Planting Onions, Part 1

Larry G. Field
Thursday, May 16, 2019
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The following discussion applies to all plants normally grown in a garden that belong to the onion family. Seed companies like to separate some from the “onions” and place them with the “herbs”. The following discussion will include all as onions including sweet onions, strong onions, all colors-red, white, yellow, etc., shallots, scallions, green onions, multiplying onions, garlic, chives, leek and all others normally cultivated members of the onion clan. Be advised that some wild plants that resemble domestic onions are extremely toxic; DO NOT “experiment.”

Onions are easy to grow if you understand the variety (s) that you plan to grow. I normally grow Yellow Spanish (YS) as a cooking (hot) onion, Walla Walla (WW) as a mild sandwich and salad onion, multiplying as an off season salad onion, Chives as a salad and soup onion, Leek as a soup onion and Garlic as a spice. When we used to participate in “Farmers Market” we would have a line of customers at our station waiting for the “start bell,” partially because we provided perhaps 20 types of onions.

The following are some useful generalizations that apply to onions. The stronger the flavor, the longer the onion can be stored, the chemicals providing this pungent flavor resist bacteria. The milder the onion the shorter a time period it will keep but the milder it will taste in salads and sandwiches. I store WW in a refrigerator confined in Zip Lock bags to control the odor. They will begin to spoil in a couple weeks time but some will keep for nearly two months. I store hot onions one layer deep in pop flats in the basement. My ‘18 crop is still perfect while I type this in Feb., six months after harvest.

If you plan to grow sweet onions such as Candy, Walla Walla, Vidalia, etc., you will have to grow them from “bunching onions” or seed. Mild onion “sets” (sets exist in stronger onions) if produced, would not keep through the winter, they will spoil due to bacterial consumption, and therefore are not produced. Be aware of this because many retail employees, almost all in my experience, will attempt to sell you sets if you ask for “Walla Walla” onions. WW’s do not exist as sets. The preceding are the two types of large onions that I grow for the large bulbs they produce. Onetwo pounders should be producible. One year, when all conditions must have been perfect, I grew four-pounders, like cantaloupe, with slices larger than the bread slice being used for a sandwich. This occurred only once and for years following, Pay & Pac (no longer exists at the current Harbor Freight site), the then source of my onion starts, used their photos in their ads.

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