Posts Tagged ‘onions’

Onions Planted

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Candy Onions

Candy Onions

This small bed has 90 Candy hybrid onion starts that I planted today.  I took advantage of a morning rain that dampened the soil.  Planting in wet soil made the transplanting shock minimal.  This is the first time I’ve planted Candy.  They are supposed to be big and sweet.  I planted on 6 inch spacing to give them plenty of growing room.  After I got  them into the ground I gave them a good soak. They are looking happy, so far.

Copra and Red Wing Onions

Copra and Red Wing Onions

This large bed has 152 Copra yellow hybrid onions and 152 Red Wing hybrid red storage onions, planted on 5 inch spacing.  I’ve grown both these varieties numerous times with good success.

Growing onions from seed is not difficult and most years we have a good crop.

A Late Start For Onions

Monday, March 21st, 2016
Onion Flats

Onion Flats

I finally got my onion seeds into flats, yesterday. I had purposely held off planting because Judy and I were on the road for nearly two weeks. I didn’t want to enlist anyone to look after my newly sprouted seedlings. I normally target late January or early February to plant onion seeds, but I’m pretty sure my late March start will work out fine.

The flats from bottom to top contain: Copra yellow onion – 500 seeds; Red Wing red onion – 500 seeds; Candy – white onion – 250 seeds; Lancelot leek – 250 seeds.

I’ve grown Copra and Red Wing onions and Lancelot leeks before with good success. The Candy onion was recommended to me by Bruce Frazier, of Dixondale Farms, when I questioned him about the best northern variety for big and sweet white onions. The popular Vidalia types don’t do well in northern latitudes.

I planted my seeds into a mix of commercial growing medium blended with a little potting soil and compost, all screened through a ¼” screen.

The soil in the flats is sprayed with water to start the wetting and I’ll cover the tops with cardboard sheets to slow down evaporation. I’ve moved them all to the heat mat and grow light table in the basement.  If all goes well, I’ll have plenty of onions to set out when it warms up outside.

Here are two previous posts that cover my onion starting method in more detail, but I’ve opened up my seed spacing to 1/2″, not the one centimeter indicated in the older post.:

http://blog.cobrahead.com/2015/02/17/starting-onions-indoors/

http://blog.cobrahead.com/2009/02/11/onion-obsession/

Onion Harvest

Friday, August 14th, 2015
Harvested Onion Bed

Harvested Onion Bed

Here are about 300 onions we harvested from one of our 5 feet wide by 20 feet long open raised beds.  The red onions are Red Bull, which performed extremely well.  The yellow onions are Copra, a reliable storage onion that we’ve grown for many years.  Both are hybrids.

Grown on 5 inch centers and spaced in a block across the bed, these onions would have required a single row 125 feet long, which is one reason we really like growing in a bed versus rows – many more plants in far less space.

Buckets of Onions

Buckets of Onions

Here, loaded into buckets, the onions will be spread out single layer on tables in the garage to dry. We let them dry a week to two weeks, then we trim the stems down to about two inches.

After drying the onions are stored in the basement in open airy containers. We easily get about nine months good storage with our system. Last year’s crop lasted almost a year before the new green sprouting overwhelmed the usable onions. We know a root cellar and cooler temperatures would improve storage, but right now, that’s a luxury we don’t have.

Red Bull and Cipollini Onions

Red Bull and Cipollini Onions

These are Red Bull and heirloom Cipollini onions we grew in a different bed and harvested two weeks ago.  We find onions easy to grow and store.

 

 

Starting Onions Indoors

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
Onion Flats Under Lights

Onion Flats Under Lights

Here are three flats of onions I planted on February 8th, 9 days ago. Most of the nearly 1,600 seeds are sprouting nicely in flats in the basement. The flats are on a heat mat and lit with various LED grow lights we have accumulated over the last few years.

The onions are growing in a commercial potting soil. I used to make my own potting soils, but I’ve found the commercial mixes to be much more reliable in giving me good strong root growth, and they are certainly a lot easier to work with. Mostly, I’ve been using Jiffy Mix. Jiffy now offers organic mixes and they sell it in large bags, which I like, since I go through a lot.

Copra Onion Seedlings

Copra Onion Seedlings

These seedlings are Copra onions, a very reliable commercial yellow hybrid storage onion that I’ve grown many times. Also planted is Red Bull, a red storage hybrid, new for us. That’s it for the hybrids, the rest of the crop includes, Borretta Cipollini, an old time heirloom flat Italian onion that we’ve only grown once before, and Rossa Lunga di Tropea, a torpedo shaped red Italian heirloom that we have not previously grown.

Finally, we have just over 300 Lincoln leeks seedlings. Lincoln is an old American heirloom that normally does well, although I had a leek crop failure last year. I know my mistake and I hope to have a good leek harvest by replanting my leeks to another outside bed for some growth before I plant them deeply in their final home.

I’ll start fertilizing the flats, soon, and transfer them upstairs to a south facing window to free up the heat mats for tomatoes and other crops that also need the heat to get started.

