Let's Evaluate Dixondale Onions

seedmama(7)June 15, 2011

I'll go first. Mine did very poorly. In fact, they didn't grow at all. I attribute this in large part to the fact I never got them in the ground.

The ones I gave to my parents and friends did well. I'm curious about the rest of you? Was this a good year. Was it worth the effort doing the group purchase? Please speak up whether your response is positive or negative. I'm really interested in evaluating the interest level in doing this next year.

My husband seems to think I spent $25 bucks and got nothing for it. I disagree. I had a blast coordinating it, and it gave me a chance to converse with several people on the forum I might not have met otherwise. The unfortunate timing of starting a new job, coupled with the fire, meant there were some things that just didn't get done. Onions were one of them. I'm so happy to have a job, I can live with it.

There are three things I would do differently. First, I would nail down the price of the leeks. The jello answers I got from Dixondale made it very difficult for me to communicate on pricing. Second I would offer only full bunches of leeks. The half bunches also complicated pricing. Third, I would collect all the money upfront before orders were placed. This is not because I had collections issues, because I didn't. It is because keeping track of three different ways to pay from four different delivery methods took too much time. I would need it to be simpler.

How about you? Would you order from Dixondale again? Would you participate in a group order?

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OK, mine very well. Last year, I had a bunch of them bolt. This year I had one bolt---last week. Thought that was odd. I only planted Candy. About 180 of them. I probably harvested 165-170 baseball size or bigger. I had some as big as softballs and probably would have had more if I had taken a little better care of them. I just sprayed them down occassionally and kept them weeded pretty well.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 4:44PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

With the exception of Texas 1015Y which contracted bacterial soft rot after hail damage in..hmmm....probably early April....they all did fine.

It was our best onion harvest ever. Slightly better than our previous best harvest in 2008. This is especially noteworthy because virtually no rain fell in April and I did not water the onions much at all and they grew anyway. They did get good rainfall (about 6") in May.

I tried to baby the Texas 1015Ys along once I suspected they were sick, but there's not much you can do with bacterial soft rot, so I finally harvested them early. I threw about 1/3 on the compost pile and tried to cure the rest, but eventually almost all of them ended up on the compost pile. Soft rot is just one of those things that happens sometimes.

Southern Belle Red produced very well. None bolted. None died. None had bacterial soft rot even though they grew right beside the Texas 1015Ys. Average size probably was tennis ball to baseball sized.

Contessa was the same as Southern Belle red, with great production, no losses, no disease and a great harvest. They were baseball sized to slightly larger.

Candy performed well. No bolting, no plant death, no disease. They averaged between baseball and softball sized and I am very pleased with them.

Super Star outperformed everyone. (FYI--it is the only onion variety ever to be named an All American Selection.) There was no death, no disease, no bolting. They mostly were the size of softballs.

Red Candy Apple performed better this year than it has in past years. After reading Bruce's note to northern growers that they needed to 'push' RCA along with extra nitrogen to get them to size up well, I decided to try it myself. I gave them a side dressing of high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer (33-0-0) in mid-May and they responded well to it. It likely would have been more effective if I'd used it in mid-April. Most of the RCAs were baseball sized and a few were significantly larger.

The Short Day types have cured and are in storage. The Intermediate Day types are about 2/3s of the way through the curing process.

We pulled and ate some of each type as green onions, but we left most to mature to full size and we were rewarded with hundreds and hundreds of onions. I'm going to freeze a lot, dehydrate some, have already given away quite a few and think we'll have more than enough stored dry to get us through the next few months. If we'd had half the harvest this year, we'd still have more than we need. Next year, I should be reasonable and only plant 3 bundles, but y'all know me well enough to know I probably will plant 6 again.

The Lancelot leeks performed incredibly well and got huge. I lost 3 or 4 in March...they just withered and died, but the rest were wonderful. It was a great leek year.

What was most notable about this year was the lack of bolting, and I know a lot of us worried about the onions potentially bolting because of the oddball seesawing of hot and cold temps in March and April, but the onions performed like champs. It is really rare that I have absolutely 0% bolting so I am terribly pleased.

