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Catawissa update

Posted by pnbrown z6.5 MA (My Page) on
Mon, May 9, 05 at 6:29

It turns out that walking onion (var. Catawissa) does reproduce in the far south, contrary to my earlier impression. I planted some bulbs in north-central fla around march 14, and of april 29 they were well into the bulbil-forming stage. I have agents checking on the progress, will update this thread later on. So it seems likely that day-lentgh is a non-factor for walking onions. The next question is whether or no the bulbils cure properly and can they stand a florida summer.


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RE: Catawissa update

The bulbils are harvested about the time they topple over. As to the stuff in the soil, I wouldn't wait very long as these tend to get smaller and then start to multiply underground soon after. Here, I replant the sperated tops in late September, for a harvest the following summer of both new bulbils and the ones in soil.


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RE: Catawissa update

I think you and I have been around on this before. I'm posting this for the benefit of those living in the south. You seem to have no such experience, and one would think it were obvious from my handle that I'm familiar with their culture in your area, as it is in fact practically the same as mine. And no, the bulbils are not harvested before toppling, if actually one doesn't, um, harvest or pluck them away. Here, and where thou art, if the bulbils stay in place they survive handily and resprout at their convenience - hence the term "walking onion". Whether or no they can survive the intense sun and high soil temperature combined with frequent heavy rain prompting them to sprout in the intense heat is what I shall discover. Some shall also be stored under cover and re-planted in oct or nov to see how that goes. Anyone in florida, southern georgia or the gulf coast who would like to experiment with this also may contact me for bulbils come late july.


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RE: Catawissa update

Pat
What do you think is best,let the topsets fall over before they are harvested or pick them off the plant before it falls over?
What about the underground bulbs?Would you wait until the plants fall over before digging or after?
Will these Catawissa do the -start to turn brown stem thing and then harvest both top and bottom when about half the leaf is dried and brown?
I think we had a thread on this before.
Martin-Can you give me the lowdown,you seem to have much experience with these.
thanks
Bill


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RE: Catawissa update

Actually, I think that this thread is mainly about growing Catawissas in the southern states, right? At the moment, sounds like they are doing good. Of course, that period was little different than late spring up here so everything did as one would expect them to do.

However, I have heard from a few down there who had them and "lost" them. Never heard how they became "lost". I'm thinking that the plant must complete one cycle and go dormant in the cool fall. The bulbs may not be able to do that in warm climates. Getting the thing from bulbil to more bulbils is no problem. The bulbil can be picked any time that it is close to its maximum size. That's about August here. The bulbils will quickly grow if planted back but then go dormant when cold comes. Would they just start over again for another cycle? I don't know but don't see any reason why not.

But, mature bulbs may be a different story. It seems that they have to have a dormant period under cool or cold conditions. Those may be the ones which are "lost" as they may cook during the steady diet of hot weather. That's the only thing that makes sense to me!

Martin


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RE: Catawissa update

Oh, I think it's definitely better to pick the topsets and select for large size when re-planting. I have a simple curiosity to see whether the plant can survive more or less unmolested in a hot southern climate, and if not can it be propogated by saving the topsets through the hot period. Martin, your theory may well be correct, as the mature bulbs that I brought down there had of course been through a winter here hanging in my basement exposed to much longer and lower temperature than will occur there, plus they were selected for size and vigor. I think it boils down to whether or no the summer will allow strong, healthy basal bulbs to occur, and even if they do, will they survive without the customary dormancy period? If the answer to those is no, then one would be limited to introducing seed-stock on a continual basis, as I don't imagine vigorous stock can be maintained through topsets alone. It may well be a similar case to potato-culture in florida, where the entire industry depends on seed from the north every year (that's why till modern days florida crackers didn't know what a white potato was). By the way, pardon my lack of paragraphs - the return key is broken.


