Thursday, February 23, 2012

Short day? Long day onion?

Onion blossom
Thursday, February 23, 2012

There are 3 types of onions-short day, intermediate day, and long day onions.  Intermediate and long day varieties have been around for a long time.  Short day onions are relatively newcomers.  It is daylight hours in summer that determine which type is for you.
Onions are sensitive to daylight hours.  They start forming bulbs when daylight hours hit a minimum.  For long day onions, it is 15 hours.  For intermediate, it is 12-13 hours.  Short day onions are 9-10 hours.  
I would have thought long day onions would be for further south, but this is wrong.  The north get the really long summer days (think of Alaska in June with no darkness).  Long day onions should be planted in states north of the Oklahoma/Kansas border (approximately 36 degrees latitude).
Long day onions are planted in states in the northern part of the US.  Intermediate in the middle and short in the South.  
Short day onions are planted in the fall and form bulbs in the spring.  Intermediate and long day onions are typically planted in the spring as sets, not seeds.  Seeds require sprouting indoors and transplanting.  
In the Midwest, you should have already started your seeds.  Transplanting is next month.  Transplanting should be done 4-6 weeks before the last spring freeze.
 You should enrich the soil with plenty of organic matter before planting.   As common sense would tell us, they also like loose soil.  Organic matter helps this along.
Onions are ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow and fall over.  They should be pulled and allowed to harden in the shade for a couple of days before storing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What’s growing in the garden in February?

Chard, giant red mustard, and French sorrel

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter greens are still going strong in February in our Midwest garden.

Chard (red and heirloom white), Giant Red Mustard and French Sorrel are still going in the garden.  There are many new leaves growing.  New leaves are sweet with frost.  Larger leaves are great for steaming, too.

Parsley and celery are also still green and sprouting.  Both are great adds to fresh salads.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Perennial onions and other alliums

Overwintering onions
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

There are many perennial alliums.  Alliums include garlic, chives, leeks, and onions.  
Garlic, leeks, and onions will continue coming back year after year unless you pull them.  If they are not big enough the first year, leave them and they will come back bigger the following year (scallions in the left photo and onions in the right in our garden right now from last year).
There are also “multiplier” onions like Egyptian walking onions and potato onions.  They continue spreading out from the single bulb you plant.  As long as you leave a few bulbs behind, they will come back the following year.  Egyptian walking onions are not “keepers.”  They are pulled and used fresh.  Egyptian walking onions  Potato onions can be pulled and kept for months until ready to use.
If you grow garlic, you will likely find that the following year you have garlic sprouting again.  Many garlic bulbs will have little “bulbils” that become detached from the bigger bulb when you pull them.  These babies come back up the next spring.
Common chives in bloom in spring
Chives and garlic chives are perennials and can be grown in pots.  They are also invasive so make sure you don’t let their flowers go to seed.  The flowers are edible.  They are a pretty addition to spring salads.

For more on growing onions,  

Alliums are very nutritious, easy to grow, and tasty.  Try some in your garden this year!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When should I start my indoor seeds?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The seed catalogues are in full swing.  All the temptation!  I definitely have spring fever.

In our zone 6, February is the month to start our indoor seeds.  There is a long list we can start right now for the “cold crops.”  These are the ones that prefer the cooler temperatures.  Many get their sweetness from a light frost.
Cool season crops:  asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, celery, kale, leek, lettuce, mache, onions, radicchio, scallion, shallot, spinach, chives, and fennel.  You can actually sow mache seeds outdoors now.  Mache, also known as corn salad, is extremely cold hardy.  It is packed with nutrients, too.
You can also start the following herbs: marjoram, parsley, sage, savory and thyme.
For seed starting, the Aerogarden works terrific.  I have had a 90% success rate with this system.  You can buy a seed starter tray that you insert in the tub that allows you to start about 70 seedlings.  It automatically turns the light on and off at the time needed for getting your seedlings a strong start.