Thanks, Seedmama, for coordinating the onion and leek order. Of course, y'all know me, I would have ordered Dixondale regardless. I used to buy Dixondale onions in Texas a long time ago, but couldn't find them in stores here after we moved here, so was delighted when I learned I could order them online. I believe I've been ordering them online for about 6 or 7 years now. I do want to say that anytime Dixondale onions have underperformed, it has been because of the weather, and not the fault of Dixondale. I am a true believer in Dixondale's plant quality and don't even think about buying my onion plants from any other supplier.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 5:43PM
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My opinion - yes, I'd do it again.

I ordered lots (5 or 6 bunches?)of Bermuda, 1 bunch of Red Candy, 1 short day sampler and one intermediate sampler. I got them in the ground on Feb. 28. Only fertilized when I planted them. They've done really, really well. Most have sized up nicely. We still have some candy's and intermediates to harvest, but right now the drying tables are FULL!

I did have about a 10% bolting rate and that was all weather related. Just meant we had table onions early. I've purchased Dixondale onions locally before, but they've NEVER done as well as the ones I got from our group order. I think it was because ours stayed down in Texas where it was warmer for a longer period than the ones shipped here for retail sales.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:35PM
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First I can't fairly evaluate my onion crop yet. And yes my crop has experienced many weather conditions. So alot of my opinion has been formed over the last 3-4 years along with what I'm seeing so far this year. And before I start I want to say overall the health of the plants from Dixondale has been great. I have been a little disappointed in the size variations the last two year. I had whole bundles this year where the plants were from maybe 1/8" to 3/16". Very small. These bundles had large numbers in them. Then Yellow Granex in particular were huge. Big enough to eat at green onions or bigger when they arrived. They were the only Dixondale onions I had that bolted. The only other variety that bolted was Sweet Red California from a different source.
The only onions about finished are the Yellow Granex. They have performed well in the past. This year there was small bulbs on them when they arrived and they haven't done well at all. The hail just caused them to finish dying. After 2 dismal years with 1015Y I didn't grow it this year.

Candy has done fair here in the past and looks to be about the same this year. Super Star has produced large bulbs in the past and I expect the same this year. By far the best onion that they offer for my region. Red Candy Apple never produced well for me and several other growers in this region. The best red I ever grew here from Dixondale was Red Bull and they quit offering it. I'm growing Mars again this year but not a sweet red which I'm looking for. Yellow Sweet Spanish has done very well here the last 2 years and looks good this year. I'm also growing Walla Walla and Alisa Craig. And both look good so far. Sometimes the long day varieties bulb up nice and other years they don't get as huge.
The people at Dixondale are great to work with. I've talked to them and they don't feel they have enough business in this area to warrant offering varieties that will grow well here. So I've decided I may order Super Star and Yellow Sweet Spanish from them next year. And either start varieties developed for this area from a CO source or buy plants elsewhere. I can't justify using precious water during this extreme dry period on varieties that will likely not perform well. I saw a greenhouse had almost 3 boxes for Dixondale onion plants almost full about 2 weeks ago. Guess due to poor performance in the past most won't buy Dixondale plants when they come in. The only red Intermediate they offer is Candy Apple Red and it is a very poor performer here. I gave it 2 years. And my soil is high in N to start with and I side dressed with N and still no size. About 1/3 the size of Super Star.

If they offered varieties that would consistently perform here I would continue to order from them as they offer the best customer service and plants of excellent quality. I will see how those I start and buy elsewhere do. I may end up coming back but feel I need to explore some and see if I can find something that does well in this area on a consistent basis. Especially a good sweet Red. Many of the growers I know are buying seeds from the CO source I mentioned above if they are willing to start their own. But most growers don't want to mess with starting plants. Jay

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:22PM
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I figure i had a pretty good year with the onions. I had some bolt and some die and some got bigger.Candy did the best out of the ones i planted. I was not in the group buy as i had a few cases ordered for the store.