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RE: Catawissa update

Sounds like a few weeks of refridgeration may be needed down south for the topsets.
Bill


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RE: Catawissa update

pnbrown,
Sorry to aggrevate you, but when I saw the a new post from z 5-6 I thought it was another person who was asking the same questions about walking onions. It seems that every day (and sometimes in a few hours) on these forums many new posters will put up messages that ask the same questions over and over, even though many are repeated numerous times. No one seems to bother doing searches for topics or subjects and content. The subject of this thread was for a 'Catawissa update' and when I read the post, it seemed like you were experimenting with growing these in the south, yet you indicated z 5-6 which is not the south. All I wanted to do is to point out what I do when I grow these here. My dad planted them here some 30 years ago, and since his death, I have taken over the whole garden did a lot of research, as well as having my brothers father in law (a true northern farmer in Salem NH) help with the many questions I had. Now these walking onions have been growing for many years by me, and every year, when the tops flop over, I pull off the clusters and keep the biggest ones for the later planting about mid September. I will not bother to reply to any more of your posts..


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RE: Catawissa update

No more replies? Is that a threat or a promise?!!!!

Martin


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RE: Catawissa update

Was it so hard to imagine that my primary residence is in Mass but I also spend time in other places? Obviously neither of us, ks or pn, is in need of a lecture on how to grow walking onions in new england. Also obviously, I wasn't asking for one. Make as many replies as you wish, even if unasked for or off-thread, but don't be surprised if taken to task for laziness (next time I recommend that you read the posting as well as the title of a thread), or pointless reponses. It's fine with me if you have no curiosity about horticulture outside of your area, and it should be fine with you if I have no interest in being educated about things I already know. If you know something unusual about growing walking onions in Mass - for instance have been able to produce true seed - please by all means let us know, on this thread or any other. Thanks, and I'm not really aggravated at all.


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RE: Catawissa update

for instance have been able to produce true seed
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What are you telling me now Pat??
Am I going to have a problem and not get true to type plants from the top bulbils or the undergroung bulbs?
Bill-just south of the N.H border


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RE: Catawissa update

I see it on several other GW forums as well. Generic reply which is barely pertaining to the question. The Melrose Mouth isn't the only one. There's been a few others but eventually most simply suffer "foot in mouth disease". It's not contagious! Regardless, it's Pat's thread and if Pat doesn't like what someone says on it, Pat can say so!

I've got an update on this topic. I sent some bulbils to a gardener in Virginia last September. 10 days into May, he's got large knobs on the top of thick stalks. He'll have bulbils showing in a week or so. My Catawissas are where they would be a real thick scallion or great dicing green onion for another week. Bulbils are almost a month away. I'm wondering what that extra month in Virginia may do. I don't think that there would be a problem as there is usually an actual winter, albeit a short one, in most parts of the state. But if they proved to be a dead flop, it wouldn't surprise me!

Martin


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RE: Catawissa update

Bill, I guess it's a question for a plant scientist with a specialty in alliums rather than a blowhard like myself but as I understand it walking onions will never produce true seed. Consequently there is no genetic variation from generations, as all the plants are clones. Which immediately raises the question of how there come to be different varieties of walking onions at all - as I said, we need a biologist for this answer.

Whether or no walking onion can reliably reproduce in florida is something I might be qualified to research, assuming I can get a certain parent to do what is required whilst I ain't there.

That's interesting, Martin. Here the catawissas are forming the swellings and the stalks are stiffening a bit, they're just past the prime dicing stage, maybe a week past. My bet is they will do allright in virginia, the climate there is similar to coastal new england in terms of average max and min temps, just summer is a month longer and winter accordingly shorter.


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RE: Catawissa update

  • Posted by coho z8/9 N. Calif (My Page) on
    Thu, May 12, 05 at 1:53

pnbrown,
Have you considered planting bubils and main bulbs back as soon as they mature and grow a second crop? Or does it get too hot during the second part of summer? Last year I planted a few bubils with the third planting of beans and they are just now maturing a crop of bubils.


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RE: Catawissa update

Pat,

This is a very interesting experiment. I've some interests in South Florida, and will appreciate your findings later on. You won't let us "hanging"....will you? ~grin~

Martin,

"No more replies? Is that a threat or a promise?!!!!"

