Onions are planted!

jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)February 9, 2013

With my wife due at the end of February (usual onion planting time), I went ahead and ordered my onions early, and got them planted this week. It is about 2 weeks earlier than I usually plant them.

I ordered the right number mathematically for the space, but I ended up with enough to plant another whole 45 foot bed. I love Dixondale!

Also I am trying to plant short day and intermediate day onions. Usually I only plant intermediate day onions, so I hope this works out!

Here are the onions in my one of my stationary tunnel. Onions on the right, carrots on the left (they are starting to germinate)

Onions in one of my movable tunnels

Here is the bonus bed of onions. I had to plant them 2 inches apart to get all my extra bunches planted. I will pull every other for green onions, then pull them as smaller onions for bunching. That will allow me to leave the first two plantings to get to mature size.

Jay

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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Yeah they always send so many extra! Aren't movable tunnels the coolest thing!?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 11:47PM
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myfamilysfarm

I guess you should have a bumper crop. You'll the 'onion guy', LOL.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:31AM
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veggievicki(7b)

Can you sell that many?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 6:02PM
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TOM A Z5-IL.

Jay,
I'm inspired! I love growing onions for the market since people always want onions and you can sell them for months.
How many onions did you plant?
Tom

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 6:40PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

It looks great Jay, but I never understand the benefits of buying plants rather than starting them yourself. Can someone explain?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:04PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Vicki: We will sure try to sell that many. We use onions a lot in our cooking at home. We also sell at 3 markets a week (including our online market). Onions are one of those things that you can not succession plant unless you are only going for green onions. So you have to plant plenty of them. There aren't to many people who grow onions in my market I attend. They may have a few hundred, but that is it. I sell my onions early in the season, May-early July then sales usually drop off. Everyone else sells out in July and August and I sell all the remaining ones from August to December when nobody else has any.

Here is a pic from one of our October Markets. We bring about this many onions to each market. On a good day, we will bring home part of one tub. On a bad day we will bring home 2 tubs.

Tom:
I appears you understand the onion marketing game. If you don't sell them one week, they will hold til the next! I purchased and planned on planting 3,000. Mathematically, I ended up planting over 5,000. Last year I ruined a huge portion of my crop because I let them "Dry" too long in the hot sun and they got sunburned bad. I learned my lesson and won't do that again.

Madroneb: Space and time that is why I buy my plants instead of starting them myself. I don' have a greenhouse to get them started in. It is easier for me to spend $140 on onion plants and not think about when to plant them, care for them, tend them and then replant them. I am too busy with school and all my winter markets in November-February to worry about this. Now all our grow lights are set up and growing early tomatoes and greens to transplant.

Jay

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:30PM
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veggievicki(7b)

My hubby has an onion phobia. I had to learn to cook all over after we got married. Fortunately he loves garlic. I bought a small bag of sets just this week, but you have inspired me to get a few pounds more and give it a go. Besides, it will be fun to grow them just to bug him. LOL.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 10:53PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

We'll I never thought of them as a worry, I enjoy growing plants! They take 2 weeks on the heat mat, then sit in the greenhouse for a month and half. All I have to do is water them like everything else.
I spend about $15 on seed for the exact variety I want, and you spend $140 and have to deal with all that herbicide and chemical fertilizer dixondale dumps on the seedlings.

Of course that's your choice. With a baby coming and markets going well, I understand your decision to make the concession here. We all have to do it sometimes.

I guess i'm more confused by growers that complain that they make so little, then they go ahead and buy plants that are cheap and easy to grow. Asides from the chemicals, the difference of $125 in savings seems quite a bit when onions only sell for $1-1.50/lb.
I think cutting costs like this is what's made my farm so profitable over the years and others not so much.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 3:05AM
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LynnMarie_(5 SW Kansas)

Jay,
Why are you growing short day onions? My latitude is south of you and I am starting long day onions, so I am wondering what advantage you are looking for in the short day? Will they grow enough leaves to make big bulbs by the time they start to bulb up?

I hope you don't mind me asking. I am just curious.

Lynn

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:41AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I am wanting to get bulbing green onions to sell at our early markets in May. If the bulbs don't get bigger than tennis balls, I am fine with it. If they get larger, great! People want onions, not just scallion sized onions in the early season. I am going to see if it will work. I have talked with others and it does work, I hope.

Madroneb:

I am sorry we don't see eye to eye for how we farm. Please don't tear down what I do to build yourself up. I know what my costs are for my onion seedlings. You say it only costs you $15 for seeds? What about the Greenhouse, water, soil cost, your time to care for them, electricity. Figure all that stuff in and we are probably very close.

Nice website!

Jay

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:34PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I did say I understand why you made that decision, did you miss that?

