onion irrigation

kelise_mMarch 21, 2013

I normally plant my onions in 30" beds, spaced 2-4" inches apart in the beds, with about a foot walkway between the beds. I don't plant them in plastic and I overhead irrigate. I'm happy with the yield and the quality. But......I'd like to move entirely to drip irrigation this year. How do you lay out onion planting using drip tape? Rows? Beds? How far apart do you lay the tape? And while we're on the subject, I want to move my carrot and beets to drip irrigation also. Do you lay the tape before or after direct seeding? (I use an Earthway) Thanks!

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rustico_2009

I haven't done onions on the collapsible drip yet but have used 1/4" tubing with emitters on 6" spacing to very good results. It's gotta work more or less the same. These are about 40" wide permanent beds with four rows of onions each transplant planted near an emitter. If you want to thin for some green onions plant a lot closer in the rows and/or on both sides of the tape.

I have drip in before direct seeding anything and seed an inch or two from the tape or right near it, doesn't matter too much. My soil is sandy loam. On slower draining soil you might try a row on each side of the drip about 3" or so away and spread the water lines further apart.

I did read once that some onions split if planted to far apart. So that might be a consideration. I had red creole with a lot of splits and they might have been an example of this phenomena.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 3:53PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

My beds are wider than that, about 40 inches. So I lay 4 drip tapes down evenly across the bed, put black plastic on that and put a few staples on the tapes to hold it all down. I plant the onions in 8 rows in the beds- 2 rows on each side of each tape. The plants are done 10 inches apart (with a standing jab planter) which is the length of my foot so I don't even have to bend and measure. They have enough room because each row starts in the middle of the previous row (staggered). For spring pulled onions I will plant about 8 inches apart in 8 rows.


You can see the holes in the plastic here where onions were.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 5:11PM
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cole_robbie(6)

I used drip tape without plastic for my pumpkins last year and had a weed explosion. My Johnson grass is so bad that unmulched and irrigated ground turns into a grass factory.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:24PM
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myfamilysfarm

Minnie, your onions always look so good.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:26PM
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henhousefarms

Colerobbie - that's what God made Poast for.

Althought we have never dripped onions before there are several growers that I know of that do and have great luck. The old adage is water the snot out of them until Summer Solstice then cut them off. Our plan this year is to try a few rows on drip to see if it is cost feasable. If it increases the amount of big (we call them hamburger size) onions it probably will.

Tom

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 10:24PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I use drip tape, 12 inches between emitters, on onions, carrots and beets. My soil is not good for beets, I am not even trying them this year. My onions and carrots much better, so I am upping those numbers!

In my bigger high tunnel beds, we run 3 runs of drip with onions on either side. In my smaller movable tunnel beds, we run two runs of drip with 3 rows on onions.

We do the same thing with carrots.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I grow onions in 36" beds with 4 rows to a bed. Plants are spaced 6" in the rows and I use 3 drip lines per bed.

Carrots I do the same 4 rows per bed (3 dl's) and beets I grow in 3 row beds (2 dl's). I seed before laying the drip.

-Mark

This post was edited by madroneb on Sat, Mar 23, 13 at 22:56

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:51PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I guess mine are similar to Mark's but further apart in the row and more rows. I can't tell if he staggers the next row or not. The plastic is great for onions because it holds in the moisture and onions cannot handle weeds at all. However you have to make sure to never plant them too deep!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:06PM
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kelise_m

Thanks everyone, that was exactly what I needed to know! So far I haven't had any problem keeping up with the weeds, so I'm going to continue to save my plastic usage for the stuff that needs the extra heat. Before I market farmed I mulched my onions with grass clippings and that worked fantastically. Now ofcourse, I have too many to do that, but weirdly, onions are my favorite thing to hoe.

This is my fourth season market farming (third full-time) and I've been lurking on here for longer than that. For some reason the gardenweb site would not let me post anything or sometime even go to the site at all, but recently we upgraded our satellite internet service and it works fine now. Anyway, you all feel like old friends to me and it's great to finally connect! Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 1:31PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

You can't really hoe when you use drip tape. I mean you would have to pull it out and put it back. Keep that in mind.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 8:20PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

You most certainly use a hoe around drip tape, just don't go too deep. Another option, which I think is better, is using a scuffle hoe. I use them in all my operations. If you are willing to use it, you can really keep your fields clean.

Check out a scuffle hoe from Pro Hoe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pro Hoe

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:21PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Sometimes it is easier to pull the drip line when hoeing, especially on 4 row beds like onions. When the plants are young this is fairly easy, even on my 180' ones. Later, if I did a good job the first time, it's just spot weeding and the lines stay in place.

On wider plantings, it's just fine to leave the drip lines there and hoe around them.