I know the weather was most of the trouble.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:47PM
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I did not have a huge success but it wasn't the fault of the product. I had too much rain at one time, then the weeds grew almost overnight and it was too wet to get them out for awhile. For days it seemed to be wet and cloudy, then when the weather changed, it just seemed to change overnight. I probably had 12-15 plants bolt out of 4 bunches so that part wasn't too bad.

I probably would not buy Red Candy Apple again. I might buy the assorted pack that has a few in it so I could give them another chance, but I was not impressed with them this year. They were small onions and somewhat hot.

Of course I would buy onions again in a group purchase, but I would make some changes to the planting location and would probably put them in a raised bed so I could have better control of the moisture.

As for leeks, I doubt that I would order them again. I had asked for a full bunch but somewhere along the way we got mixed up and I only got half. I only paid for half, so no complaints. Mine are still in the ground, but I will probably just plant seed in the future so I can play with the 'plant out' date a bit.

Part of my onions (mostly Candy) are still in the ground. They have fallen over but still have lots of green leaves and don't appear to be finished.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:49PM
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Dale Putnam(z6/7oklahoma)

The Texas 1015s & red candy apple did well. My wife loves fresh onions for salad, which we had all during April & May. Now we have nearly 50 on the drying table, which seems to be a good harvest.
The leeks are still growing and vary from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in diameter. It may be August or September before harvest.
I would buy Dixondale again.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:51PM
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funny that you should ask this today. I was thinking today that I would post and thank you for organizing the group purchase.
My onions did well. I would say that this was my best year. I think that they would have been even better if the weather had not been so lousy. Also, I have had prob. with my garden soil, so I feel like I am just now getting it into a decent shape. The part where I had my onions was very hard. The onions grew to be mal-formed, as if there were rocks and clods mixed in. I bought Candy, Red Candy apple and Superstar.
I had to dig my onions on Saturday. The tops had fallen over a few days before, and did not seem like they were going to straighten up. Would have liked to leave them another week or so, but they are a nice size. Rain was forecast so I put them on a huge screen on sawhorses. I go by and admire them every day. Might not order Red Candy Apple again. I like having a red one, so I might have to consider another. I think I bought Southern belle last year, but it was an awful onion year for me so I can't really judge by that.
overall, I think I had only 2 onions bolt, (Candy) and I planted over 200.
I am going to have the onions in a different place next year. Going to work on that all this summer. I would do a group buy again.
I thank you again for organizing and doing it.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 12:36AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

I spent less than $3 on Dixondale onions this year and I got WAY more than my money's worth.

I bought 2 bunches from Farmer's Feed in Sapulpa for $1.xx (I think they were about $1.40 each). I also got a few from Dody...maybe 10.

I have harvested or will harvest probably 70-80 great onions. Some of mine bolted so I understand they won't store well, but we eat onions like crazy here and I don't expect them to last more than a couple of months anyway.

Onions are on my MUST GROW list next year. I'm thinking I got at least $30 worth of onions for my $3 investment.

I don't think I'd participate in a group buy, because I think (?) I paid less through the retail store than you all did through the group buy.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 10:13AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


If I could find them locally, I'd buy them locally too. All the stores within 50 or 60 miles of us sell nothing but Bonnie Plants any more, although some of them carried Dixondale back in the day before Bonnie plants starting taking over the world. I have nothing against BP, but I just don't like seeing anyone dominate the market the way they do.

I know the conventional wisdom is that sweet onions only store for a couple of months, but most years (especially dry years) I cure mine for 2 or 3 weeks before storing them and they last forever. Often, we still have good onions from our spring garden in December, January or February. Usually by late Jan. or early Feb., though, they are starting to sprout green foliage. Sometimes, when they do that, I take them outside and plant them. The onion flowers are as pretty as many ornamental alliums and the little beneficial insects love them and appreciate them because not much is blooming at that time of year.

I do think that one reason mine store so well and for so long most years is that often our summers have low humidity here whereas y'all have a lot more humidity up there.

The last time I had an onion crop about the same size as this one, I sliced or chopped a lot of them to use in cooking and those lasted us for three years.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 10:28AM
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Thank you Seedmama for coordinating the onion and leek order. Yes I will go with the group order again and agree with all the protocols you have defined.

