Although I enjoyed reading the article, I must add that it was less informative than "inspirational".
I plant "beaucoup" onions every year, both from sets and from seeds (seedlings, not covered in your article, are another excellent choice in America, but here we only get seedlings for leeks).
Contrary to what you write, most European writers (and even my old 2 vol. Rodale's "Organic Gardening" Guide) say to use the smallest sets and discard the big ones, setting no limit on "smallest").
In my experience, the Japanese bunching varieties cannot be beat for true "scallions" and, unless you live near where Asian market gardeners sell seedlings, you have to plant them as seeds. Wintersowing works great with these!! (Something else you do not mention.)
Just to be clear : I am American; my early experiences & my father's garden were in WA State; my Rodale books are his; and I have gardened from WA State to Thailand to Tajikistan to Switzerland & France, so my experience is not restricted to one micro-climate. On the other hand, there are some things (like radishes) that even Beijing schoolchildren can grow and I cannot, so . . .
If there are true perennial options, it would be most useful if you specified the varieties/cultivars. We did rely on Egyptian "multiplier" onions to provide early Spring scallions in the garden when I was a kid; but no one would pretend that they are "true scallions" or even a reliable replacement.
I appreciate you adding your information for the readers here, as it sounds like you grow many more onions in a year than I have lifetime to date.
To summarize: (hope I have this right) Experienced grower says:
=Smallest sets are the best.
="Japanese bunching" varieties are the best for scallions., and possibly available as transplants, recommended you seek Asian market growers.
=Wintersowing works well for seeds of Japanese bunching onions.
I won't bore you with justifying my statement; your experience is the final test (just checked and found that one of my books agrees with you about small sets, while two disgaree) or the focus of my article (I wrote to appeal to the casual , less-experienced gardener, which clearly you aren't)
My assumption writing the article was that onion plants are not that widely sold here either (which was why I didn't discuss that option) ; I tried to check that out today.
Garden Harvest Supply sells a variety ( a dozen) of onion plants here http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/category/buy-onion-garden-plants?gclid=CNqJqsCaqpkCFQFvGgod6A11qQ
for about $7 plus shipping for 50 to 60 plants, but none that I recognize as recommended for scallions. Of course you can pull them early and may be happy with the results. (Gurney had only two onion plants to choose from, neither a scallion type and both for twice the price of GardenHarvestSupply.) So, yes you can mail order onion plants and use them for scallions.
I'm not surprised to hear that wintersowing works well. Of the seeds I have planted indoors this spring, my Tokyo Long White are a smashing success. Just not fast enough to have included a picture in the article.
Oops, it looks like I did try to justify myself up there. I hope you can forgive my weakness. Thanks for the challenge. I hope this added information is useful to other readers, maybe even you regarding the perennial types at Southern Seed.
P. S. I can't grow radishes either. What's up with them?
Even for the casual gardener (maybe even especially for them), the naming of names is, I think, a good idea, because if you don't know much about onions, you might buy sets of Walla Walla Sweets and plant them for scalions!
I remember that my father always got onion plants somewhere, but they were not real scallions, either! We can often get them at the various markets around here about this time of year.
The Tokyo Long Whites are just wonderful!!! You can WS them for an early start, and then actually throw a short row into odd places in the garden throughout the season and get scallions all year. Slow growing, in my experience, but really just about the perfect scallion!
The link to SESE is great! Unfortunately, they won't ship to me in France, but I can have a look around to see if I can find the ones they name somewhere else. Maybe Evergreen Seeds will have them, and they ship here (excellent seed source, by the way).
I think only children can grow radishes. Just like they are the only ones who can open child-proof bottles! I'm thinking of starting a thread entitled "Vegetables (and Flowers) Anyone Can Grow --- Except Me!
Ruh RO. I just took receipt of 120 Walla Walla Sweets. You had to purchase two from Garden Harvest. I don't have enough room for 120 onions, so I decided to plant them all and have some scallions! Am I in trouble?
Did you ever think that one stupid person would read this and respond to you?
Oh, you misunderstand me. I fully intend to get plenty of the big ones. I haven't planted them yet, but I didn't want to waste one onion, so I decided to plant them all, then thin them out and use those thinnings as scallions.
Will that work, or is it against the onion laws? I"ve never grown an onion in my life.
I'm not sure that's against the onion laws, but, at least in my experience, Walla Wallas don't do well if they are crowded; i.e. they never really get big. I'd say, take about 1.4 of the space you are planning to use, and plant the seedlings at standard distances; then go ahead and crowd and thin the rest of them. That way, if the crowding inhibits growth, you'll still get some big ones from the uncrowded bit; and, if it doesn't affect anything, you still get scallions and big onions. I know that "hedge fund managers" are the bad guys of the hour, but I still believe in hedging my bets!
Onions are one of the most enjoyable vegetables to grow, in my opinion, although there can be years when the crop doesn't yield anything BUT scallions or sallad onions. Just one of those things.
