Protecting Our Right to Save Seed, Fighting GMOs, and Growing Onions

Reader Contribution by Ira Wallace
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I started this post with pictures of beets and corn (the classic heirloom Detroit Dark Red beet and gorgeous Pungo Creek Butcher dent grinding corn) because they are among the crops most threatened by GMO contamination, as I was reminded by “why
i called the white house: the alfalfa crisis,”
a recent post in Margaret Roach’s great garden blog A Way To Garden. Thanks to Margaret for her call to action!

We’re busy on the farm with filling seed orders and making plans to go to New York January 31 to attend the oral arguments in an Anti-GMO Lawsuit against Monsanto. Southern Exposure is one the 83 plaintiffs defending the right to save seed without fear of genetic contamination. Follow developments and learn how you can support the
farmers involved here. 


We’ve also been busy this month sowing onions in our hoop houses. There is still time for everyone except those in the lower and coastal south to start onions from seed. The rule of thumb is to draw a line across the US from San Francisco to Washington DC.  South of this line Short Day types do best, and north of the line Long Day types should be grown.  But if you’re right near the line, you should choose more intermediate types.  We find that for gardeners like us, in the middle range or just around 38 degrees, it’s best to grow Long Day types that tend toward the shorter range – 13 to 14 hours of day light cause bulbing (combined with a temperature trigger). We have plenty of Yellow of Parma, Australian Brown, and Yellow Sweet Spanish seedlings growing in our high tunnel. If you prefer to start with plants, the folks at Dixondale farms have the best assortment of onion seedlings I’ve found anywhere and they are so helpful. Read about how
to grow bulb onions. 
Short Day onions don’t store very well,  so if you’re in the South you might want to grow perennial multiplier onions as a storage onion.

I’m glad that we planted lots of perennial Yellow Potato Onions back in November. Planting those bulbs in the fall is so much easier than fussing with onion transplants in the middle of winter. Brook Elliot has a great article about these old fashioned onions and other “Other Onions.” Potato onions have been found to produce a higher yield per acre than any crop except staked tomatoes! Along with Egyptian onions and Perennial
Leeks, the starter bulbs normally ship in the fall, but it’s good to order them
now along with your seeds because they often sell out on pre-orders.

Learn more about other things to get started indoors or in a cold frame this month, like globe artichokes and rhubarb, from Lisa Dermer in her Southern Exposure Seed Exchange blog post What to Sow in January.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing
and cooking.

 Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+varieties of
Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other events throughout the Southeast.