Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mmmmm.....I Love Onions

Remember that Turtles Chocolates commercial from the early 1980's with the jingle that goes “mmmmm….I love Turtles”?  I have a feeling this may have been a Canadian commercial, so if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can see it HERE.  Yes, I know – it’s horrible – but the tune stuck with you – back then, anyhow!

The jingle was based on a song that was called – you guessed it – “I Love Onions”.  And the song did in fact go – “Mmmmmm, I love onions” – and just in case you don’t believe me, take a gander at THIS.

How do I even know about this obscure (or so I thought) onion song, you may ask?  Because my Dad was a BIG fan of thrift shop records back in the day and one of his “finds” had the “I Love Onions” song on it.  I still can’t believe that both of these songs are on You Tube.  Is there anything that ISN’T on You Tube these days?  Apparently not.

I do LOVE onions but have never grown them.  I’ve always been kind of intimidated by the thought of getting this teeny, tiny seedling to swell into a large bulb.  Well, this year, I decided to give it a go.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Even if they don’t bulb up, I’ll still have me a whole mess of green onions, right?

I chose two varieties of globe onion – Copra (THE yellow onion every onion gardener seems to grow) and Rossa di Milano (a red onion).  Both are supposed to be very good storage type onions.  I also decided to try Ailsa Craig, a large sweet onion.  For green onions, I am growing “He-Shi-Ko” which are perennial bunching onions.  And lastly, I am trying out potato onions, which are multiplier globe onions.  There is a bit of a story behind the potato onions but I will talk about that on a later post.

Onions Seedlings - Waiting to be Transplanted
 
I did my research on how to grow onions and, as usual, different sources gave differing advice.

So I took a little information from here & there, based on what sounded reasonable to me, and proceeded to sow my onion seeds in early March, about 10 weeks before my last frost date of May 10th.  I had noticed that many vegetable gardeners out there sowed their onions back in January or February.  But they are often in warmer zones (I’m in zone 5b which I believe is the equivalent of 4b in the US), so I went ahead with the “10 weeks before last frost” recommendation on sowing indoors.

Whenever I grow a new crop, it seems I always end up making a few goofs along the way.  I sowed the onions just below the soil surface in a 72-plug tray.  I realize now that I sowed them way too shallowly – in a few cases, the bottom of the onion seedling even ended up on top of the soil, and you could clearly see the roots sticking down into the soil. I also messed up when watering them.  I had topped each plug with vermiculite (to help with damping off) and so it was difficult to tell when the tray needed watering.  For my other cell packs & pots, I simply lift them up to see how heavy they are.  If they are light(ish), I water.  But since the tray was so large & I had never used one before, it seemed heavy, even when it was relatively dry – so I let the soil dry out a bit too much a few times.  Both of these errors cost me a good number of onion seedlings.  Thankfully, I miscalculated how many seedlings would fit into the beds and sowed many more than I needed.  As to the impact of these mistakes on the remaining onion seedlings?  Only time will tell, I guess.

When I transplanted my seedlings in early May (they should have gone out in April, but the bed wasn’t ready at the time), I wasn’t overly impressed with their size:

Onion Seedlings All In A Row
 
When I compared my onion seedlings to Daphne’s at Daphne’s Dandelions, mine are little wispy things while hers are huge & stout.  Long day onions (which all of mine are) start to bulb up once days start to lengthen.  Apparently, the larger the onion plants are at this time, the larger a bulb you will get.  Bottom  line - I have a feeling that I will be sowing the onions much earlier next year, just like the majority of other gardeners.

Onion Bed Today
 

The only onions that I did not start indoors were the perennial bunching onions.  I decided to seed these directly into the bed as I didn’t have enough room under the grow lights to accommodate them. Perennial bunching onions (also known as Japanese bunching onions) are supposed to multiply at the base – essentially you plant them once, then you simply harvest as needed, leaving some in the ground to continue multiplying.  And they are also supposed to be winter hardy.  I may not be able to get much in the way of a harvest from them this year, but that’s ok – I’ll just consider this the year that I establish the perennial bunching onion patch…..and then pray that they do indeed overwinter the way they are supposed to.

Till next time...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

9 comments:

  1. That is what I need. Some perennial bunching onions. Though I suppose I could always eat my townhouse mates' multiplier onions. I haven't a clue what they are, nor do they. But I'd guess potato onions. They are just taking over the area they are in.

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    1. I never seem to have enough onions - if I had a patch taking over an area, I'd be one happy camper!

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  2. I need to get some perennial bunching onions as well. I've never been able to grow decent sized conventional onions. Where did you get your seeds?

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    1. I got the seeds from Cottage Gardener (www.cottagegardener.com) which is a small heirloom seed house in Ontario - they call them "Evergreen Bunching Onions".

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    2. Thomas - Just noticed that Baker Creek also has this variety: www.rareseeds.com/he-shi-ko-bunching-onion/

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  3. Your onions look wonderful. I do agree that Daphne's are splendid this year but I have grown a very successful crop with onion seedlings that were much smaller as well. I have even procrastinated and planted really late and they still produced a good quality crop. Let the onion grow until the tops begin to flop over.

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    1. Thanks Rachel - I have no idea what to expect in terms of what they should look like at various stages, so that is reassuring!

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  4. We have an onion aficionado in our town and he sends in a bulk (very inexpensive) order to Dixondale Farm. My Copra's didn't come through, but I have a cippolini and a red onion, and shallots. I just do what Rol tells me to do at any given moment and things always come out great. He's the garlic king, too, but I'm catching up. I wish I had thought about scallions.

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    1. Boy, I wish I had an onion expert close by - lucky you!

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