I almost choked on my beer with that one! hahaha!

FYI, the Catawissa's are doing great here. I think they're happy in their new home.

Hal in Martinsburg


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I hadn't considered that, Ken. If I can get me Dad to do anything with it at all I'll have him do that. More likely a bunch will stay right where they are and be totally overrun by fantastically rank florida summer weeds. That will prove nothing except that there are some weeds catawissa can't beat. I'm just hoping he'll save some topsets and re-plant them in the fall garden. Hal, I think south florida is really pushing the envelope. We lived there for years, and it really surprised me to find how much more temperate north-of-Tampa/Orlando is.


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RE: Catawissa update

  • Posted by coho z8/9 N. Calif (My Page) on
    Sat, May 14, 05 at 1:24

pnbrown,
3 years ago, I tried leaving the main bulbs in the ground. The next season they were a dense clump of skinny stems. Not really desireable even as green onions. Replanting the main bulbs and spaceing the bulbils results in a better looking product. And, to me, they are easier to control.
I am still trying to fully eliminate them from the first bed.


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RE: Catawissa update

Martin the bulbs you sent me have survived the winter and have come back just fine. They even seem to be thicker stemmed and taller than before. They are already sprouting the topsets (seeds), last fall I collected some of the seeds (just in case they didn't survive I would hopefully have a backup) and let them dry out and replanted them and they came up as well with no problem. Although some of the dried seeds I thought weren't any good cause they had really didn't seem to have anything left to them and were tossed. But for the most part they all did well.

I have not dug up any of the orginal bulbs to see how they did, I probably should have but didn't. This fall I will dig a couple up just to see how they look.

I planted them in the tub at the time as I didn't know how they would do in this horrible clay we call dirt. I don't know if by being in the tub it helped them be colder during the winter or not. This is last seasons pic, sorry I don't have an updated one. That is if it comes thru. trudyjean


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RE: Catawissa onions in SW Ga.

Martin the bulbs you sent me have survived the winter and have come back just fine. They even seem to be thicker stemmed and taller than before. They are already sprouting the topsets (seeds), last fall I collected some of the seeds (just in case they didn't survive I would hopefully have a backup) and let them dry out and replanted them and they came up as well with no problem. Although some of the dried seeds I thought weren't any good cause they had really didn't seem to have anything left to them and were tossed. But for the most part they all did well.

I have not dug up any of the orginal bulbs to see how they did, I probably should have but didn't. This fall I will dig a couple up just to see how they look.

I planted them in the tub at the time as I didn't know how they would do in this horrible clay we call dirt, and I didn't have a veggie garden area at the time. I don't know if by being in the tub it helped them be colder during the winter or not by being raised up instead of in the ground. This is last seasons pic, sorry I don't have an updated one. That is if it comes thru. If this post twice, sorry in advance. trudyjean

Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket.com


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RE: Catawissa update

Love the planting container! I hope my Cat-babies
survive the Slugs and get that vigorous.

Planted mine later than I should've or they'd be stronger, I think. The Ice storm would've been just the ticket to toughen up the underground factory for vigorous spring greenery.

Next year, I'll be braggin.


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RE: Catawissa update

I live in North Florida and am growing several multiplier onions. All have done real well. Catawissa is one of the varieties I am growing.

In fact, I have noticed two varieties of a "wild topset" onion around here in old yards and ditches that have become very invasive. I wonder if these varieties are true to the ones originally planted. These have dainty stalks (chive-like) and look like a topset variety called "pearl" that I aquired last year and am growing for the first time now.

One variety has topsets and a single white flower in the center of the cluster. I have wondered if these actually produce seed as well as topsets. They are extremely invasive in an area that has polluted runoff, rotting fish parts, flooding from tropical storms, and many other bad things (they do not glow in the dark). Needless to say, I collected the topsets, but have not tasted them. I will grow them out to detoxify them first.

