Onion News

digit(ID/WA)August 6, 2008

I like onions. I didn't realize how much onions we had as a kid until I went off on my own. Then I learned that I ate a good deal more in my diet than most folks. They were always an important part of meals every time I went home. Ours is a small family; we are close; nobody visits often.

Anywho, it was important for me to be an onion grower and move beyond that paper bag of unidentified "sets" that I'd bring home every March from the hardware store. Walla Walla Sweets were the standard and I set out every year to grow some.

Growing from plants wasn't too difficult once I realized that onions really DO need lots of fertilizer. Growing from seed . . . was not so easy.

I couldn't grow sweet onions of decent size if they were direct-seeded to the garden in the Spring. Still can't. But, I learned that in Walla Walla - the farmers plant seed in August.

My gardens aren't far from WW but Winters are a bit more severe. Probably 2 times out of 3, I'd get mostly (sometimes all :o( the plants bolting to seed in May!!

For the last couple of years, I've planted Walla Walla seed in flats in the greenhouse in March. They are a little tedious to transplant but it works!

Gotta admit . . . the plants ordered from Dixondale Farms outperform 'em. Or, at least, they have. But, homegrown hasn't been far behind in size even if they have never bulbed-up as early.

I grew Mars & Alisa Craig from Dixondale this year. The Walla Walla did best of either. Mars didn't get much of a chance in 'o8. In 'o7 they were fine and I appreciated their better keeping qualities. This year, they must just be in too much shade. And for that reason or another, a good number have bolted to seed. Whatever the reason, the more shaded the Mars plants are - the smaller the bulbs, down to darn-near nothin'.

Alisa Craig surprised me. I expected a huge, not necessarily very tasty onion. They taste fine but the Walla Walla's are generally quite a bit larger.

I've grown Nebuka and Tokyo White onions (& a few others) for a better quality green onion than what sets produce. This year, I've got 2 new ones from Evergreen Seed Company - 4 Seasons and Kujo. These nonbulbing Asian onions are great! And, these 2 are quite different, one from the other.

I guess I'd pick 4 Seasons as a superior scallion in my garden. They are just real tender things.

Sweet onion enchiladas for lunch again today . . . ;o)


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A friend of mine grows Candy onions from seeds. She is up on a bench out of Corvallis and they get large and very tasty. She starts the seed indoors in January. I have tried growing them from seed and from plants she gave me and I still couldnt't get any size so think it must be the dirt. She doesn't have alkalai like I do. I think they rival Wala Wala and keep a lot longer.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 11:02PM
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david52 Zone 6

I'm growing Candy slips from Dixondale, and they're all at least base ball sized, some soft ball. They're still growing.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 9:46AM
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nancy_in_co(z5 CO)

I am another onion lover but what I really love are grilled leeks. I have tried to grow leeks from seed for the past 2 years with very limited success. They just don't get large enough to grill. Any suggestions on the leek front?

Many thanks, Nancy

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 1:08PM
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aliceg8(CO 5)

Digit, I'm with you. I love onions!

I tried to grow the plant starts from the nursery last year with now success. This year I ordered seed for the Candy variety that others have mentioned on this thread. I planted directly outdoors and they germinated very well. The largest of them is now somewhere between golf ball and base ball size. They seem to really be putting on some growth in the last week or so.

One thing I was worried about... the bulbs seem to be showing more and more above the soil as the grow. Is this ok? I read somewhere that onions like grass clippings as a mulch, so I've put down a very thin layer of that. Any other tips or advice anyone?


    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 5:56PM
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Funny that there's been so much interest in the "Candy" variety. Yep, I've grown it too but only allowed most to get to scallion size. Actually, it didn't get much bigger - same problem as with the Walla Walla for me - direct-seeding in the Spring gives me green onions and that's about it.

Candy was good and the sweetness lived up to its name. Maybe I'll try starting it in the greenhouse next year and see if it can give Walla Walla a run for the money!

Green shoulders are the only thing I can think of with regards to mulching. That and the shallow roots of onions require good soil moisture. I don't know if mulching helps control green shoulders but imagine so. For the most part, I don't mulch the onions. Pulling weeds is my life . . . okay, I hate it but trying to get mulch around tiny onion seedlings is really, really tuff.

I've only grown leeks for a few years. The first was a bumper crop of big beauties. They were Lancelot. I grew Lancelot and another the next year and both did fine but Lance was bigger. Last year, I forgot to order seed and picked up "American Flag" at the garden center.

Somebody should sue companies that take advantage of our patriotic tendencies!! The leeks in '07 were miserable things. This year it was back to Lancelot.

They look thin right now but there's a consistent "thinness" to 'em which is somehow encouraging. They are in fairly fertile soil and I've given them a shot of fish emulsion twice. This weekend, they'll get another shot . . . I'm reasonably confident but, as with all things, lose track of growth relative to the calendar. I was chewing my nails a few weeks ago out of concern that the sweet onions would just bulb-up without making decent growth. I think leeks just keep growing and growing and growing thru the season.

About these onion things - - they are just leaves. The roots are, well, the roots. Onion bulbs are leaves. Think lush growth . . .

Being popular is important. Otherwise people might not like you. - Mimi Pond

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 10:18PM
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david52 Zone 6

I'm trying leeks for the first time this year, and bought a couple of bundles of slips from Dixondale, and set them out along with the onion slips. They're growing pretty well. I read that 2" spacing was plenty, so I did that. Now, I think 4" would be better. I also planted them along side one of my cattle panels, which may have shaded them a bit too much, because the second row out are growing a whole lot faster. We're picking them at 1" diameter, and they're still growing.

I've now grown onion and shallot from seed with some success, but I start them in early Feb in the greenhouse. I used the standard, 2" 6-pack cells, sprinkled seeds all over them to make up a full tray, and just kept the top moist, and off they go. An occasional shot of Miracle grow, and by April, they're all 2 mm slips. It's pretty easy to untangle the roots with out too much damage.

Speak more of grilled leeks. We're cranking up the charcoal for a flank steak tonight.....

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 1:12PM
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I think I dood it! (At least as far as a few things, I dood. ;o)

I carried home the last of the Walla Wallas purchased as plants from Dixondale a few days ago. And, we continue to harvest the Walla Wallas that started off in our greenhouse this Spring. Walla Wallas from Dixondale were certainly larger - the largest from this last batch was 2 1/4 pounds but homegrown did good. Here's about the biggest of those grown start to finish (nearly 1 pound) with some examples from the Dixondale group:

Also, the Prisma shallots that grew from seed in the garden caught up with those grown from sets (Prisma on the right, set-grown - left). It looks like the Prisma made enuf growth they'll be able to be stored over Winter and make it back out there in 2009.

I honestly don't know if that's the best course. I assume they will divide and grow as sets from here on out. If they go to seed . . . I guess IÂll be in trouble since they are hybrids! Anyone know what route they might take?


    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 1:30PM
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