Jay, I haven't been too impressed with scuffle hoes. They don't seem to like chunky soil and only seem to work well when the weeds are tiny. I am pretty set on my Glaser stirrup hoes. But, yes, they don't work as well with drip lines in situ.

-Mark

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:26AM
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kelise_m

Here's the onion hoe I can't live without. (guess I better take care of it since it says they're out of stock!) I do hoe around drip tape, but I also think drip irrigation helps keep the weeds down too, so it's worth the extra carefulness around it.

Here is a link that might be useful: circle hoe

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:32AM
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rustico_2009

Couple of stab planter questions.
How do you avoid hitting the tape when it's under black plastic and is it a bother to try to keep the onions aligned with the tape.

Has the stab planter worked with Dixondale transplants? Sometimes they are pretty scrawny.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:14AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I put the tape down and tightly put the plastic on it which is very thin. Then I put some staples here and there on the tape which helps mark the tape. Even still when you step nearby you can see the tape very well. So no accidental jabs into the tape will happen, at all.
I planted many bunches of Dixondale plants with a jab seeder. Sometimes I have to trim the tops so nothing is curved and gets stuck in the seeder. If they are too curvy I just toss them aside to do by hand.

Here is a link that might be useful: jab seeder

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:38PM
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rustico_2009

Thanks, little_minnie. My kids and I did around 1500 by hand.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:49PM
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kelise_m

The first three days of the week were perfect transplanting weather and I got all the onions/shallots/cipollini in. Last year one of you led me to the jab seeder little_minnie's talking about and I had purchased one this winter. I was very very happy with it, definitely worth the $40. I grow my own transplants and they are usually (depends on how soon the ground dries out enough to work) closer to the size of pencil lead then a pencil! I didn't have any problems unless (as Minnie was saying) they were curved.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:26PM
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myfamilysfarm

kelise, I'm glad to know that yours are the size of the pencil lead instead of the pencil. I can't seem to get mine that big.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 5:59PM
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rustico_2009

Thanks for the post on the jab seeder, kelise. What make and model is recommended?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:11AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

That's why I order mine. Too long to start and too many trays and the plant prices are so cheap I don't think it costs more to buy them.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 7:53PM
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moon1234(5)

We use BioTelo on onions. There is NO WAY to keep up on weeds with 30,000 onions while NOT using herbicide without plastic.

We plant four rows per 36" bed. Rows are 8" apart with 6" in-row spacing. We lay plastic and double drip tape rows with a rain-flo raised bed mulch layers. Transplanting is done with a rainflo water wheel transplanter.

If you have a good tractor driver you can easily transplant without hitting the tape.

I get $2.00 a lb for onions for I have no problem using drip and plastic. The lack of weeding without herbicde is WELL worth the expense.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 6:05AM
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kelise_m

rustico, I got the exact same one that little_minnie put a link to here. It's made out of white PVC and called the stand and plant seeder. I thought it was $40, but I remembered wrong, it's $50...still worth the money in my opinion...and not something easy to hack together.

I'm certified organic so it's easier and cheaper to raise my own. I plant them in shallow totes and grow them like grass. When it's time to pot up tomatoes and I need the room under lights, I stick the onions out in the high tunnel until the ground is dry enough to work. I don't feed them, so when they hit the soil that's when they really take off. I have to say I've been really happy with the size, yield, and storage length of all the varieties I'm growing, so the teeny transplants must not make a difference here. I know farmers at market that feed a liquid fertilizer called BioLink (sp?) and their sweet onions are super huge. I've found, however, that my market customers prefer onions around 3". They also prefer the smaller cipollini and shallots out of my display. I don't get that, because as a cook I adore the big shallots. I think maybe they are just used to what they are seeing in the grocery store. I planted about 8000 plants, same as last year I think, just a different configuration with the drip tape...now you guys got me scared about keeping them weeded ;)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 9:08PM
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rustico_2009

Thanks, Kelise, somehow I missed that link earlier.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 5:11PM
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flowergirl70ks

My onions rotted in the ground last year. Beautiful plants and one day I went out and they looked t ransparent on the tops. In a couple of days they were rotting. I've grown onions all my gardening years and never had this happen before, what did I do wrong?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 4:02PM
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flowergirl70ks

My onions rotted in the ground last year. Beautiful plants and one day I went out and they looked t ransparent on the tops. In a couple of days they were rotting. I've grown onions all my gardening years and never had this happen before, what did I do wrong?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 4:03PM
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henhousefarms

Not knowing anything more specific a true diagnosis is at best a guess. My gut says this sounds a little like Phytophthora, especially if you were having wet conditions. You might look through the link below (not an endorsement of Seminis or their products but the site has a lot of good diagnostic information).

Tom

Here is a link that might be useful: Onion disease guide

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 4:43PM
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