The second wild variety has no flower, but a dense ball of bulblets. Both varieties have extremely tiny bulblets that are not worth eating, just re-planting. I imagine the bottom bulb is "pearl onion" sized. When it comes time, I have permission from a homeowner to dig some up to see.

If you would like to include my garden in your catawissa experiment, you can e-mail me. My area might be further north than you would like.

Tiff


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Tiff, that's very interesting about your "wild topset" onions. Thus far, I've obtained examples from Alabama and two different locations in Texas. All are slightly different, especially with the bulbils; size, shape, and quantity. They all do indeed make good pearl onions throughout their southern homes. Those from Alabama arrived here with some bigger than an inch wide. As yet, I have not been able to duplicate that with their growing season vastly different than the Gulf Coast. That is possibly why they are unknown up here. Regardless, they are not native to this continent and their exact origins are presently unknown.

Martin


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So Martin, you assume all such seemingly 'wild' or feral topsetters are escapees from gardens? I don't know where exactly Tiff lives in florida, but unless the spanish brought a topsetter in with them way back in the 15-1600's most rural areas of florida have only had european settlement (taming) since around the civil war - give or take a few years. Seems rather quick for a cloning (if what Tiff is refering to is strictly clonal) plant to diversify to a very different environment, doesn't it? I can't imagine Catawissa surviving entirely without assistance in florida, though I'm glad to hear that they do so in a garden environment. I'm not even convinced they could survive permanently in a prime environment for them such as here in the northeast without occasional assistance. In a sunny location they would surely eventually lose the battle to grass weeds - it might take 5 to 10 years but I think they would lose. In shady locations the successive generations get smaller and weaker so again they would eventually succumb to weeds that tolerate shade.


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In one year, I've got the Alabama onions coming up all over the place! That variety has real small and numerous bulbils. Where they are growing in Mobile is near an old homestead that is now almost overcome with kudzu. They are still holding their own via rapid spring growth and then dormant all summer. Those from Texas were both growing in urban areas. Pearl onions have been mentioned in cooking recipes which pre-date the Civil War so they've been around awhile. We all know that many garlic varieties will change to adapt to new conditions and can do that in just a few years. There's no good reason why onions can't also do the same. Texas, Alabama, and Florida climatic conditions are close but not the same. The fact that those onions act entirely different for me is a hint of their adaptability. I may never see a decent pearl bulb from them and they'd forever be only a fair small scallion. Those in Alabama and Texas would be going dormant right now after growing all winter and spring.

Mine are just now forming the bulbil stalks, a factor which may be determined by temperature. For certain, the bulbils will not sprout until they have gone through a summer and cool fall. One of the Texas varieties was planted about this time last year using both bulbs and bulbils. Some of the bulbs sprouted in late September or early October. None of the bulbils came up and would have been given up for gone had I not had previous experience with that habit. They waited nearly a year and a few lazy ones are just now emerging. I haven't counted but I think that it's close to 100% survival after a year or dormancy.

Also, they would indeed have to be escapees from gardens. In North America, it's only wild garlic which produces bulbils. All wild onions produce seed. I'm not so certain that grasses will bother that type of onion. All native wild onions have no problem at all surviving in any type of lawn or pasture. In a prolonged battle between grass and onions, I'd place my money on the onions! If they can't win with the bulbils, they'll win by bulb divisions.

Martin


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RE: Catawissa update

One of the "wild" topset onions is in an old part of Tallahassee in someone's yard. The house on the lot had burned down and left vacant to weeds for several years. I do not know about the history of the lot before that house. It was then cleared and a new house was built on it. The onions had naturalized on the property and the current owner, not knowing anything about multiplier onions, has traditionally not gotten around to mowing that area until after the bulblets are formed. Then the area is mowed and the bulblets are scattered all around. I tried not to laugh when I found that out.

It would not surprise me if the Spanish brought the original topsets. And do remember that the Spanish brought the I-itoi onions to the southwest. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Spanish brought these to our region as well. There were several missions here in the Tallahassee area in the 1600's. One of the wild topsets is near an old Spanish fort.

