[Homestead] Fw: Oh, Onion, Onion, You are the Mostest.
jeanne13 at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 12 20:05:12 EDT 2008
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North East TN zone 6
----- Original Message -----
From: Clansgian at wmconnect.com
To: homestead at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2008 1:19 PM
Subject: [Homestead] Oh, Onion, Onion, You are the Mostest.
Here in the March 70 degrees one day and down to 18 degrees two nights later,
the gardens, none the less, go on unabated.
Does anyone recall an old Popeye cartoon from the early 50's where Popeye
wants to stay home and play badminton and pull taffy, but Olive Oyle wants to go
off with the hip and cooler Bluto to the Beatnik club where he stands up amid
finger snappign and accolades of "Cool, cool" and recites his avant-garde poem
that begins "Oh, onion, onion, you are the mostest ..."
I've mentioned the following to experienced gardeners and am always surprised
by how many people either don't know it or haven't considered it. Since this
is the time many of us deal with onions, I thought it wouldn't hurt to repeat
You grow onions (at least) three ways: seeds, sets, and slips.
Onions are dedicated biennials. Their game plan is to grow a big bulb the
first year and then the second year cash in on the stored nutrition and bolt to
seed. It's a common and effective plan for a good number of plants.
When you plant sets, you are planting an onion in it's SECOND year of the
biennial cycle. It wants more than anything else to bolt to seed and is not
interested in making a big bulb. However it is very practical and if it's
prospects of successfully maturing a seed are slim in it's present diminshed state,
it will try to pack on some size before making the bolt.
So if you want onions for the bulb, plant the SMALLEST sets you can get and
plant them very shallow, barely in th ground. If you plant the nice big sets
you see in the seed store, they will take inventory of their state, decide they
have the where-with-all to mature a seed, and bolt to seed as quickly as they
can. These large sets are for green onions. Plant them 4" deep and they
will grow up a wonderful white leek-like stalk, put on some tops, and that's when
you snatch them up an eat them. If you delay, the plant will become fibrous
and woody and put up an inedible seed stalk overnight.
Very small sets, smaller than a dime, will under ideal conditions make a 2"
or so bulb and you have the best of both worlds, good tops and a feasible onion.
To grow softball sized onions you have to grow them in their FIRST year of
growth so grow them from seed. Alas, unless you did this last October, it's
probably too late this year. Instead, plant onion slips (plants) which are still
in their first year of growth.
An onion operates by sending up leaves until it determines the opportune time
based on the day length (more correctly the night ength) and then it stops
growing the leaves and begins to swell the bulb, one ring of the onion for each
leaf. Depending on which lattitude the oinon's genes developed, it will
switch from growing leaves to growing the bulb when the day length reaches 16
hours, or 14 hours, or 12 hours (or less), that is, it's a long day, medium day,
or short day onion.
Although this is not nearly as big a deal as the literature lets on, you
generally grow short day onions in the south and long day onions in the north. If
you grow a long day onion in the south, the day never reaches the length the
onion is looking for and so it grows into a gigantic scallion having never
been triggered to grow a bulb. If you grow a short day onion in the north, it
will see the required day length too early and will switch from leaf growth to
bulb growth before it has the leaves to support a big onion. You get a small
The hottnes or sweetness of an onion isn't genetic. It depends on how much
water the onion absorbs while it is growing. A suculent onion with thick rings
will be sweet and an sparser onion with narrow rings will be hotter. Onions
are rich in sulfur and the bite of an onion comes from a sulfiric acid mimic
that forms only when the onion is cut or bitten.
If you end up with too many scallions, chop them up tops and all and
Onions don't have the broad leaves to make a living mulch and shade the
weeds. But, since the leaves aren't broad, they can't be buried by the mulch. You
can sprinkle short grass clippings, sawdust, any such on the onion bed and it
will smother the emerging weeds but not interfer with the onions at all.
Oh, onion, onion, you ARE the mostest!
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