Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Onion planting and harvesting from November 2014 to May 2015

Hi
For this post, I am doing full summary on the process of growing onions since it is spread out over so many months, and a couple of posts. You plant onions in my area in early winter, just before the frost hits which was the first week of November last. You can plant onions from seeds but I just think that is too much work and I wait to plant from "starts" which are juvenile onions. They are pretty cheap (and ugly!) with a package of them costing about $5 for 50 starts.
Starts - bundle of 50 red and 50 yellow

I planted them in rows and filled up 1 bed completely and the other halfway

You have to plant them at least 4 inches apart to give them room to grow. My raised beds are 4 ft x 8 ft and I used 1 and 1/2 of them for 100 onions. Onions need water of course, but the nice thing about a winter garden is that you can use the rain to water them, if you are not in a drought. I had to water them in Dec and January because we got very little rain. Still, you use less water because it isn't as hot as when you plant in the summer. It makes them a very drought friendly thing to plant. In spring here is what they looked like..
The little plants are looking great!
A lot of people wonder when you are supposed to pick onions.. well here is a secret, you can pick them at anytime when they are the size you want. I was picking 1 or 2 a month to use in cooking as either a scallion or small onion. They will tell you when they are ready to finish because the tops start flopping over.. then you can go push them down and stop watering.
Stems falling over

see how the stem is collapsing? that is the sign they are almost ready

I helped them along by pushing over the stems
When I saw them starting to "flop" I helped the process along by pushing them all over. Then I left them like that in the dirt for a week. After that I pulled them out, gently, and laid them out on the dirt for a couple days to start to cure. "Curing" is the process that the onion goes through to create the outer tough skin which allows them to store so well. It is takes a few weeks but it is the only way to get them to keep. (Once again, you can eat some at any time, this is the process to cure them for storage.)
Onions curing on the dirt

The onion when you pull it from the dirt only has a small part of the outer skin toughened up. It needs to cure to get better storage time from them.
After they sat on the dirt I shook them off a bit and moved them to a wire shelf in my greenhouse to continue curing.

That's a lot of onions! 77 to be exact..
Now this weekend I cut off the stems and the roots and left them on the shelf to continue curing.
All cleaned up

You can see the papery skins starting
Next week they should be ready to take inside and store in a cool, dark place until I need them. I have a lot of onions! I planted 100, left about 5 in the dirt to keep growing, and picked some as the time went along. On the shelf I counted 77 of them, which is a good harvest yield for your investment.(I see onions in the market selling for $1.99 a pound right now, and they are not organic like these are!)  I really think the winter garden is overlooked because there is a misconception that it is too much work, and people don't want to be out in the cold and the rain. But the reality is that there is less water needed, fewer bugs and diseases, and it is pretty easy to get a decent crop of winter veggies before you need the space for summer planting. (I can't plant this year because of the drought, so once again it will be all the stuff I can grow in the aquaponic system, which tends to be quite a lot!)
So next fall, think about a winter garden and if you want something super-simple, plant garlic and onions!

Julie