Crying Happy Tears

Posted 2/17/19

If you are like me and you share my love of onions, you may be wondering if you can grow your favorite varieties right in your home garden. I keep onions on hand just about all the time and use them …

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Crying Happy Tears

Posted

If you are like me and you share my love of onions, you may be wondering if you can grow your favorite varieties right in your home garden. I keep onions on hand just about all the time and use them in everything from soups and stews to beans and burgers and just about everything in between. I even splurge occasionally and batter them up and deep fry some home made onion rings. Onions are a cool-season vegetable crop that can grow in a fairly wide range of garden soils, but they as do many other vegetables prefer a well drained loam or sandy loam soil. Poorly drained heave clay soils tend to cause the onions to rot in the ground. In my opinion, onions are a must for virtually every home garden. 

We all know that onions are actually bulbs or modified below ground storage structures for the plant’s carbohydrates and other plant materials. Few people realize, however, that onions belong to the plant family called Amaryllidaceae. That means that they are in the same family and are closely related to of all things lilies.

Onions can be grown from seeds, small dormant onions called “sets”, or onion transplants.  Most can be seeded in fall, about October, around here. You will have much more success growing them in a soilless medium where you can better control growing conditions. They require uniform moisture and a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees and will require 10 to 14 days to germinate.  Grow them in individual cell packs instead of bed planting them to avoid transplant shock when you move them to your garden in late winter to early spring. Transplanting onions should occur in late January to early March.

There are two basic types of onions. Bulb-forming onions produce a single harvestable onion in one year and perennial onions which produce clusters of small onions that can be harvested and replanted for the next crop. The bulb-forming onions include both “storage onions” and  fresh onions that are often referred to as “sweet onions”.

The most obvious difference between storage and fresh onions is that storage onions keep for a longer period of time. They generally have a darker color, thicker skin, and a more pungent flavor than fresh onions. They can be grown from seed, sets, or transplants and are generally sold as simply yellow, white, or red, not by a variety name. Fresh onions are not noted for long storage and are best eaten soon after they are harvested. The most famous of the sweet or fresh onions is the old standby “Bermuda onions”. This is the grandfather of all the sweet onions on the market today. Fresh onions must be grown from seed or transplants, not sets. Some of the more prominent fresh type onions include both yellow and white Bermuda, Excel, Texas Grano 502, Texas Grano 1015 and, hold on to your gardening tools, the ever popular Texas Granex 33 (that we recognize by its common name “Vidalia”!

Bunching or multiplier onions also called “green onions”, Japanese onions and scallions produce continuous clusters of small pearl type onions. They can be grown from sets planted in the fall or from seed in the late winter to early spring. Once you have established clumps, simply harvest them as needed and divide the clumps for the next crop.

For bulb-producing onions, the size to the bulb depends largely on the amount of top growth. For each green leaf, there will be one corresponding ring in the bulb. Sometimes your onions will produce a flower stalk, a condition called bolting. If bolting occurs, cut out the flower stalk to encourage more bulb growth instead of flower and seed production. The size of your onion bulbs will also depend on the weather. Warm fall weather that encourages rapid growth and large transplants, followed by a late cool spring often produces a high percentage of onions that bolt, while a cool fall that holds transplants to a smaller size followed by a warm spring and hot weather about bolting time usually holds bolting to a minimum.

In the absence of a soil test, apply a complete fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 a few days before planting. Onions are heavy nitrogen feeders early while they are producing roots and top growth. Sidedress them about four to six weeks after planting with a high nitrogen fertilizer that does not contain sulfur. If you grow your onions from sets, sidedress them when top growth reaches about six inches. If growing onions from transplants sidedress them when the onions become established and are actively growing. A 15-0-15 fertilizer at the rate of about ½ cup per ten feet of row makes a good sidedressing. 

Your onions will store better if you allow them to dry several days outdoors and away from direct sunlight. Leave the tops on them while they are drying. After they have dried, remove the top growth to within one inch of the bulb. Fresh sweet onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool dry location that is well ventilated. You can even store them in the refrigerator, but do not store them in plastic bags because they will not receive adequate air flow to prevent them from rotting. Storage onions should be dried for ten to fourteen days. After they have dried, remove the top growth and store them in mesh bags. Storage onions can remain firm and flavorful if kept in a cool dry location (32 to 45 degrees) for up to six months or sometimes even longer.

Forestry Planning Committee Tree Sale

Mark your calendars for the annual Walker County Forestry Planning Committee tree sale which will be held on Friday March 1st at the farmers market location on Airport Road here in Jasper. The sale will begin at 8:00 A.M. and will last until the trees run out. There will be many species of ornamentals including crape myrtle, gardenia, dogwood, hydrangea, fringe tree and many others. There will also be selections of trees suitable for future shade trees including maples, black gum, white oak, and sourwood (also a favorite among local beekeepers). This year we are even including hazelnut and paw paws both of which can be grown here. Most trees will be either $2 or $3 depending upon the variety. We will also have several varieties of larger fruit trees including Arkansas black apple, Gala apple, moonglow pear, methley plum, red haven peach and pink blooming crabapples which will be available for $10.