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onion sets

Last year was a great year for onions. I seeded onions and transplanted them into one bed, and planted another bed with young onion plants I purchased. I have yet to buy a single onion since last summer, and I believe this is the longest I’ve gone on a harvest. At this point though, most of the onions in the cupboard have sprouted. The ones that have sprouted have come in very handy, as I’ve gotten plenty of use snipping the tops and using them for all kinds of dishes. Interestingly, I didn’t find much difference between the sweet Walla Walla (which isn’t supposed to store well) and the other onions in terms of how well they stored. I also do not have a good storage space for them, as the room I have them in has too much light.

This year I’m all about minimizing the workload with the babies coming (next week!), but Chris talked me into seeding onions again as he promised to do the planting (which I always find back-breaking). So, I decided to use up the two packets of onion seeds I had left over. However, one packet did not germinate at all (my notes tell me they germinated poorly even when they were fresh). The other packet didn’t have many seeds, so I don’t actually have many homegrown onion seedlings this year.

Buying young onion plants can be expensive (although probably not in the context of buying supermarket onions for a year). Chris picked up a bag of onion sets this year at a local farm store, and planted a bed of them. The picture above shows them coming up. The whole bag (which planted most of a 4 x 10 ft raised bed) only cost 2 dollars and change. It is hard to buy a packet of seeds for that price these days. I’m really curious how they will compare to the young plants in terms of quality and storage.

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red burgermaster onions

I finally got around to taking in all the onions harvested from the bed planted with purchased seedlings. It is hard for me to believe these all grew from such tiny seedlings. I think planting onions seedlings is one of the most backbreaking jobs in the garden, and each time I’m stooped over a bed trying my best to evenly space them into straight rows, I wish I would have made the beds more narrow (or grown longer arms!).

I didn’t take a picture right after planting, as I thought the bed looked so darn pitiful. I waited until new growth was clearly sprouting. I was so happy to see green shooting up! It is always such a leap of faith to put things in the ground and expect them to grow, and then it feels like a miracle to be savored when you see it finally start to take off.
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drying my first bed of onions

I was quite late planting my onion seeds this spring, so I supplemented with some onion seedlings that I purchased from Johnny’s.

Here is the description:

Field-Grown Onion Plants.
 Images Catalog Large 2890 Lg
Includes one bunch (60-75 plants) each of Walla Walla, Red Burgermaster, and Copra plants. Copra Plants Unsurpassed for storage. Uniform, “rock-hard” storage onion with early maturity. These medium-sized, dark yellow-skinned storage onions have the preferred blocky round shape with thin necks that dry quickly. Firmness and skin are superior. Unrivaled in our yearly storage trials, remaining firm and sound after other varieties have sprouted. Highest in sugar (13 -14 ) of the storage onions. Walla Walla Plants: The famous mild variety from Walla Walla, WA. Red Burgermaster Plants Jumbo red bulbs from plants. Widely adapted and grower friendly, these bright red, globe-shaped onions have great flavor for sandwiches and salads. Internal rings develop better color earlier from transplants. Burgundy skin finishes well for superb appearance either with greens or topped.
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onions.JPG

As you can see, my onions are growing well. I added a mulch of leaves I collected last fall to help retain moisture. I generally have very good luck with onions, but last year some of them seemed to be rotting in the ground. The tops were still green and hadn’t fallen over yet. I harvested them early in order to save more of them, as more and more of them seemed to start rotting. They also were more likely to go bad in storage than the previous year’s crop. We still had plenty (I think we might have gotten through St. Patrick’s Day before needing to buy any), but did lose quite a few. It seemed to equally affect the different varieties, and it also didn’t seem to matter whether I had started them from seedlings or had bought them as young plants.

One garden book suggested that not enough moisture late in the season could cause this, which seems counterintuitive to me (I thought maybe they had too much moisture late in the season). Any advice?