about 4 inches deep) and watering the trench before even planting the onion sets. Next, I usually have a gallon of roughly crushed egg shells and cover loosely the base of the trench with the crushed egg shells. A gallon is enough to fill the trench for 400 onion sets. The egg shells discourage worms from dining on your onions as the egg shells are scratchy and the worms do not like the sharp edges of the egg shells very much so they stay away. There are still a few wire worms that feed on the onions but not nearly as many if the egg shells had not been used in the trench. Plant the small onions 3 to 4 inches apart to give them lots of room to grow.  Look carefully at the dormant onion and you'll see some tiny dried roots on one end of the bulb, that part of the onion is planted downwards. I usually squish them a bit into the wet soil. The onions are covered with soil about two inches thick. They are a vigorous plant and grow fairly quickly. I usually water them weekly. While waiting for my onion tails to be large enough to harvest, I have chives in a permanent place in the garden and winter onions also that grow back year after year that start growing early in springtime and are harvested when a foot tall. Once my onion sets have green tails about a foot tall, I start stealing one part of the stalk to use in my cooking. Usually about halfway through the summer, the bulbs are getting to be a nice size and I start stealing the whole onion, root and stalk to use in my cooking. In the fall, the green onion tails fall over and you'll see that they are preparing to go dormant. Before a frost, pick the onions and gather them in a bunch, tie with a piece of twine (I use baler twine) and hang to dry in a warm dry area. I use my greenhouse to cure my onions. Once the tops are dry, it is time to take them down and pull off the dried tops. Store onions in a cool dry place in shallow boxes.

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