It’s the beginning of March and the garlic is already coming up, before the last frost. We try to cover them with hay to keep the ground from warming up causing the greens to pop up, but with the winds we get here it never stays on for long. Then when a snow storm comes, it freezes the greens.
The good news is garlic is resilient when it comes to re-growing the green tops. We’ve had good consistent garlic growth for 3 years in a row regardless of how many times the tops freeze.
While reviewing the rows I noticed other greens that looked to be onions. Sometimes we come across a surprise veggie that was still growing all the way through the winter! In this case the onions didn’t look like much but after peeling off the outer layers we had a couple decent onions to eat a year after we originally planted them!
The onion sets we planted in March have grown a lot! If you remember, we dug trenches for the sets so they were below ground level. The reason we did this is to give the sets a lot of space to grow larger onions than we have in the past.
The rain moved some of the side dirt into the trench, but in the picture you can see how the white portion of the onion top is starting to show. This is the time to start building up the dirt on top of the onions. You should never see the onion top.
We mixed some soil with compost and piled it up about an inch or so above the the top of the onion itself. The compost will help the onion bulb grow significantly larger. You need to leave the majority of the leaves above the surface for photosynthesis.
In the end our onions met our size satisfaction. Much better than in previous years. Since we found out the hard way last year that the onion sets I was purchasing were considered Fresh, not Storing onions, we will just pull up onions as we need them, or as a customer orders one. We will leave them in the ground and pull as needed until the weather projection calls for more than 3 days in a row in the teens. Onions can handle freezing weather as long as there are some intermittent warm ups. It’s when the ground freezes solid that you have a problem. That usually doesn’t happen unless you are in the teens for at least 3 days. We also put row covers over our plants during inclement weather which keeps the ground from freezing.
I think we finally learned how to grow onions the best way for our climate!
Last year we tried this method of growing onions. We dug trenches where we planted the onions and as the plant grew taller and taller, we filled in the trenches. This caused the plant to continue growing which created a larger bulb. For us that meant a Normal sized onion.
It’s a little challenging if they start to grow outside their space which is what is currently happening. We should be covering them with more soil but small aisle ways between the rows won’t allow enough space. This is also causing the onions to flower. They stop growing when they flower. We will continue cutting off flowers and treating them as though they will continue to grow. Worst case scenario is we are just storing small onions in the ground until we can use them.
I burnt a lot of last year’s onions in the sun after harvest and previous years they didn’t grow to size. Crossing fingers we grow good onions for sale rather a loss for the 4th year in a row.
A new item we grew this year was red onions. We tried to grow onions 3 times with little success for selling quality. On the post earlier this year we shared the new way we were going to try and grow the onions for a bigger, juicier bulb. We dug trenches to lay the onion sets in and as the onion grew we added soil to keep the bulb covered at all times. The bulb grew bigger with the added soil. In the end this strategy worked! It was exciting to finally pull up onion bulbs the size you would see in the grocery store.
Unfortunately, we learned another new lesson! We did a lot of research on how to store onions and went through the process of pulling them up, laying them in the sun to dry the outer skin, and then hung them up. What we found out too late is that the variety of onion sets I chose were not STORING onions. They are considered FRESH onions. What that means is they do not store well and are sensitive to heat and bruising. End result is I overheated 30% of the onions, bruised another 20% and was left with 50% of the onions that would only last a couple weeks out of the ground.
This is what should have happened. After the onions reached the correct size we should have been pulling them to order like we do with other root vegetables. That is how we will do it next year. And we will because the onions we had over the month they stayed fresh tasted fantastic and we did sell out!
The snow is gone! I finally starting planting in the evening after work. Here is my first row of seed, an heirloom Walla Walla Sweet Onion! I also seeded bunching and red onions as well. The bunching onions can be eaten whenever you want. The other two onions will need to grow through to next year to get of any size. I also planted spinach and collards. A good start for a couple hours of work!