Onions! Late January or the beginning of February is Onion planning time around here. We are still brand new in this Garden and it is only our second year of planting Onions from seed. Last year was a fantastically punishing Winter and we did despair of ever chiselling out the planting holes for our beloved little Onion seedlings… it was that much like real permafrost. This year is shaping up a little better. That famous Groundhog did not see his shadow and it does seem to be a much milder Winter overall. Thankful.
We have ordered all of our seed for this year and now we, not so patiently, wait for those pretty boxes of potential to arrive. Lots of Onion seed this year. Onion seed does not live very long and we are just getting our seed saving system established. This means that we are still buying most of our Onion seed but hopefully this will be the last year that we do not have our homegrown banked seeds. Nice.
Most Alliums are quite slow growing and the process of taking the tiny black seeds from pin-thin seedlings to the point that they become sized-up and cured keepers does take patience. This long slow growing process is actually one of the things that I really enjoy because it means we must plant something in the complete dead of Winter. Onion seedlings make well behaved houseguests – growing slowly and steadily on the cool grow shelves and getting weekly haircuts to keep them nice and short under the lights. This is so very unlike their unruly clambering and clawing seedling-siblings that will dominate the house in a few more months (Tomatoes… so many Tomatoes!).
We transplant our Onion babies in late April and by September we pull up bundles of fresh Onion bulbs that so resemble the shiny conkers that we loved to collect as children and this always brings that same feeling of childish wealth. The globes are shiny and sweet and so very pretty and not much at all like the papery and pungent fellows piled in the supermarket. We also get the added pleasure of using all kinds of the fresh Onion-greens. Onions really are fun to grow.
Choosing to grow Onions from seed gives us the chance to select varieties that are often very difficult to find as onion sets. I don’t guess that any of our variety choices are all that exotic this year (an onion is pretty much always just an onion) but I do appreciate the cheery pink-purple colour of the Apache scallions that are marked on our seed list for 2016. Apache was a really big hit with an awful lot of our Garden visitors last year and every planting sold out just as soon as they had sized up enough to bundle!
Talon, White Wing and Red Wing Onions are the clear and standout producers from last year and they are all being given pride of place in this year’s Onion-y efforts. We are planning to have a nice crop of these red, white and brown storage Onions as Plant-Starts that will be available in our brand new and teensy-tiny Plant Nursery this Spring. This is budding development that is proving to be very exciting (sorry about the tortured pun).
A lovely bit of side advantage in this endeavor is that the Onions that we grow from seed rather than purchasing sets become much larger as mature bulbs (we are hoping for some of the same softball sized Onions as last year) . Some of us Gardeners do tend to enjoy a harmless bit of Vegetable bragging… just every now and then.
Our lovely “white as the driven snow” White Wing Onions are just beginning to show signs of sprouting in storage, but that is five months since harvest… not too bad at all. The Red Wing and Talon Onions are still slumbering like the champs that they are – usually managing seven or eight months (or more) in cool storage and just becoming sweeter in the process. Very Nice.
We do have admit to having the tiniest bit of panic that it is actually time to begin planting “Already!?”.
It does very much seem as if we just put the Gardens to bed. Perhaps there will no longer be an actual “off season”… Eep!4