Onion harvest Field

Larry G. Field
Thursday, September 5, 2019
In this photo by the author, harvested onions are sitting in the garden next to soda cans to show their comparative size.

In this photo by the author, harvested onions are sitting in the garden next to soda cans to show their comparative size.

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I have received many comments about my onions this year, partially because of the Laurel Outlook and partially because they are my first garden row, adjacent to the street. One passer-by was a lifelong gardener from Texas who commented “I have never seen onions like those in Texas”.

Let’s start at the beginning and re-discuss the bulb crops that I grow. One should be able to grow strong onions (Yellow Spanish in my case) to 1.5-2 lbs. Sweet onions (Walla Walla i-m-c) should mature to 2-3 pounds. Sweet onions are used on sandwiches and salads. I feel that the slices should approximate the size of the slice of bread/sandwich. Strong cooking onions are chopped so the size is not as critical.

My garden produces respectable onions for three primary reasons. First, I hand pick large mature starts, whether firm spheroid Yellow Spanish bulbs or large healthy Walla-Walla bunching onions.

Second, I maximize the sunlight the plants receive. In an earlier article I commented that I do not believe in the old “gardener’s tail” of breaking onion tops over. The tops are the chlorophyll factory that produces food which is stored in the bulbs. I space the strong onions 4.5 inches and the mild 6. In 2019 the W-W, at six inches, still pressed against one another forming flat sides.

Third: This chlorophyll factory needs raw materials (water and nutrients) to make products. I attempt to flood irrigate, run water down each row, every 2-5 days depending on the weather, each time the ground is dry. The flowing water is rapidly absorbed into the dry ground as it progresses down the row. This is important to my fertilizing technique. Onions like nitrogen (N). The entire garden receives N fertilizer with the spring tilling. The onions receive about one heaping teaspoon per row of additional N about every two weeks. I place the dry granulated N at the beginning of the row and begin running water. The water dissolves the fertilizer and is absorbed by the dry ground as it progresses down the row, moving the N into the soil the entire length of the row. This supplies nutrients directly to the roots, the pipelines that carry raw materials to the chlorophyll factory.

Onions are a mid-season crop. The harvest should begin around the time of the July 4 BBQ, with onions picked the rest of the summer for use as needed. Most should be harvested by now, Sept. 1. Each harvested should be inspected for rot in the root area. Onions will rot from the roots toward the center of the bulb and the decomposition is generally not seen while in the growing position. Any rot requires the unusable bulb to be discarded. When rot appears, increase your rot surveillance or consider harvesting the entire crop. Believe me, if you don’t like the smell of onions you most certainly will not like the smell of spoiled onions.

Mild onions should be stored in refrigerator drawers in plastic to control the odor. They may remain useable for a month. Strong onions should be dried (tops) outdoors and stored dry in flats in the basement. Most should remain useable until the new year.

The Laurel Outlook


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