I am very happy with Onion and Garlic harvest this year. They have performed in the following order Candy, Contessa, Superstar, 1015Y Texas Supersweet, Hybrid Southern Belle Red and Red Candy Apple. Red onions are smaller than white and yellow. We have harvested green onions as well. As you noticed onions spread everywhere in that garden that day. See attached picture of the our onion harvest;

Regards -Chandra

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 10:15AM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Chandra and Busy, those are beautiful!! Busy, I notice yours are still really green-topped. Is that how you normally harvest or was it a weather-pressured harvest thing? I'm still fairly inexperienced with onions so just wondering since all I've read says to not harvest until the tops have dried.

I wasn't in the group order and likely would not be in future years, either, as shipping + the larger amount I'd buy don't amount to much of a price break for me. But.... My Dixondale onions are looking to have an incredible year! They're all still happily in the ground now but the short day varieties are sizing up very nicely, looking like they're thinking about the end nearing. I can't wait.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 10:28AM
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Carol, My computer with my Dixondale records has been "in the shop" since the end of April. I finally have it back so I can respond to your comment about leeks. And I'm really glad, because this has really been on my mind. It doesn't wake me up at night, but it's one of the things I think about when other things wake me up.

My records show you both requested a full order of leeks and paid for a full order. I have no idea how many you actually got, and I wonder if other "full order" people feel they got their full count. Since none of my stuff ever got planted, I can't say how many I got. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to send you a refund for the full amount, and I insist. I always try to do the right thing, and here's an opportunity. I do wish you had spoken up when it happened. I would have shipped you mine. I am terribly sorry this happened, and also sorry it has taken me so long to check my records. I knew better than to send the computer with a friend who was due to have his fifth child in three days, but I didn't have any other alternatives.

The whole leek portion of the project gave me an uncomfortable feeling. If I decide to do this again next year, I'm going to tell Dixondale how we're going to do the leek business or we won't do it at all. If they can have straightforward pricing on their onions, they can do it on their leeks. In my mind, this project was partly about getting good pricing, and partly about having a pre-Spring Fling feel good. The leeks, in general, dampened my feel good.

Watch your mail!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 7:10PM
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seedmama - Don't you dare! I do think I ordered a full one but I don't think I paid for a full one. Whether I did or not, it makes no difference. Don't let ANYTHING I do or say upset you, because it is never meant to. I consider you a great friend and would never want to upset you.

I have ordered leeks from them twice and they didn't do well either time, yet I love their onions. I will continue to order onions, but was just saying that since leeks had not been successful in my garden, it didn't hurt that I didn't plant many. Forget the whole thing. Your honor is not at stake here. LOL

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 7:35PM
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owiebrain, yes it was a weather related harvest. I was affraid they would rot.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 8:03PM
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Carol, You didn't upset me at all. But it is a matter of doing the right thing. Thing only thing I'm upset about is that it took me this long to be able to check my records.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 9:13PM
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And now, to beat a dead horse. I'm looking at your order compared to the order of someone you were kind enough to transport for. Your orders were very similar, except she ordered 1/2 a bunch. I wonder if your sacks got switched along the way? Check your mail.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:13PM
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I bought Dixondale, but purchased mine locally (from Horn Seed)...I bought the Texas 1015s, planted roughly 45, harvested about 40...lost a few to rot. I've never planted onions before but this was fun!!
Question, though...I'm in OKC and pulled mine up at least a month ago. The tops had fallen over (90%), and most were dried...should I have left them there to cook?!? I've had them drying in my garage and they're just fine - most are medium-sized...would they really have gotten larger?

Newbie Sharon

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 9:40PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Sharon, If the tops had fallen over and were soft and were dried, they were done.

Onions bulb in response to daylength, so they begin to bulb when the correct number of daylight hours tell them to. The size of the bulbs is determined by the number of leaves the plants have before bulbing begins. To get really large onions, you need to have about 12 or 13 really large leaves on each plant. Fifteen is even better and gives you exceptionally large onions. Most of mine this year had between 12 and 15 leaves.

