April 1, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.

Time to order your onions

Time to order your onions
Time to order your onions

Onions are members of the Allium family and are cousins of garlic, chives, leeks and shallots. They are mostly biennial as they grow vegetative the first year, then bloom the second year. Onions can be started by sets, direct seeding, and transplanting.

A good example of direct seeding means you plant the seeds directly in the ground. An example of this would be scallions, which are also called green onions or bunching onions. They are used when they are undersized and generally are eaten raw. We use the straight white shanks that are usually bulbless. We use much of the upper green portion, as it is tender and mild. In the supermarkets, scallions often come trimmed and bundled, a dozen or so in the bunch, bound by rubber bands.

It's almost too late to plant onions for transplanting. If you want to grow large, firm onions for use next fall and winter, sow the seeds in late February or early March, indoors. Once they sprout, keep onion seedlings in a sunny, south-facing window, or better yet, a few inches below a fluorescent light.

Transplant the little, grass-like seedlings outdoors as soon as garden soil is dry enough to work thoroughly. If the soil is fertile and well drained, with plenty of sunlight, and watered on a regular basis, you should have nice onions come fall.

Probably the common way to raise onions is to buy them as sets. Onion sets were planted as seeds last year. You can buy them from a store sold by the pound. Or, you can buy them bare root in garden centers, mail order catalogs, and also from the Chisago County Master Gardeners. This is the fourth year that we have offered bare root onions and our sales go up every year.

We offer Spanish Yellow, Candy, and Copra in bunches from 60-75 in a bunch. Spanish Yellow is a favorite onion by commercial growers in northern states because it makes a uniform large and sweet tasting bulb. It is globe shaped, matures in about 100 days and stores from four to five months.

Our most popular seller is the candy onion. This yellow onion is the most consistent winner at county fairs across the country. Proof of its potential size is my picture in one of the local papers holding up a two-pound candy onion. It is a very sweet onion that matures in about 100 days, but only stores for about three to four months.

Copra is the best storage onion on the market today. It is an extra-hard medium sized bulb that dries quickly, and has the highest sugar content of any storage type onion. It is globe-shaped, yellow, and matures in about 110 days. Weather can dictate the size, texture, and sweetness of some fruits and vegetables and this includes onions. Normally the Copra onion will store up to 12 months and sweeten up if not used until after the first of the year. However, the unusual year did affect the Copra as some were not as sweet and long lasting as in past years.

If you don't have one of our plant orders or a copy of our Spring Class Series, please call the Extension Office at 651-213-8901 for more information.


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