This Year’s Onions

We were scheduled to attend a workshop on high tunnels and asparagus production in a nearby town today.  But it started snowing around dusk yesterday, turning to sleet overnight and it’s still coming down.  We’re iced in.  This is the second winter blast we’ve had in this young month.

More water on top of our already saturated soil means further delays to our spring planting.  I’m going to need a good stretch of warm dry days to get the land in shape. Maybe next week.

Onions are one of the first things we plant each year–weather permitting.  This year we’re making a big change. We’ve always planted our onions from “sets,” which are basically dormant bulbs.  This year, however, we’re going to use transplants and I expect they’ll perform much better than the sets.  But there is a big catch.

We ordered our transplants from Johnny’s Seeds.  Johnny’s delivers them based on the recommended planting date in your area.  For us that’s next week.  We can plant sets whenever we like, but these transplants will need to get into the ground right away.

Will Mother Nature consent to our planting them on Johnny’s recommended date?

We’ll find out next week.


12 comments on “This Year’s Onions

  1. DM says:

    So do transplants and sets look a lot alike? If i understand this right, the transplant is not dormant and hits the ground running vs the other that has to “wake up” before growing resulting in larger bulbs @ the end of the season?


    • Bill says:

      They’re totally different. A set is a small dry bulb. A transplant looks like a blade of grass. As I understand it, because the bulb is a year old the onion is focused on going to seed, not on making a large bulb. The transplant is a first year onion so it is more intent on growing a large bulb. That’s not very scientific but whatever the reason I’m told that transplants produce better onions. Next year we hope to start onions from seed in the fall, then transplant in the spring.

      A benefit of sets is that they’re easy to store and plant. Just press them into the ground.


  2. quoth Farmer’s Almanac


    • Bill says:

      I’m not sure what the Almanac predicted for today but I’d be surprised if it was this. Yesterday they told us we’d get a “wintry mix”: sleet overnight turning to rain in the day. Instead we’ve covered in snow again, topped with ice.


  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, Mother (nature) is having a tantrum, I think. I don’t know about your area but Farmer’s Almanac says my area is to have a cold wet spring. We had that same thing last year. I didn’t get my tomatoes and peppers out in the garden until the end of may. Then they just sat there for a week or two until it warmed up some more. The harvest was three weeks later in the year than normal.

    I started some onions from seed this year. I just transplanted them from the small containers to bigger ones. It’s amazing how deep the roots are after just one month. They already have started forming bulbs and look like a blade of grass that’s about six inches tall. I’ve heard that if the tops are trimmed off just a little the plant will put more effort in forming the bulb. I’ll give half a trim and see if it makes a difference.

    Have a great onion plant day.


    • Bill says:

      We’ve never started onions from seed. We’ve always used sets. I’m looking forward to starting them from seed next year.

      Last year everything here was delayed by a month. I was hoping we’d go back to normal this year. It doesn’t look like it so far.


  4. Bob Braxton says:

    when we (I am firstborn of eight) were children, we “loved” to pull and eat wild onion (as we walk). Other than moss, which we don’t have to mow all that much, our Fairfax County “lawn” (which is definitely NOT monoculture) seems to be (wild) onion, which annoys my spouse but for me they help “spice” up greens from the dandelion(s) — which I do not harvest, unfortunately. At home there were “creasy” greens in the start of growing season(s).


    • Bill says:

      I tried planting some creasy greens last year. It was a fail. But they grew wild in the garden where I didn’t plant them so we still had some. We enjoy dandelion greens too, but I’ve never eaten a wild onion. My brother-in-law ate them when he was growing up in Arkansas.

      When I was a kid I liked it when the cows ate wild onions because that made the milk taste like onions, so we got to drink store-bought milk. Looking back I realize how crazy that was.


  5. El Guapo says:

    Can the transplants be held temporarily in pots?


  6. Steve says:

    I’ll quoth the King James version of thr Farmer’ Almanac, too: Calleth ye Johnnies department of customer service and beeseach them to delayeth your order by a fortnight.


    • Bill says:

      I may have to do that. Unfortunately I can’t predict the weather two weeks out and ideally we’d have onions in the ground already. I wouldn’t expect much from onions planted that late here. One year I had to send back large orders of strawberry plants twice because the weather wouldn’t permit me to plant them. Eventually I just gave up.

      Last year I built raised beds for the onions, filling them with crappy soil, just to get them planted by 3/15. Our clay soil is fertile, but very difficult in wet conditions. Most years getting onions planted is no problem. The forecast is for warm weather for the next several days so I think we have a good chance.


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