Jay, let go of your ego for just a minute, posting here is not just for showing how awesome you are. This isn't about knocking you down or building me up. Others read these posts and might think, "I'll just order from Dixondale too, it's easier". I want to give them another option, because, yes, I think for most growers it's better for many reasons to grow your own starts.

As far as costs:
My greenhouse has 10'x30' dedicated to germination and starts, the other 75x30 grows crops. It's quite well paid off by now. Regardless, a small germination hoop can be built for less than $50 and last a long time (mine did).

The water is from the rain barrels I have set up. Its free.

Soil costs, there is another thread about how cheap is if you make your own. Onion soil cost me about .002 cents worth of peat.

Electricity for a 15W heat mat? Pennies.

Lastly, which is really my point. My time is next to nothing to care for onion starts, they are about as easy as it gets, slow growing and don't need potting up.

-Mark

I'm super sorry to piss you off. Please don't get me wrong, I think almost everything you do is wonderful and well thought out. It's just when you post here, you are accepting that others might comment or criticize. If you don't like it, don't post....

This post was edited by madroneb on Mon, Feb 11, 13 at 13:07

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:05PM
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2fennelshirts(4)

"The Onion Lady" so some call me, all the other produce vendors here only grow onion set/green onions.This year I ordered more than last year. My DH said I'm nuts, I only have about 30 lb left. Here's my 2013's order.
Deb

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:37PM
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2fennelshirts(4)

Some of my onions from 2012.
Deb

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:06PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Looking nice Deb, I wish I had more ground to plant outside. Do you follow the planting guides from Dixondale? Your row spacing looks nice and wide. I am sure it is easier to weed this way.

Mark:

I am sorry we got off on the wrong foot here. I guess I didn't read your message as you wanted me to. It does make sense to me now. I guess I shouldn't have tried to eat lunch and "relax" by checking on here. I didn't give your message the rereading it deserved. I don't feel as if I have an big ego, but if it comes across that way sorry again.

Onions are very easy to start and don't take much time to care for, but it is time that I don't have, or the space. In a few years when we build that large outbuilding with complete greenhouse, I may go that route. For now, I am going to stick with what I know works.

I wish we had rain barrels. If we did all they would be doing is collecting dust! We haven't had a decent rain since last April. We are 15 plus inches short on rain fall coming into this spring. I am not sure how things are going to work out, but I am going to keep on planting and hope for the best.

I know I am opening up for comments and critical analysis (positive and negative) but that is what makes us stronger and what we do better. I have very few people to bounce ideas off of and share what I do. I have found the internet is a great way to share information and get thoughts from others doing the same thing that I am doing, just in a different location. There are many times I think I am doing the right thing in the wrong location!

Jay

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 2:55PM
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henhousefarms

We plant a traincar load of onions, too. What reds are you planting now? We loved Mars and were heartbroken when they went off the market. We switched to the Red Candy Apple but they just do not size as well as the Mars (although the color is better IMHO). Most of your reds we use as bunching onions now and people really like them but would love to find one that bulbs better. Here is a pic of the onions from 2011.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 5:30PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

OK sorry but what a waste of space to do one row with walking room on each side! Do beds with several rows together!

I would like to get back to starting my own onions. I hate buying from Dixondale; they are the only company I buy from that deals with Seminis/Monsanto. I will not buy the Seminis onion varieties but normally I would boycott the company too but Dixondale is THE onion supplier and the prices are cheap. Right now I do not have enough room for starting onions and all the peppers and tomatoes and stuff. Plus they never get big enough, even started in late January to plant in a planter like the Dixondale ones. And onions are my cash crop so I tell myself there is a huge profit even with buying the plants (nice big fat plants too!).
I make $1 per onion or leek when they are nice sized. I spent $77 on onions and $55 on leeks (I had a leek crop failure last year with my puny seedlings so decided to buy this year but they are so expensive). That is 1800 onions and half will be sold for $1 each I figure. So for $77 I will make $900 not including CSA onions!



I figure 768 sq feet to grow the 1800 onions (4.5 beds). I might share some of the leek seedlings with friends since I have too many. And I always plant the best of the onion seedlings and give away all the extra ones they send since there are usually so many.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:46PM
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myfamilysfarm

I use mum pots to start my onions. I've only done it for the last 2 years and am amazed how easy it is. It really doesn't take much room either. I'm glad I tried it last year. I start my onion seeds in Dec/Jan to give plenty of time.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:05PM
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myfamilysfarm

Sorry for the double post, I haven't found out how to delete a post.

This post was edited by myfamilysfarm on Tue, Feb 12, 13 at 14:52

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:06PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I planted Short Day White Bermuda, Southern Belle Red, 1015Y Texas Super Sweet. Intermediates Candy, Red Candy Apple and Superstar.

I visited another market grower this summer and I was very impressed with the short day onions he planted these and intermediate day. He planted them outside much later than me and had got along well. I am trying to copy his success. I have always planted the intermediate ones.

