Dateline: 9 January 2016 AD
|Copra onions in my 2015 garden|
In past years I have bought onion sets from Dixondale Farm is Texas. I have no complaints with their onion sets. But I have long thought that I should try growing my own onion sets from seed, and last year I finally got around to doing it.
After pondering on the specifics of how to grow my own Copra onion sets, I came up with my own unique idea, and this blog post is an introduction to that idea....
I pretty much invented the concept of tri-growing onions in thin black plastic mulch over a garden bed, as seen in my "4-Day Carrots" series on YouTube. My success with tri-growing carrots in 3" diameter holes in black plastic (started under shade discs) led me to try growing parsnips in a similar manner, and the results could not have been better (I'll blog about the parsnips soon). So I started thinking about what other crops I could adapt to the circular cutouts in plastic mulch, and onion sets came to mind.
I determined that mid-July would be the best time to start the onion sets. The idea being that I get them started in 2015, have them grow to a small size, pull them in the late fall, store them for the winter, and replant them in the spring. Specifically, I planted the onion seeds on July 20.
The plastic mulch had been in place over the garden bed since May 6th when I made the cutouts and planted the onion seeds. The soil under the plastic was soft, moist and weed free.
I planted 10 seeds in each 3" diameter cutout. I used a homemade template and dibble, as you can see in the following picture, to make 10 evenly spaced indents for 10 onion seeds.
(click pictures to see enlarged views)
In this next picture you can see the dibbled indents, and if you look close you can see a single onion seed in each one.
Then I filled the indents with fine vermiculite (picture below). I've come to the conclusion that vermiculite is the ideal seed covering for this sort of thing. Last year I bought a large bag of fine vermiculite from ULINE. Since I only use a little every year, the big bag will last me a very long time.
This next picture shows all the circular plantings in a section of garden bed. 500 onion seeds were planted in that small section of garden bed. The seeds came from Territorial Seed Company. A 2-gram packet cost me $6.75. I only used about half the packet.
I covered the just-planted section of bed with a piece of coffee-bag burlap that Marlene picked up at the local thrift store for a dollar. The burlap protected the seeds from being displaced in a heavy rain, and it allowed me to water over the plantings without creating any disturbance.
Eight days later, some onion seedlings were emerging and I removed the burlap. On August 9th, most all of the onion seeds had germinated and were 2" to 3" high. They were inconsequential looking little filaments of green, but they were on their way.
I lost track of dates but this next picture shows the onion circles some time later. They grew very well. I did not water them once established. No thinning was needed, and there was no weed competition.
This next picture shows the onions a little further along, and the close-up shows how healthy and beautiful the young onions were.
In late November the onions were pretty big. Maybe they were too big. I really don't know (remember, this is my first time trying this).
This next picture shows what they looked like after I pulled them up...
I decided the best way to keep them through winter was to clamp them right in the garden. So I dug a shallow hole and layered all the onions on a bed of dry leaves...
Then I covered the onions with some straw...
Then I piled some soil on top and flagged the clamp...
There is snow on the ground here now. I'm hoping the onion sets will get through winter in good enough shape to plant early in the spring, and that that I'll get a great crop of storage onions next year.
This is all an experiment. I'll modify it as needed until I have a system that works best for me. For example, I don't think I really want the sets to be so big in the fall. So I'll plant the seeds a week (or even two weeks) later than July 20th next time I do this. And if the clamp doesn't work as well as I think it should, I'll try another idea.
That's a lesson in gardening for you. The point being, you experiment with different ideas and fine tune your own gardening systems. This sort of thing can take a lifetime to do.
I'll keep you updated on this idea through next year.
|Some of the 2015 harvest|