CobraHead Garden Review 2014

Sunday, December 7th, 2014
Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Leaves in the Beds

Leaves in the Beds

The garden is put to bed. I was diligent about dragging in leaves to cover most of the beds with a thick protective layer. Last year snows and cold weather came before I was ready and the leaf covering ritual was interrupted. That caused me much more work this season than I wanted to do, but I did learn a lot about weeding. Without the leaf cover, weeds emerged sooner and the ground in the beds was not as soft. The extra weeding re-affirmed my belief that we approach weeds wrongly in both gardening and agriculture and that a far more sustainable approach would be to use a lot of hand labor to control weeds.

Well Weeded Garden

Well Weeded Garden

I did end up getting the garden paths and beds nice and clean by the time the season ended and I promise to be diligent about getting the leaves raked in from now on.

Tomato Trellis

Tomato Trellis

My biggest garden triumph was the building of a very rugged and useful tomato trellis using t-posts and bamboo stakes. The tomatoes loved it and I’ll be refining this approach for future tomato growing.

Flowering Oregano

Flowering Oregano

I expanded my herb bed and was amazed at the power of oregano as a pollinator attractor. It was loaded with insects of all types, especially bumblebees, for most of the summer and well into the fall.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

One insect that was not as plentiful as in other years was the Monarch butterfly. We had a few, but their decline may be apparent in my own backyard.

Violetta Italia

Violetta Italia

Several crops performed exceptionally well for us this year, including coles of all types. In addition to the beautiful violetta italia cauliflower, we had a never ending supply of broccoli raab, some really nice cabbages, great Brussels sprouts, and Red Russian kale is now a plentiful volunteer that has to be treated as a weed.

Onions

Onions

We probably had our best onion harvest ever. Unfortunately, the leeks did not fare well due to my planting them too deeply. A lesson learned and a reinforcement of the home gardening mantra of “don’t worry, plant enough different stuff, you will always get something.”

Sweet Peppers

Sweet Peppers

Peppers were great, too and we heard from other gardeners that this was a good year for them.

Volunteer Pea Shoots

Volunteer Pea Shoots

On a road trip restaurant stop, we learned about using peas shoots as a vegetable and now they will be part of our harvest along with the peas, themselves.

Whitetail Deer

Whitetail Deer

Our worst garden pests continue to be mammals, not insects. Deer and woodchucks would consume most of our tender crops if we did not fence, trap, and let the dog run.

Boots Guarding Catnip

Boots Guarding Catnip

My most faithful garden helper is not the dog, but Boots, who is always assisting with weeding, harvesting, and providing company even if it may not be totally wanted.

I’m looking forward to 2015.

Fall Planting with Old Seeds and an Old Book

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Vilmorin-Andrieux

Vilmorin-Andrieux

Last year I had a harvest of carrots and beets that continued into December.  I used a low hoop tunnel to protect the crop from frosts and freezes and the results were great.  (You can read about it here).   I hope to do the same this year, but I took some big chances because almost all the seed I used was really old.

As most gardeners know, seeds do have a shelf life.  In spite of the stories of seeds germinating after being unearthed in an ancient Egyptian tomb or some Stonehenge like burial site, most seeds lose their viability or germinating power quickly and are usually good for only a few years.  I’m not storing my seed in air tight containers or at controlled temperatures so I’m not helping the longevity.  Nevertheless, I’ve often been surprised at how long seeds do retain some percentage of viability.  Since I had some old seed in large quantities, I thought it wouldn’t be that big a risk to give it a try as long as I just sowed heavily.

There are many sources that will give you approximate germinating life of vegetable seeds, but my favorite reference is The Vegetable Garden by MM. Vilmorin-Andrieux, a reprint of an English edition book published by a Paris seed producer in 1885.  This wonderful book lists, with hand drawn illustrations, hundreds of what would today be called heirloom vegetables, the most of which have been lost to modernity, but amazingly, many are still available.

At the back of the book is a table titled: A TABLE Showing the Comparative Weight and Size of the Seeds of Kitchen-Garden Plants, and also, the Average and Extreme Periods of Duration of their Germinating Power.  Carrots, for example, are shown to weigh 360 Grammes per Litre of Seed and have 950 Seeds per Gramme.  Their Average Duration of Germinating Power is 4 or 5 years, but at the Extreme they can last beyond 10 years.

I planted carrot seed from packs dated 2005, 2009, and 2011.  I think they’ll do okay.  Beets are cited to have an average life of 6 years, but again, they can last beyond 10 years.  My seeds were from 2005 and 2007, I planted them thickly, and again, I think I’ll be happy.  I planted turnip seed from 2005.  I’m pretty sure it has a good chance.

The only seed that I think could totally fail is the onion I planted as scallions or bunching onions.  Onion seeds are given an average life of 2 years with 7 years being listed as their extreme germination.  I took two packets of onions, one dated 2005 and one dated 2008 and mixed them up with a couple new very small packets dated 2012 and 2013.  Since I’m not growing for bulbs but only to get some green onions, I’m hoping enough will sprout to give us at least a few.

