Friday’s Farm: Onions

Ah, onions. Spring onions, bunching, storage, or fresh eating onions, they are a must for the home garden. Not only are they easy to grow, but they are sweeter and moister fresh from the soil. No to mention that onions and garlic are my favorite crop to grow for market.

The easiest way to grow onions is to purchase sets. Sets are small onions from the previous year. I purchase mine from the local co-op. They cost $1.25 a pound. They’re not the best option for storage onions when planted in early spring. However, they do alright when planted in late spring. Sets are the standard for spring onions and fresh from the garden onions. If you plant them every two weeks you can have fresh onions from late March until the first week of October.

For storage onions the easiest option is sticks. Sticks? Yes. That’s what the locals call them. Sticks are simply young onion plants. Just like sets they go straight into the ground and grow. I usually set mine out the first week in March. They are a little more expensive, and frankly a little more fragile than the sets. But if you want storage food they are the way to go.

Soil

Since onions are bulbing they need room and loose soil. I find that growing a sweet onion requires a sweet soil. I like to work fresh cow manure into my soil in the late winter before the ground freezes. Once the sets are up several inches I mulch with composted sheep manure. Even my white onions are sweet and mild. They are one of my best sellers and I find rotten manure makes the difference.

How I plant

I’m not a row gardener at heart and my spring onion crop is a testament to my preference for intensive space saving methods. While my neighbors plant one onion per row with eighteen inches between rows I plant mine in a twelve foot wide row, four across, and twelve inches between rows. In short I pack three times as many plants in the same space. I like to leave about 2.5 inches between my plants. Once planted I water. I prefer planting right before a small rain. It’s less work. Since I only sell spring onions I pick the largest first. This allows room for the smaller ones to grow. By July I’m pulling fist size onions and replacing them with fall crops. To actually plant I just rake the soil and then push the bulb in, root end down, with my index finger. I stop at my knuckle and then pat the dirt over. Easy peasy.

Onion Enemies

Onions do not like weeds. This is the big reason I mulch them with rotten manure. They also like to breathe. So, I avoid using wool or other heavy mulches on them.

Drought is a huge issue for any type of onion . So is drowning. Keep the soil consistently moist.

I have yet to experience any diseases in my onion crops. However, thrips do attack in summer. However, I find keeping a healthy army of ladybugs, lace wings, and damsel bugs along with removing infected plants clears up the problem quickly without intervention. The few times I have taken action I’ve only used an organic garden soap.

So what are you waiting on? Go get some some sets and sticks this weekend and plant something easy!

Until next time,

Kindness day by day.

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