Onions part 2 Field

Larry G. Field
Thursday, May 23, 2019
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Multiplying and chives are perennial onions. We raise the chives in our flower beds because they do not spread but do produce long lasting pretty lavender flowers. The stems of multipliers can be utilized as green onions. Multiplying onions seem like a throw-back to evolutionary times. The “bulb” does not enlarge. The bulb will continue to divide producing multiple plants and the tops will produce additional clusters or bunches of bulbs, doubling the odds for perpetuation of the species. Once started they are easy to grow and easy to control by disposing of excess bulbs. I sometimes plant a two foot row of the newly developed bulbs in mid-summer and allow them to grow through the winter for use the following summer. Other times I just till them under because plenty will re-emerge the following year. They are the least desirable onion that I grow but they have one major advantage, they are like irises, green (usable) nearly the entire year.

I occasionally grow any type of garlic and leek. Nearly any choice of either will do well. Leek is grown from seeds and garlic from sets. If you are a beginning gardener, avoid the jumbo or giant varieties until you gain experience. “Giants” crop success is sporadic in our climate. Monitor development by exposing the stem base, harvest when mature or earlier as needed.

The simplest way to grow WW & YS is to purchase WW starts and YS sets in the spring and plant them. I purchase YS sets from vendors* that have bulk lots to choose from, I dig through the supply and select 25 of the largest bulbs. I purchase one “bunch” of WW starter plants, select the 20 healthiest for use and jam the rest into a ~10 inch row to use as green onions. Another technique that I have used is to plant seeds in August and leave them growing until spring. At that time, dig and transplant. This works well for YS but cold winters will kill the WW. I tried this for a few seasons because it seemed logical to me that an already growing plant should out produce a set; but it didn’t. I returned to purchasing starts in the spring.

*Don’t limit yourself to one vendor when seeking the “best” of each gardening item.

I space onions being grown for large bulbs six inches, garlic and leek four inches and chives and multiplying onions one inch. I till fertilizer into the planting row prior to planting and again, nearly monthly, sprinkle lesser amounts down the row and hose it off the plants. Onions grow larger with liberal nutrients if you don’t overdo and kill the plants. If it appears that the plants are suffering from excessive fertilizer, water sprinkle them excessively to leach some of the nutrients away. I plant WW & YS 4 inches deep, garlic & multiplying onions 3 inches deep. I dig a moderately deep furrow and plant onion seeds about ¼-½ inch deep in a furrow about 3 inches deep; as the plants grow I fill more soil into the fur- row until leek are ~3” deep and chives ~1’.

Onions are not root crops. You are eating the base of the plants stem, not the plant’s roots. Onions are cold resistant and can be planted when the soil can be worked. Most onions have distinct physical traits and can be recognized at a glance. I could place one each of the six I grow into a bag and at a glance select the one I wished to use. YS have flattened bulbs, WW have pear shaped bulbs. A “tale” that I DO NOT agree with is that one should walk down a row of nearly developed onions and step on the tops to break them down; that is supposed to make them develop faster and larger.

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