When to plant onion sets?

sopamanda(7)March 21, 2009

I read in the "Hello Oklahoma" thread that OKies plant onion sets starting in Jan-Feb. I just looked at the bag I bought (from Lowe's) and it says plant after the danger of frost has passed and lists March as the starting date.

Did I miss it or is it bad info on the bag?

Thanks-

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Onions bulb up in response to daylength (the number of hours of sunlight they receive daily).

We plant our onions in winter so they get a lot of growing time in the ground before the daylength hours reach the "right" amount and the onions begin to bulb up. The size of your bulbs ultimately depends on the size of your your green leaves on your onion plants. Basically, you get one ring or layer of onion for each green leaf. So, if you plant in Jan. or Feb., your onions have lots of time to make lots of green leaves and then, when bulbing begins, they make big huge onions.

If, on the other hand, you plant in March or April, you won't get as many leaves before daylength induces bulbing but you'll still get onions--they get won't be as large. For most onions, it takes 90-110 days of growth to get onion bulbs that are the "expected" mature size. If you plant your onions only 60 days before daylength induces bulbing, for example, your onions might be only half the size you were expecting, but you'll still have onions.

It bothers me a little that your onions came in a bag. I suspect that means you have little dried onion 'sets' as opposed to the bundles of small onion plants that you buy directly out of a wooden shipping crate in the lawn and garden area. Often, those little onion sets are a waste of time. They tend, for the most part, to be varieties that are not well-adapted here. Often, they are northern storage type onions that need a longer day-length than we have here, so they never bulb up well, if at all. The southern sweet onions grow better in our climate.

Is there an onion variety name on the bag?

I'm going to link the Oklahoma Garden Planning Guide on a separate thread with that name in the subject line so it can be found later on via a search. Go to that thread and look at the planting dates. When there is a range of dates, you go with the earlier part of the range in southern OK and the later part of the range in northern OK.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:02PM
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tulsabrian(7)

You should be able to plant onions now ... Dawn can correct me if she disagrees :-) My understanding is for OK, the planting time is mid-Feb to mid-March. It's also important you bought short or intermediate day onions ... long day onions are grown in the north.

Brian

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:05PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Brian,

When I said Jan.-Feb., I guess I was thinking more about my end of Oklahoma than your end of it, and no, I am not going to disagree with you. There are years that it is cold in Feb. and I don't even get mine in until March and I am way, way down south. But, there's other years I've planted in early January and had a fine crop, so I hate to even try to say what the "best" date would be. LOL

I hope they are short or intermediates too.

Every year when I harvest onions, I deliberately leave some of them (several dozen) in the ground to flower the following year. The little beneficial insects LOVE onion flowers. Well, some of those second-year onions are about to bloom and it seems really, really early for that. Gardening is such an adventure.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:17PM
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tulsabrian(7)

LOL ... you must have posted your original response when I was typing mine. I was only going by what I did last year ... and what OK State Univeristy listed ... I'm no expert on OK gardening so I would tell Amanda to go by what you think. This has also been such a warm witner we probably could have planted stuff in December and it would have done fine. Strangest weather I've ever seen ... and I've lived in 9 different states scattered across the US.

On a different note ... besides bermuda, I have a yard full of wild onions ... and they appear to be spreading like wildfire. Since I don't know a darn thing about them, any comments? Just wondering if I should kill them off or ignore them.

Brian

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 5:32AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Brian,

When Trooper180 told me he planted his onions in January, I wanted to plant mine then.....but since they were ordered from Dixondale and not coming until Feb., I had to be patient and wait! This would have been a GREAT year for sneaking in some extra early cool-season plantings if only we'd known as horrendous cold front was not going to arrive. It has been the oddest winter weather I've ever seen too, but I've only lived in North Texas and Southern Oklahoma where the weather is pretty much the same no matter which side of the Red River you're on. (Well, actually when we moved from Fort Worth to Marietta, we ended up with both slightly colder winter weather and slightly hotter summer weather, so we lost out all around weatherwise.)

About those little wild onions.....how much do you value having a perfect yard? The only way I have ever been able to "control" them is to hand dig them in order to remove the little root which is, indeed, a small bulb-type thing. Unless you have almost pure sand, you can't pull them up because the foliage tears away from the root and the root resprouts.

In our vegetable garden, I tried to remove them all the first year when we rototilled and built the beds and I did get most of them, but I still had to dig out a few every spring for the first 3 or 4 years. It was amazing how deep the bulbs were in the soil--often 6" or more below the surface, so on some of them I had to dig and dig and dig. So, in the veggie garden we have none, but on the remaining 14 acres we have tons. I just treat them as a "sign of spring" and leave them alone, but I am in a very rural area where nobody much cares what you have, or don't have, in your yard. Most of us live so far back from the county road that you can't even see someone's yard from the road anyway.

