Trouble with onions

todancewithwolves(Z9 CA)May 14, 2007

This is my second year trying to grow onions and garlic. Once again they are not doing much. What am I doing wrong?

The garlic has scraggly green stems and the bulb is not filling out.

The yellow onions are showing the behavior of a spring onion. They are not filling out.

Soil is good, in full sun.

Many thanks in advance.


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Hi Edna,

Sorry to take so long to post, but I have been having problems with roll-down ads covering my screen every time I try to log onto GW. I read in a computer magazine that if you click on those ads to close them, they stick you with spyware, so I just close the entire program and try again later. Anyway. . . .

I too have planted onions (actually shallots) and garlics this year. My garlic stems were also scraggly, and when I dug one up, the bulbs were small, but maybe more filled out than what you got. I figured that I just didn't have them in the ground long enough yet, so I put the bulb back in and decided to wait a few weeks before I try to dig them again.

This was the first time I tried them; however, I'm going on the advice of Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening (a wonderful book), which says, "Start to pull and eat them in early May. When necks weaken and tops begin to fall over (usually before the end of May), turn off the drip system to let them cure. Dig up the remainder of the bulbs when the tops die." (p. 284)

Another thought is the type of onions you planted. Again, I'm merely quoting from Pat Welsh rather than from my own experience, but since no one else has posted, I hope this information is helpful:

"No long-day varieties can possibly receive enough hours of daylight in Sothern California to make a bulb. If you plant them your crop will always fail, and yet you can often find seeds of long-day onions on local seed racks, and almost all onion sets are of the long-day types. These sets can be used only for growing scallions (green onions). Here, in order to get the best globe onions, we must plant seeds of short-day (southern varieties) in fall or, alternativeley, plant intermediate varieties in late winter."

I don't want to quote the whole book, being mindful of copyright laws, but there is an entire section on the subject. Hope this information is useful.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 1:02PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Edna, there is also an allium forum on GW which is for both ornamental and edible, maybe you can confirm Susan's thoughts?

I grow short season onion and any kind of garlic from the store in my "allium" bed. It is well ammended with manure, leaf mold, and then topped up with some bone meal and dry fish emultion stuff. They did super well here this year. I plant the garlic in November, onions anytime because I prefer multipliers, not bulbers.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 3:48PM
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Garlic is suppose to be pulled after the leaves and stalk turn yellow/brown. Here in N.J. that is usually around early July. Are cutting off the garlic scapes when they curl? ( The flower stem?) We only grow Shallots (as far as onions go) as they aren't pulled until after the greens are yellowed also, which is right about now. All of our Alliums are planted in mid-late October. With very light layering of mulch on top.Oh, I also cut the flower stem from the shallots as well, once the flower bud forms.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 10:44AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I think I read somewhere that onions should be planted very shallowly (1 inch). Deeper planting makes scallions.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 2:25PM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

Scallions are basically just immature onions. If you're growing onions from sets, then plant them around 1.5 inches deep. Regarding garlic scapes, yes, definitely snap them off. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I harvested this year's garlic. There were a couple scapes that I missed. The heads on those plants were markedly smaller - probably by about 30% or more. Definitely snap off the scapes... and eat them! Yum.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 1:49PM
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ninjabut(USDA z 8,CA)

I went to a winter vege class and I believe that the Master Gardener said to plant garlic Oct 1 (here in zone 8ish) and harvest in spring.
Not sure about onions. NT

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 8:50PM
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Onions and garlic like peat moss. They like acid soil conditions. Onions are best planted in early spring, and garlic should be planted in fall. Onions are good companion plants for roses. I have an onion planted with each of my rose bushes, because the roses benefit from the chemistry of an onion.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 8:04AM
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