Onion planting day: November 26
Onions and garlics
1) Onions, which have hollow leaves and
2) Garlics, which have flat, solid leaves. (*See note below on the family.)
Use short-day onions in Florida
Since we grow our onions right through the winter, we need short-day onion varieties. I've seen long-day onions for sale in local stores, but those onions will not form bulbs before the heat of summer sets in--they are guaranteed to fail.
I used to rely on local garden centers for my onions, both seeds and sets. But now I buy onion plants from Dixondale Onion Farm where they know their onions so I can be assured of getting appropriate plants just in time for planting. They say that each bunch contains 50 to 75 plants. Those that I've received over the years have always been on the generous side of this estimate. This year I bought two bunches one was yellow granex sweet onions and the other was a short-day sampler. I had a lot(!) of onions to plant and did so on Nov. 26th.
I plant onions in well-prepared soil that has been enriched with compost in a 4 to 5-inch grid pattern in raised, wide rows. I add a 2 or 3-inch layer of pine needles on top of the planting surface and even more in the spaces between the wide rows. You want those spaces between the rows for good drainage and for space between crops. We grow onions during our dry season, so regular irrigation is a must for a good onion harvest. Regular weeding is also advised, but I must admit that I'm not as diligent as I should be. In addition, I tend to allow dill, which self-seeds in our beds, to remain among the onions.
|The granex onion bunch includes lots of plants.||Planting onions in a 4-to 5-inch grid.|
When growing perennial onion crops such as chives and scallions, blooming is part of the life cycle, and the flowers are decorative and highly edible. But when we grow onions for the bulbs, we don't want flowers because the production of the flowering stalk will reduce the size of the bulbs. Here in Florida where the weather is inconsistent through the winter and into spring, it's not unusual for some of our onions to bloom during the first year. I harvest these rogue onions as soon as I see the scape and use the whole plant for salads, soups, and such within the next week or two. Drying them for storage doesn't work, because they skipped their dormant stage.
|I harvest bulb-onions that have developed buds
and use all parts of the plant (except the roots)
in salads, soups, and more.
|Cutting onions (Allium fistulosum) blooming.
The flowers are edible, too.
This year's onion harvest
|On May 2, about a third of the leaves
had fallen over.
|The first onion harvest was on May 2.|
|The second onion harvest was on May 20th.||Onions with weak stems will be used first.|
|Tying the bunches with strips of soft cloth.|
|This year's onions and garlic drying in the garage.|
Scallion, Welsh onion, cutting onion, or bunching onion (Allium fistulosum)
Walking onion or Egyptian walking onion (Allium x proliferum)
|Planting garlic cloves in a 4-to 5-inch grid pattern.||About half of this year's garlic harvest.|
|Several years ago, I braided the garlic leaves |
to make a garlic wreath for drying.
You can use the harvested garlic right away, but you'll want to dry most of the garlic so that it can be stored for several months.
Other crops on the garlic side of this genus (with flat, solid leaves) include:
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)
Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum), including elephant garlic, a cultivar of this species (A. ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum)
Meadow garlic (Allium canadense), which is native in Central and North Florida
Storing dried onions and garlic
After several weeks in the garage, we store ours in paper bags with tops folded and pinned shut on the floor of our pantry. We check once a month or so to pull out bulbs which may have sprouted or gone soft.
*Onion and garlic plant family:
The Florida Plant Atlas says they are in their own family: Alliaceae. This is my go-to botanical authority. But, when first described more than a hundred years ago, early botanists put them in the lily family because of their 6 tepals (a combination of 3 petals and 3 sepals of equal size). Later botanists said that they didn't belong with the lilies and created the Alliaceae family. More recently, some authorities (including my old college professor and mentor, Jim Reveal) put them in the amaryllis family Amaryllidaceae, in a tribe known as Allioideae. Click this link for history and details.
I hope you're growing these wonderful crops in your winter gardens no matter which plant family the taxonomists place them in.
Green Gardening Matters,