If you are in an urban or suburban area where there is intense pressure to have "a perfect lawn", you might want to try to get rid of them, but I wish you luck with that! Some people will cut the lawn with a mower and then spray the onions with a 2-4-D type weedkiller immediately thereafter so the cut ends of the plant will soak up the weed killer. Others apply Round-Up with a brush or very small sprayer, but that has the potential to leave dead rings in your yard. I've seen Image (normally used for nutsedge) recommended for wild onions and wild garlic, but most people I've known who tried it got less than stellar results.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 8:22AM
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tulsabrian(7)

A perfect lawn is not something I strive for although I agree, in city settings there is definitely pressure to have one. Fortunately I'm a farm brat from the north and it's never been an issue for me. The bermuda, on the other hand, is an issue ... but for other reasons pertaining to gardens. Since they're not hurting anything I'll ignore them ... they disappear for the year after a few mowings ... I just wanted to make sure I wasn't ending up with another problem like the bermuda.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 8:48AM
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sopamanda(7)

Drat. They're "onion sets-yellow". Why on earth do they sell things that don't do well around here???!!!

Grr...

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 9:26AM
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devilwoman(7a Warr Acres OK)

What about baby onion plants I started from seed? They have leaves 2-3" tall now. I still have to weed the bed and add the compost I got for it. If I were to start hardening them off now they could likely be ready to plant by the time I get the bed ready this week, but we are expecting a possible freeze late this coming week. If I got them hardened off and planted this week would a freeze kill them? Oh, and these are bunching green onions not bulb onions.

Debra

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 9:58AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Sopamanda,

Is there anything on the package to give you a clue as to their origin? If there is not a variety name, is there any info like "days to maturity" or whether they are "sweet" or "storage" onions? Or, does it say where the onion sets were packaged or grown?

This year I did see one display of onion sets that said "Southern Sweet Onion Sets" on the front of the package and that's the first time I've ever seen that--so clearly at least one firm is trying to give southern gardeners onion sets that are the right ones for this area.

Debra,

I generally don't grow onion from seed, but George grows Yellow of Parma and I am sure others who post here also grow some or all of their onions from seed, so maybe one of them can advise you. I've direct sown bunching onions into the ground in very cold weather (probably in Feb. or early Mar.) and they did just fine. I don't think an occasional bit of cold will hurt them, especially while small. The issue with cold is that prolonged cold exposure once the plants are the diameter of a pencil can lead to cold-induced dormancy followed by bolting (the formation of flowers and seedstalks) once temperatures return to normal.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 10:37AM
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sopamanda(7)

Info: Onion sets-Yellow. 80 bulbs.
Harvest time: late summer
Plant height: 4"-6"
bulb size: no. 1
Selected and packed by Van Zyverden
Grown from cultivated stock

Are they worth plopping in the ground or should I see if I can find others?

Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:34AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Amanda,

Well, only you can decide that. I wouldn't plant them, but that is based on trying onions from sets a couple of decades ago and not being happy with their growth or performance. Your results could be entirely different.

Since they are not labeled with the variety name, I suspect they are "hot" or "storage" onions merely because that is the type most often sold as sets, and I feel like a company would be more likely to label sweet onion sets if that's what they were simply because of their uniqueness.

If you have the space to plant a row of them, then why not plant them and see what you get? Otherwise, you'll never know whether or not they'll grow for you. After all, onions sets could have improved in the 20 or so years since I tried them. : ) Then, in order to "guarantee" you get onions, plant some from transplants. The stores still should have plenty. You'll find them in little bundles, often in boxes or crates made of very thin wood, at garden centers, feed stores, the lawn and garden centers at big box stores, etc. If you like sweet onions, plant something like Texas 1015Y (aka Texas Supersweet), Candy, Super Star, Contessa or Bonnie's White or Yellow Granex. Almost any white or yellow onion sold in bundles of tiny plants in Oklahoma ought to be sweet onions because that is what grows best here.

Dawn

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 11:05AM
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dyanna

Have planted a variety of onions from seed over the past 2 years- all with great success. Late fall plantings survived overwinter and I've been pulling and eating them for months.
Current seedlings up about 3 inches high- planted a few weeks ago.

Have almost gave up on planting sets because seeding is so much cheaper and has worked so well.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 5:42PM
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chickencoupe

I have a bulb in my onion basket with 4" sprouts. I've never seen a store-bought onion do so well. I guess I'll stick it in the ground. I did a search for "when to plant onions in Oklahoma" and here it is. Guess I'll bump it.

*hugs* to all

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 10:52PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Bon,

Your sprouted onion will flower this spring and the flowers will attract beneficial insects like crazy. I always try to leave a few onions and a few carrots in the garden each year so they can flower the following year. They tend to flower pretty early in spring and that makes the beneficial insects really happy.

For years I left some Southern Belle onions alone in sandy soil under the pecan tree and they reseeded themselves and bloomed every spring. I never harvested from those onions and just let them bloom for the wild things. I think the drought of 2011 got them though, so I'll put a few onions in that area this year when I plant and will let them naturalize themselves there.

Dawn

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:13AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Bon,

Your sprouted onion will flower this spring and the flowers will attract beneficial insects like crazy. I always try to leave a few onions and a few carrots in the garden each year so they can flower the following year. They tend to flower pretty early in spring and that makes the beneficial insects really happy.

For years I left some Southern Belle onions alone in sandy soil under the pecan tree and they reseeded themselves and bloomed every spring. I never harvested from those onions and just let them bloom for the wild things. I think the drought of 2011 got them though, so I'll put a few onions in that area this year when I plant and will let them naturalize themselves there.

Dawn

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:14AM
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