As for the weeds winning. In this area, crowded flower bulbs seem to weaken and "vanish" over the years. Most of the time they are still underground, but so cramped, they can't do much but just survive. Often, these bulbs can still be rescued and brought back to their former glory with some TLC. It seems like new construction causes the soil to be broken apart and disturbed which may separate old clumps and bring in sunlight. My neighborhood is new, but built where it was settled many years ago and then it went wild. After the woods were cleared and houses were built, "wild" parrot gladiolus plants are now popping out EVERYWHERE. Most of my neighbors think they are weeds and mow them down. Crowded bulbs are often found at many archeological sites. Perhaps the topset onions would behave in a similar manner in this region. Maybe this happens up north as well.

Tiff


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Well, what I don't know about native north american alliums can pack volumes, and that of cultivated onions would compose volumes only slighly less comprehensive. I have never seen a topsetter in what appeared to be a naturalized condition, but on the other hand I havn't made any exhaustive searches. I'd like to understand the actual mechanics of how clonal reproduction in a plant can allow rapid adaptation. I can clearly see that it allows very rapid multiplication of stock but the adaptation part escapes me.


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I agree with you, Pat. I do not understand it as well. I would think that they would only have minor variations due to the clonal reproduction. Perhaps the genes are unstable and mutate easily. Then if the mutation provided an advantage it would thrive better. I still wonder if those flowers actually produce seed or are sterile. That could possibly speed things up. Both varieties were found in very different environments.

I asked around work yesterday to see if any of the archeologists had encountered wild onions at local sites and they had. It is unknown if they were in context with the Spanish sites. I will be calling some people to do a bit of research on the subject. Who would have thought going to an oyster bar would have started me on this quest? I had gone there many times before, but never noticed them- probably because the topsets were not present.

Tiff


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RE: Catawissa update

Hi, I stumbled across this thread on a google. I am sending some catawissa bulbils to a tropical location around 18 degrees north of the equator and will hopefully have a report on more extreme southern adaptability of these onions. The prime growing season there, due to rainfall, is late summer and fall into early winter, but the need is for scallion growth, I hope to market bulbils down there which I will grow here in Arkansas.

BTW, This season's harvest of basal bulbs was tremendous, and I am selling them at the farmer's market as "shallots". They were from bulbils planted late summer.

A few found their way into another bed which had optimal conditions and little competition. These 24 monsters managed to achieve base bulbs sizes of 2&1/2" each!

I also had some bulbils in good enough condition to plant this spring, and have been selling scallions from them since early June. The best managed to achieve 1&1/4" bulb swellings but are now drying down without producing bulbils.

So far, I've selected out almost ten lbs of topsets for replanting and will likely be able to offer another 10lbs in trade.

In my opinion, the best time to harvest topsets and base bulbs is when the parent plant's leaves dry off and only have the flowering stalk left, but topsets are harvestable at an earlier stage. I planted a little densely(2-4/ft), but now believe the best spacing would be one plant per 4" of row. I plant the sets and cover them with a wood/bark mulch before emergence, on a 2ft wide bed, with a double row down the bed.


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RE: Catawissa update

I live in Austin, TX and am trying to get started with Walking Onions (Catawissa, Heritage Sweet, etc), but am having a hard time finding a seller. I'd prefer to find someone who's already growing in (or near) the Austin area, but at this point I'm open to hearing from anyone, as I hear "the Fall" is the time to buy, and time is running out.

Thanks!
David


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RE: Catawissa update

Hi. I ordered some Catawissa about 5 years ago. I've never had them produce any bulbils. They just grow year after year, thinnish, scrawny stems--my tokyo green onions look better...Anyway, short of having recieved the wrong order, that is what is happening in Hawaii--near sea level. On the other hand, I purchased some fresh "pearl onions" from a store, planted thoses and they are growing, appearing to be some sort of potato onion.
--Lee


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