What varieties to you plant?

Jay

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:48PM
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2fennelshirts(4)

Oh no !! Now that you mentioned "Mars" I forgot 2 yrs ago that I read somewhere that "Mars" would no longer be available so I let 1/2 of mine go to seed. I forgot that I have the seed yet, do you think it's to late to start them now ? I should of known that Seminis/Monsanto had something to do with the "Mars" and the "Burger Master" being unavailable! Jay, yes I follow Dix planting guide but I use fish or seaweed fert water mix down the center.
Deb

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 7:21AM
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brookw_gw

We plant over 3,000 storage onions and a couple thousand spring/green onions. For bunching onions I direct sow seeds. I don't have a greenhouse or grow lights, and I like the quality of Dixondale's plants. I've tried growing them myself and have lost them to damp off or some other disease and am just not happy with the quality I get raising them myself. In the future with the proper set up and a lot more time, I'll try again. I definitely hate being limited to a few varieties. I still use a lot of sets. They cost next to nothing when you rummage around and pick out the smallest ones, and they're great for green onions and often make a nice storage onion if left. I store a few hundred to plant in the fall. I have also raised some nice red onions from the sets, similar to Mars. I have not been impressed with either Red Candy Apple or Red Zeppelin. Candy has a huge following, so I plant a couple cases of it. Big Daddy is ok, and Copra I keep for myself to store. I like the classics Red Tropea and Ailsa Craig but only plant a couple hundred of each. Ringmaster is my favorite white. Sterling is unimpressive. A couple customers want Walla Walla, but I'm not that thrilled about it compared to Candy.

Because of the drought last year, my leeks never sized up well. However, I started selling them as baby leeks and ran out in two weeks. I was surprised that many preferred them over normal-sized ones. I usually leave them in the ground well into winter to size and sweeten them up, but I think I'll harvest more a lot sooner from now on.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:01PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Brook:

I like planting onion sets for green onions too, I always try to plant some in the fall for green onion, but it is hard to keep them all summer. I have very few people have sets to sell in the fall. I wish I know of a better supplier. This year I vow to plant scallions early enough to have them to sell in the winter. I am thinking it will have to be August!

Last year I gave up on my Leeks and just let them die. When water was lacking and they don't really sell great (we love them). I focused more on the crops that were selling and made us money!

Has anyone started leeks in the summer, planted in August and sold in the December-March?

Jay

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 4:27PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I sell lots of Walla Walla and was very surprised how well Tropea did last year! I don't sell many cippolini but think maybe at the garlic festival those will do better. I grow Copra and Redwing for suitable for storage and also some Big Daddy and Ringmaster. I will not grow Candy or Red Zeppelin being they are Seminis. Walla Walla is wonderful here but customers don't quite understand when I say they only store for about one month, then I have to add, 'they are only harvested once a year you know'. That makes a difference. I start pulling Walla Walla for spring onions and also plant actual scallions. Then I keep pulling the Walla Walla until they all flop. Then I start pulling the Big Daddy and Ringmaster and then Copra and last Red Wing. Cippos (chippos) are also good for storage but Tropea is sweet.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:32PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Jay, As far as I know, the leeks that can overwinter don't grow quick enough to plant that late. King richard is a fast one but I doubt you can keep it alive past December in your climate.

I seed leeks in April, transplant densely into a nursery bed a month later, then dig them again a month later, and set them in the field. If you bury them super deep the second time, at harvest the whites go almost all the way to the top. You don't have to hill them.
I start harvesting about 50 lbs a week in October and am just finishing up the last of them now.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:47PM
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henhousefarms

Aside from the Red Candy Apple we only plant Candy and Superstar. By far the Candy are the best of the lot. In a good year they get to softball size with enough water. The old timmers here swear you water the snot out of them until the solstice then cut them off. In the past I have not applied drip tape to them but plan on trying it on a section this year to see how they do. As far as the spacing between rows, we have an old Holland transplanter to set them and that is a close as I can get them with an ofset toolbar. It is a little wasteful spacewise but as the onions come out I will plant back with something else. We set somewhere around 6000 plants - the transplanter makes short work of them. I think last year it took about three hours. The space is about 14" IIRC which is ideal for my favorite weeding tool - the weedeater.

IIRC Monsanto did not have anything to do with the loss of the Mars onions. When Dixondale announced that they were no longer going to be available Dad called down and reserved them for us as long as they had stock (they bought up all the available seed supply from the wholesaler). They told him that the seed was proprietary of a family farm that raised the seed and they were retiring and had decided not to license the seed to anyone else. Dixondale tried to either license it or buy it outright but no joy. When Dixondale ran out of seed that was the end of them unless at sometime in the future something changes with the licenseholder. We can only hope.

