Onions

Today is so nice out I decided the onions and garlic had cured long enough so I hauled them all outside to clean up and trim before putting them in winter storage.

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I planted fewer than I did last year and, fortunately, wasn’t plagued with another round of that fungus that attacked them. What I don’t get is why there is such a disparity of size among them.

Photo Sep 02, 10 47 50 AM

Granted, they start out as different sized plants from the garden center, but not this different! They all went in the same bed and at the same time so I can’t blame soil or water differences. The sizes were all mixed up in the bed. Maybe next year I’ll try fertilizing them, or fertilizing some and not others and see if that makes a difference. In the meantime, it’s kind of nice to be able to select just as much onion as I need for a recipe and not have to put leftover bits in the refrigerator.

Putting Away the Onions and Garlic

After some long weeks of drying and curing, the onions and garlic have been cleaned up and put away.

Garlic

The garlic, all hardneck varieties, was dug up and placed in baskets hanging from the basement ceiling to cure out of the sunlight. Normally a basement is a poor place to cure garlic, but we run dehumidifiers and with the sticky weather we were having for a while it was drier down there than a protected spot outdoors would have been.

Onions

The onions got the same treatment only they were placed on galvanized nursery trays and spent the first few weeks outside in a mostly shaded spot. See how nasty those leaves were from the fungal attack? I spoke with a plant disease expert at the urban horticulture field day at the University’s local agricultural research station last weekend. He said the black, horrible looking stuff was probably a secondary attack after the leaves had been infected with another fungus first, likely Botritis or Alternaria. The good news is that since the basal plates were intact and the bulbs themselves appear OK they should still store for a while at least. I’m keeping an especially close eye on a few that didn’t seem quite right, though.

All Cleaned Up

To clean the garlic up for storage I broke the hard wad of soil and roots off each bulb, trimmed off the roots and stem, and gently rubbed off any remaining soil and sometimes a layer of the outer papery skin. The onions got essentially the same treatment but since they have finer roots they didn’t have the soil wad to contend with.

The onions should keep us for a while. There are more smaller ones than usual this year. The garlic we have more than enough of even when I subtract out the ones for replanting in October. These two crops are among the most satisfying to grow and I’m hoping we don’t have to contend with a repeat performance of the fungal problem any time soon.

The 2014 Garden Has Begun!

The temperature got up to a toasty 4°F/-21°C this morning so I went for a walk up to the garden and I’m glad to report it’s well on its way for 2014.

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What? You don’t believe me? Here, I’ll make it easier to see.

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See? A few crops are already in place and nicely protected by this deep blanket of snow and the straw beneath it. When it warms up again this spring the plants will begin to grow again and I’ll have a jump on the season. While it’s normal for me to plant garlic in the fall, I tried a couple of new things this year.

Last spring when I was planting other things, I kept coming across spinach plants that had survived the winter and were growing new leaves. The same was true for some onions and shallots that I missed harvesting. This fall, instead of ripping out all the spinach to work in organic matter like I usually do, I just harvested the leaves that were left and then mulched them with a thick layer of straw.

The onions are another kind of experiment. When I had harvested all the large onions I left the smaller ones to grow some more. When the time came to sow a cover crop of buckwheat, they really hadn’t put on enough size to make them worth keeping, but I pulled them anyway. I dried and cured them along with the rest and stored them in the basement. Then it occurred to me that I could try planting them again when it got cold, just like the garlic so I did. Some straw mulch was put down as insurance against a dry winter without enough snow cover. I can’t wait to see if they survive and grow again this year.