That is not a bad score for your onions if your space is too small for 120 sets (! just ran some numbers and a space 4' X 4" would do 121 onions, so in a space of say 2' X 2", that would be NOA Playoff material!)
Thanks for the article and discussion. I have been embarrassed that I can't grow "garden onions". I have bought seeds and sets and nothing comes out right. Now I realize that I was buying the wrong thing. They're called "scallions" and I guess I need to find a source for seed for this instead.
I have some large galvanized tubs I would like to grow them in on my deck. I figured this way they won't get lost in weeds and grass and will be handy to harvest for cooking. I LOVE onions and use them daily in all kinds of dishes and salads. I am tired of having to buy them at the store. I want to grow my own. I've been waiting for instruction and discussion to learn how to do so.
Any futher tips would be appreciated.
I would especially like to know what type of soil I should buy to put in the containers.
I think you can probably use almost any good quality soilless potting mix, which is what I've done to grow onions on the deck, except I usually get one of the mixes that drains quickly (the mixes fro geraniums are usually good for this) and then add some sharp sand and a heavy dose of perlite or vermiculite. I'll even confess that I have spread a mix just like this on small patches of my garden and had far better luck than I usually have with some onions. Hey, I even got some radishes this year by doing that!
And that reminds me! If gunnersmom is still picking up this thread, how did you do with the Walla Wallas?
Thanks Potagere. I'm wondering if the onions would do better in a shallow type container like an old plastic kid's swimming pool with holes drilled in it or the deeper olf galvanized tubs I have with holes drilled for drainage ???
We live by the lake so our soil tends to be sandy anyway. I may try a few in the ground just to see how they do. The problem there is keeping the invasive grass out of it. Weeding is a major pain.
Think they do better bare soil or mulched? If mulched what do you recommend?
Loon, if you have the deeper tubs, I'd use those. While it's true they have shallow root systems, I've seen some photos somewhere that show how extensive the hair roots can be, so giving them something as close to growing in the ground as possible is probably a good idea. The deeper pots will probably hold moisture better, too, and onions may not like standing in water, but they aren't too keen on drying out a lot, either.
If you've got sandy loam, I don't see why you can't grow them in the ground. The thing is, they also need a lot of good organic sources of nutrients. They don't really require much, but they have a hard time getting what they need, so good, rich soil is a must.
I've mulched with wood bark and with cocoa hulls, and both worked fine. Leaves or clippings of that invasive grass (so long as you cut it before the seed heads appear) ought to work well, also. Onions tolerate more ecid soil than a lot of veggies, so pine needles should also be OK. I usually plant lettuces in between the rows of young onion sets or plants. They lettuces help shade the soil and the baby onions, so they help keep down the weeds and retain moisture; kind of a living mulch! Makes putting together a salad so much easier, too! Lettuce is greedy, though, so you need good rich soil to make this work.
Lucky you! Chicken manure compost!
I always put a good dose of bonemeal (as a rich source of potash) as underbanding, about 2-3 inches below the level where I will set the sets, plants or seeds, and then sprinkle some bonemeal and bloodmeal on the soil and rake it in a couple of times during the season. Seems to work.
I got the idea for the underbanding at planting from Texas A&M, which also says to apply high-nitrogen fertilizer every 3 weeks, but NO fertilizer once the necks start to go soft.
I think full sun is probably best. As long as the tubs don't overheat and you don't get dried out soil, I don't see the value in moving them around a lot. Unless of course you need the exercise!
Sorry, Loon, but I'm not familiar with most US brands of fertilizer.
Fish emulsion should work just fine. I can't get that here, so I use blood meal.
If you want to move tubs, you could dry moving some and not others and see how the plants react.
I'm glad Potagere was standing by to answer the recent batch of questions!
All I can add is --Messenger is that 'harpin protein" treatment, as far as I know contains no fertilizer and I'm not sure if its officially OKed for food.
Potagere- I planted fall radishes and had some huge ones that got kind of hot by the time I found them--it seemed they took a long time to grow bulbs so I quit checking. I'm still stumped by radish growing.
Well, Sally, I'm still pretty mystified as well.
I'm going to try something different this year: "Seed ribbons"!
I always thought they were kind of "dumb" and expensive. Well, they ARE expensive when compared to the cost of a packet of seed! But this last season, I accidentally bought a packet of seed ribbon for carrots. Had the best crop of carrots I think I've ever had! So this year I'm also going to try it for radishes. I figure, if I buy a cheap packet of seed and get nothing, and an expensive packet of seed ribbon and get a useful crop (we're STILL digging carrots and will have them well into Spring! First year I haven't bought any at the store), then the ribbon just got real cheap!
Good to hear from you. Hope you'll be able to keep on writing!
I saw more offerings in seed ribbons at Lowes the other day--convenience is a big seller, maybe in this case it's justified. Carrots are another problem for me! Also considering putting the seeds into 'ahem' bath tissue and making my own seed ribbons that way. I never thinned those radishes in fall, I don't like thinning,