Tom

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:35PM
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brookw_gw

I also heard that story about Mars. What a shame. For years, it was my standard red. I don't know the variety of the red sets I get, but I like them better than Red Candy Apple.

Jay, I buy several hundred extra sets in the spring and store them in a paper bag in the crisper of my fridge to be used in the fall. They work great that way.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:52AM
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randy41_1

we've got some leeks growing in the tunnels. i planted them in the fall sometime. sprouted them in a flat and then transplanted them. there's 2 varieties megaton and lexton, with the megaton outgrowing the lexton at this point. not sure when they will be ready.
we are just starting to harvest scallions in a tunnel. they were direct seeded in late september. this is zone 7a. not sure of that planting date. i will check next time i'm out there.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 3:18PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Hey Tom,
How does the transplanter work for the onions? Do they have to start in cells or can you bare-root them?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:17AM
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myfamilysfarm

I like to buy the last of Rural Kings onion sets and keep them til late plantings. If they are too rotten, then I just tossed them into the wide garden row that I want them in and then just cover them up. Even just straw works.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:36PM
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henhousefarms

Madroneb - it works great. We have a narrow spacing wheel that replaced the standard chain to get the spacing down to 4" in row (it will go down to 2" if you want) and bare root holders. The hardest part is regulating the speed of the tractor so the people can keep up. I have a hydrostat and regulating is a bit of a black art. Dad's not a fast as he used to be so we miss a few plants here and there but they walk back down the rows and fix that while I run the tractor into position for the next row. It sure beats the heck out of bending or crawling to plant them. The only other crop we use it on is sweet potatoes (obviously with the spacing changed) but have considered getting some pockets for plugs to try on transplants.

Tom

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:55PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Thats fantastic! I found your pics on photobucket also. I am going to have to think about finding one of those.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:21PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

This is what I used to transplant the onion seedlings from Dixondale through the plastic. I have to trim any tops that are curved or they get stuck in the seeder. Best planted on arrival so the tops are short.

Here is a link that might be useful: jab seeder

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:59PM
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myfamilysfarm

Minnie, I didn't even think about using mine. Mine is alittle different, but it should work about the same. I don't think mine will ever wear out since it's metal and very heavy duty. I got mine from the Amish locally. I don't remember what the company name was. I've used it to plant corn and beans, worked well as long as the ground wasn't too muddy.

It cost about the same as the one in your link.

This post was edited by myfamilysfarm on Sun, Feb 17, 13 at 18:05

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 6:03PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I am ordering the bigger kind for transplants this year. The smaller one I bought last year was good for onion/scallion plants, cuc seeds, legume seeds and corn seed. I will use the transplanter for squash, melons, sweet potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and maybe tomatoes. It should save lots of time especially if someone can hand you the plant.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 6:16PM
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myfamilysfarm

that's what grandkids are for. As a younger age, they hand plants and after a few years, they are planting. Really saves the back when we can get them to help. So what if the spacing isn't exactly perfect. Plus they are learning that they can grow their food and helping Nana and Poppa at the same times.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 8:14PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I used my stand and plant for onions this year too. I planted two beds, but I found I could plant them fast by getting down on my knees.

I found it a little difficult to hold the onions plants, jab it in the ground and reset. I really wanted to make some sort of box to strap about my chest/waist to hold the plants but I didn't take the time to do it. If you had two people, I am sure it would go super fast!

Jay

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:40PM
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myfamilysfarm

I seen the box that you're talking about at the conference. It looked like a white rectangle box with 2 holes on the sides that a duffle bag strap would attach to. I'm considering making one. It's recommended for berry picking.

I jab my planter, then a drop, then rock the planter forward. That way works for seeds or sets, not sure if it would work for plants.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:52AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I had some sort of way I was holding a bundle of onion plants last year but now I forgot what it was! Much like how I hold bulbs for planting I suppose. I used the jabber for cucs and corn and some legumes. I would hold a folded open packet of seed in my left had and only accidentally turn it over and dump all the seeds like four times a row LOL!
I am thinking my niece may be able to help me this year, plus my mom is volunteering again.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:16PM
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derock_gw

Here is a YouTube video of a gentleman planting transplants (lettuce I think) using a Hatfield transplanter. He created a box that he wears over his shoulder to hold the transplants. Jay, I think this is what your thinking about.

I'm tired of bending over so much. I am ordering one of those transplanters this year (and making a box too).

Here is a link that might be useful: Box to hold transplants

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:07PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I just watched that video. I don't like bending over either, but if I transplanted that slow, without tamping in the plants, I'd go out of business real quickly.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:15PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I saw this video and this is the box I was thinking of. I love the simplistic design. Plastic tub and white rope, done!

His onions were a little drier than mine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting onions with stand and plant

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:51PM
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nated(7)

jrslick,
how often and for how long are you running your onion drip system?
thanks,

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 12:30PM
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