Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Onion Order

Onions end up in just about everything I cook for dinner, quite often in breakfasts too, and many of my canning recipes. Despite numerous attempts, I've never been able to grow decent onions from seed. They'll sprout but just never have done very well for me, if they survive until the setting-out stage at all. So then I'd end up buying a couple of the little bags of onion sets, the miniature bulbs you plant in the early spring to get bigger bulbs later in the season. Those work good if you mainly want scallions or small onions to use fresh - they usually aren't the storage type. My goal in growing onions is to have enough for all my end-of-season canning, plus more to cure and store until I can start harvesting the next summer's crop. Buying onion plants works best for me.

I lost quite a few of last summer's storage onion plants midsummer, to Bambi, so this year I had to start buying my cooking onions in January. I am digging wintered-over leeks now, and still have plenty of shallots though. And soon, I should be able to harvest some spring onions. My walking onions are starting to sprout anew, and the bunching onions should start coming back before too much longer too. I have some onion seeds that are only a year old, so might try starting my own once more, but taking my past attempts into consideration I'm not counting on them.

Today, I ordered a couple bunches of onion plants for this year's main onion crop. I've tried buying onion plants here in town, but the ones the local greenhouse has each spring don't last in storage. A couple of times in the past, I've asked if they could stock some different, better-storing, varieties. But they've repeatedly refused, saying most people want only fresh-eating onions. I can understand their not wanting to stock something they don't think will sell - I realize I probably live differently than most around here. So I've found myself an onion grower that ships what I want to grow - Dixondale Farms. I'm very pleased with both the varieties available and the condition of the plants I've received from them in the past. They're a bit pricey if you're only going to get one bunch, but the price goes down with each additional bunch and shipping is free. If you only have a small space for onions, maybe see if any of your gardening friends want to go in with you on an order.

According to their planting maps, my home in northern Nevada is on the boundary between the intermediate- and long-day onion types. Long-day onions do best north of here, where the summer daylight hours are longest, but will also do well here if planted early enough. I prepared my "early" garden bed last fall, setting out garlic and shallots then, scattering a few spinach and arugula seeds then too. The rest of that bed is just waiting for my earliest sowing of peas, lettuces, and the onions. My onion plants are scheduled to arrive in mid-March. That sounds good to me - folklore says to plant your peas on St Patrick's Day, so I'm hoping the weather will cooperate enough to let me get that whole bed planted then.

They package about 60 onion plants in a bunch; I ordered two bunches. I like yellow Copra onions. I know they grow well here, and easily hold in storage until the following July. So I ordered one bunch of them. Then, since I love experimenting too, I'm trying something new. They have a Long-Day Sampler bunch, a combination of yellow Walla Walla, for eating fresh in the summer plus some fall canning, white Ringmaster for canning and early winter cooking, and Red Zeppelin, a red variety that is supposed to store 6-8 months. If all do well, that should be enough.


Funder said...

I hope you're ready for lots of questions this year Sadge. You have the only still-updated high desert gardening blog I've been able to find!

I think I said hi last year, when we moved to Reno. This year I have a house on an acre of sand in Lemmon Valley, a huge pile of half-composted manure that seems to have died over the winter, an infinite supply of future manure, and a lot of zeal to grow veggies.

I'm gonna try raised beds. I think sand plus compost should make ok dirt? And I think I still have plenty of time - I don't even need to start seedlings until March at the earliest, right?

paulainnevada said...

Both of you, I second that. Not a blogger myself but a chronic veg gardener and disappointed that no one else here in Reno has an active site. Please keep it up (:-)