The way to get larger onions is to plant as early as you reasonably can, and to keep them well-watered. Planting them into a bed well-enriched with nitrogen will give you lots of foliage which ultimately gives you big bulbs. The earlier you plant them and the more attention you pay to nutrition (nitrogen is a must for big foliage that will give you big bulbs) and watering, the bigger the onion bulbs will be. Once they start bulbing up, their ultimate size already has been pre-determined. Thus, leaving them in the ground wouldn't have let them get larger, and it sounds like their necks were plenty dry already if they had fallen over and turned brown.

If they've been drying in the garage for a month, they should be good and dry now and you can move them inside if you want.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 10:18PM
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Thanks, Dawn....I'd forgotten that I'd gotten mine in kind of late...I did feed them and keep them well-watered. No complaints - I think they're great! I braided up a couple of bunches for Katie to take, gave my folks a fair amount, and mine are good...they just haven't sprouted legs to walk themselves inside yet (!) This heat has me fairly unmotivated :P


    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 1:32AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You're welcome, Sharon.

Until you mentioned, I had forgotten you'd planted them a little late too.

I love growing onions and they rarely give me trouble except in one of those very wet years like 2007 where they struggled with excess moisture even in raised beds.

If your onions sprout legs and walk, you can patent them a make a million dollars.

I've waited for weeks for some of my onions to chop and slice themselves, put themselves in freezer ziplocks and put themselves in the freezer. It hasn't happened yet. Since the harvest was so abundant, I want to chop and freeze a lot of them for winter cooking, but the fires have been interfering a bit in that process. Since they won't do it themselves, I've been doing a bit here and there, but have a lot left to process. So far, I've put up about 85 1/2-cup bags of chopped onions. Today I'm going to attempt to put up a lot of bags of sliced onions and sliced green peppers, and roasted jalapenos. Waiting for all of them to process themselves hasn't proven to be very effective.

In a good onion year we get far more than we can use fresh, so freezing them for cooking has worked out very well for us....and it helps carry us through the bad years when it rains nonstop and the onions don't do well. I'd give my right arm for some nonstop rain right now though.

I am so far beyond bring 'unmotivated' that it is not funny. If I spend a half-hour outside in the early morning and late evening, I feel like I've been outside for about as long as I can stand to be out there. I really miss spending hours in the garden, but in this weather, that's just not going to happen! I've really been trying to stay inside as much as possible because I get too much heat when out at wildland fires, and some of the ones we've had have kept us out there for 3 or 4 hours or even 6 or 8 hours. It is hard for me to tolerate that much heat if I've already been out in the yard and garden a lot on any given day.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 9:04AM
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A great onion year here, we had a very bountiful harvest from the onions sourced from our Dixondale group order.

I DO wish I had seen this tidbit from Dawn earlier, say in April lol:
After reading Bruce's note to northern growers that they needed to 'push' RCA along with extra nitrogen to get them to size up well, I decided to try it myself. I gave them a side dressing of high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer (33-0-0) in mid-May and they responded well to it. It likely would have been more effective if I'd used it in mid-April.

Exactly right - the red were much smaller than the other onions, but still delicious.

I have no issue prepaying for next year's onions, should you decide to brave another group order. I totally appreciate the effort and the savings that we all received.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 1:39PM
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Dawn after I spend 2-5 hours in an engine room on the catwalk where a thermometer reads 150-160 degrees F when I get home I don't mind the garden at all. I can go out there and relax and it actually feels cooler. Got called out at 8:30 Wed evening and got home at 6 Thursday morning. Was hot in the engine room even in the early morning hours. We have been several degrees cooler the last 2 days than they had predicted. A high yesterday of 91, 89 today and with a low of 66 this morning hopefully I'll get some more fruit set. Got several light shower yesterday and this morning but they didn't amount to much. But sure raised the humidity. Jay

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 7:23PM
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Well Jay, I guess that proves that everything is relative. You are strong man to endure those temps. They would likely be picking me up from under that catwalk.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 10:14PM
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