Planted, Watered, Waiting to Sprout

Planted, Watered, Waiting to Sprout

It’s all in the ground and watered.  We’ll soon know if we’ll have enough seeds sprouting to make the experiment worth while.  Over the next couple days I’ll plant another bed of greens, lettuces, radish, spinach and collards.  That will all be with relatively current model years of seed so my risk there will be very low.

Fearing Burr

Fearing Burr

As an aside to the mention of the Vilmorin-Andrieux book, which is relatively well known, the whole layout and style of their book was lifted or “borrowed” from a more obscure American book first published in 1863 titled The Field and Garden Vegetables of America:  Containing Full Descriptions of Nearly Eleven Hundred Species and Varieties; with Directions for Propagation, Culture, and Use, by Fearing Burr.

Imagine a listing of eleven hundred different varieties of vegetables available to gardeners in 1863 and it’s easier to realize the true loss of diversity in seeds that has been occurring.  The catalog today is unfortunately much smaller.  It’s a good reason to both save seeds and to support the smaller seed producers who are trying to maintain the old varieties.

Anticipating the Main Harvest

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Here Come the Tomatoes

With this year’s warm weather, we’ll be picking things from the garden a lot earlier than most years.  I’m often late getting things started, but I did a good job of getting the tomatoes, peppers, and cole crops into the ground before the end of May.  The early start coupled with the hot weather is giving us veggies in July that we normally don’t start harvesting until August.  All in all, it appears we will have a good harvest as we go into late summer and fall.

Hot Peppers

This small bed holds most of the hot peppers.  In the foreground are Serranos and behind them are cayennes and some various Asian hot peppers.  Judy likes to freeze Serrano peppers.  She should have plenty.  The cayennes are exceptionally large this year and the pepper plants, in general, are taller than what I usually get.

Sweet Peppers

In front of the asparagus is my second pepper bed.  The small plants in front are Poblanos.  They are loaded with fruit.  The rest of the bed contains various sweet peppers.  I have a lot of Nardellos, the American-Italian heirloom that we like a lot.  Those too are very heavy with peppers.  Behind and to the right of the peppers are two potato beds, one red and one yellow.  Both are doing well.  I’ve already snitched a few red ones.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes are loving the heat.  I can’t see what’s going on down below the vines, but I’m hoping for the best.  I’ve been covering the vines with ag fabric to keep the deer from munching on them.  The deer love sweet potato leaves.

Sweet Corn

We ate our first sweet corn, yesterday,  I only have one bed this year.  Most years I get two beds planted.  I’m inter-planting the corn with two heirloom pole beans that have traditionally been grown using corn stalks for trellises.  One bean is called Turkey Craw, the other is Missouri Wonder.  The beans in the corn have a long way to go, but they look just fine.

Leeks, Pole Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions

Here is my main bean crop, with leeks in the bed to the left, tomatoes, tomatillos, and eggplants in the bed to the right of the beans, and onions to right of the tomatoes.  You can see another bed of tomatoes in the back right and in front of those are two blue barrel rings holding some fingerling potatoes which I just planted.  It’s my plan to keep adding soil to the rings as the potatoes grow to try to get a larger yield.  I haven’t done this before, so we’ll have to see if it works.

The pole beans in the front of the picture are trellised onto four tripods.  Behind them in the same bed are bush beans.  They are just flowering but I expect good production.  Last year we had a similar size set up that got somewhat eaten by deer and we still had a huge harvest.   I expect a lot more beans this year.  We are getting Japanese beetles in the beans, but I’m able to keep ahead of much damage by cleaning off the beetles using my funnel trap, which you can read about here.

Ripening Egg Plants

I went overboard with the eggplants, I just didn’t have the heart to cull out the nice seedling starts, so we have 16 eggplants.  I normally grow four to six.  They are looking great.  We’re trying to figure out the best way to freeze them – any suggestions?

Three Cabbages

Here are three good looking cabbages in one of two beds dedicated to cole crops.  The other bed is under ag fabric.  Most of this bed was used to grow kohlrabi and we’ve already harvested about half the planting.  Judy talks about using kohlrabi in her recipe post.  I’ve been spraying my coles with a neem oil, soap, and seaweed mixture and that seems to have really made a huge difference on damage from  cabbage moths.  The moth eggs hatch but the caterpillars die when they eat leaves  containing neem oil.  While the neem spray hasn’t done much for the squash it seems very effective in the coles.

Zucchini #2

Here is our second zucchini.  We picked the first, yesterday.  We’ll have lots, I’ve got five healthy plants.  The squash, melons, cukes, and zukes all got a late start.  While the zucchini are doing well I’m really having some major problems both with cucumber beetles and squash vine borers.  I’m definitely going to lose a few squash and melon plants.  I always tell people starting out in gardening to grow a lot of different stuff.  Some will always succeed and even if you lose an entire crop of one vegetable you’ll still have plenty of the others.

Mammoth Sunflowers

These Mammoth Sunflowers are already ten feet tall and they aren’t done growing.  Their stalks are like tree trunks.

Unfortunately, this could be a year without basic root crops.  No carrots or beets in the ground, yet.  It’s not too late for either for a fall crop if I can get to it, but in any case, we’ll get plenty from the garden, this year.