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Who would have guessed I would be growing onions and potatoes, together with other vegetables, in my own garden? As a city girl, I would have never believed it if someone had told me it would happen!
Having a garden and a house in the countryside has always beenmy dream, and it became my husband's too. During communism, buying a house in the countryside was almost impossible. But we, as city people, wouldn't have wanted it anyway because we were too much used with civilization. My husband had grown up as a child visiting his grandparents' house in the countryside, especially during summer vacations. After their death, the house was empty and no one else moved in. They just sold the house and rented the land to other people living there, to use it for growing cereals or whatever they would want to grow. This is our country's main problem: people don't work the land, mostly because they don't have the means to do it and they prefer to sell it or rent it to others. Years after that, we were lucky to have the opportunity to build our house and have a small garden around it where I planted fruit trees and lots of plants, not far from the city of Bucharest.
Our garden isn't so big, but I still tried to grow vegetables in there, among roses and zinnias. It was an experiment, but it worked and we ate a few tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers from our garden. That motivated me to want to grow more, in a bigger area. At first I tried to grow potatoes on a small quadrant of land, outside my garden, on the field. I dug up the land, weeded and raked, then planted pieces of sprouted potatoes. I watered every day, and fertilized once a week with organic fertilizer, such as vegetables and fruits leftovers. My neighbour taught me how to cover the potatoes with dirt after they started to grow, but forgot to tell me that I should have pinched off the blooms, so the roots should grow well. Nevertheless, they grew up nicely and we ate a bucket of potatoes from a few hills.
Last year, I thought I should grow more vegetables and wanted more land for our vegetables garden. I worked very hard and managed to have a good onion harvest. I planted yellow onion sets in April and by the end of July they were already grown. I chose to plant the onions on one edge of the garden, the one which was higher. Onions were planted there with a purpose, because they don't need too much watering, so at one edge was perfect. This way I avoided overwatering , which could make them go rotten. The soil must be lightly fertilized. Spacing is about 3 to 4 inches between the sets, but I was careless when spacing properly between the lines, so when I was weeding it was very hard not to step on the onions' leaves. Each small onion bulb needs to be plant in a small hole you make with your finger, with the roots head down, leaving the tip outside of the ground. Weeding must be done regularly. I was happy to watch their growth from the thin, to the thick leaves. One colleague told me that I needed to pinch off the blooms so the plants would concentrate all the food in the roots, not in the flowers and fruits. It would take 3 years to get my own onion seeds and obtain the onion sets without buying them from the market. First I need to sow onion seeds in early spring, harvest the small onions in late July. The second year I will plant the onion sets and harvest the onions. Third year I will plant the big onion heads and let them bloom and make seeds.
Only one of my onions had a bloom, which I pinched off immediately. The others just grew until their leaves began to lay down on the ground. This is when I had to walk on them and bend down all the leaves on the ground. Then I waited for another week or so, until the leaves got yellow and dry. Using a shovel, I dug the onions out, very carefully, so none would get harmed.
No need to say how proud I was of my onion harvest! I haven't tried yet planting onion sets in the fall to have green onions in spring - same for garlic -, but I hope to try it this year, when my vegetable garden will be more weed-free.
I also planted again potatoes, but last year they didn't grow as well as the year before because I didn't have time to weed as much as I should and they had to fight the weeds' roots for surviving. I even found one potato with a weed root inside it. The onion bed was more weed-free, that's why they had more space to grow.
I am no expert in growing vegetables, but I can tell you that onions and potatoes are easy to grow, with minimal care and watering. Even from a small garden like mine, you can get a good harvest for your family and I bet it will be a better crop than mine, if you will learn from my mistakes.
About Adina Dosan
I'm a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share my experience.