I'm Not Crying Over My Onions This Year!

| 8/14/2012 11:34:25 AM

Tags: organic gardening, onions, Cam Mather,

Every year there are some things that do well in my garden and some things that don’t. Some of my failures (and successes) are weather related, sometimes its related to the cultivar that I’ve planted and some times my successes and failures are related to my planting strategies. I discuss this extensively my book, “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook” because there are many things that you can beat yourself up over, but many are out of your control. When you grow organically, like I do, there is also the pest variable too, which can throw you for a curve.

Most years Colorado Potato Beetles are my nemesis and they take a huge toll on my potatoes. This year I saw one adult that I gleefully squished, and that was it. No eggs. No larvae. No damage. It was weird. Especially after such a mild winter, I assumed they would be problematic, hiding out in debris and over wintering well, but such was not the case. I don’t understand this. The last few years I’ve had no problems with my cucurbits … my vines like cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and melons. This year they are overrun with Squash Beetles. They have done major damage to all these plants and I have had to devote lots of time to keep them in check while at the same time the drought has forced me to focus on watering. I get a sense I’ve had about 3 generations of these Squash Beetles going through their life cycle in this heat.

Over the years I’ve had some luck and managed to grow some big onions but during the last few years it’s been useless. I plant small onion bulbs and I harvest only marginally bigger ones. This year I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong. I thought perhaps that I just wasn’t planting them early enough. So this spring I got them in really early. The earliest I’ve ever planted them before.

And the crop is absolutely outstanding! I’ve got to widen the doorframes to get my head through since my ego is so inflated by the onion harvest this year. Every year something thrives at Sunflower Farm and this year it’s onions and in the words of George Costanza from Seinfeld, “I’m over the moon” about it!

wagon full of onions


As I’ve analyzed the difference over the last few years I realize the mistake I’ve made. I plant most of my onions from bulbs. I find this just gives them a real head start over using seed or transplanting from our own seed that we started early. What’s happened every spring is that as I’m planting the peas and radishes and other early things I’ve just thought, “well the onions are bulbs, they’ll just start whenever I put them in so it doesn’t really matter. They’ll be fine, when I finally get them in.” It turns out that timing really matters.

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