Wednesday, May 21, 2008

spring abundance and the onion flower mystery

We've been getting a lot out of the garden recently! Last night we tasted our first kohlrabi of the season and made a salad with peeled purple kohlrabi slices, buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, arugula, green onions, and beautiful orange nasturtium flowers. Since it was all picked fresh I could almost feel the nutrients joining with my body as I ate. Yum!

We've also been harvesting plenty of greens - cabbage thinnings, turnips, kohlrabi greens, radish tops, and the above-mentioned spinach, lettuce, and arugula. We've had turnips, baby carrots, onions, radishes, and snow peas, too. I'm letting the radishes and some of the spinach bolt their beautiful seed heads for me, too. Those and some of the peas will get saved for the fall (and beyond!).

This year I grew red, yellow (1015), and white short day onions from sets. Some of my onions have fallen over, which means they're done growing even though they're only a few inches wide. I'll let the tops of those brown up and then pull them for drying and storage. Others are sending up flowers and some are just growing along normally. I've grown onions a few times, but it seems early for them to quit. So I did some research. Those agricultural extension folks are quite the powerhouse source of good information. Here's what I found:

Failure in onion production comes in two forms - - complete annihilation of the young seedlings during a cold winter or an abundance of spring onion flowers which decrease bulb size, weight and storage ability. Onion plants which are small and rapidly growing when the cold temperatures of winter arrive will probably not survive. Yet, if you plant earlier and the stem of onion plants are larger than a pencil when exposed to cold temperatures, the onion will initiate and produce a flower during the following spring. This flowering is termed bolting...Fall seeded crops are susceptible to bolting the following spring if warm fall temperatures, allowing excessive growth, are followed by low winter temperatures and slowed growth. Many gardeners believe that early removal of the onion flower stalk will cause onion bulb enlargement but this has not proven to be the case.

So perhaps it's due to a faulty planting date on the part of my onion set source (I have yet to have the patience to try onions from seed, although I just bought some leek seeds from Baker Creek a few days ago! Woohoo!). I read on and found out a little more related to bolting onions:

What causes bulb onions to send up flower stalks? Flowering of onions can be caused by several things but usually the most prevalent is temperature fluctuation. An onion is classed as a biennial which means it normally takes 2 years to go from seed to seed. Temperature is the controlling or triggering factor in this process. If an onion plant is exposed to alternating cold and warm temperatures resulting in the onion plant going dormant, resuming growth, going dormant and then resuming growth again, the onion bulbs prematurely flower or bolt. The onion is deceived into believing it has completed two growth cycles or years of growth in its biennial life cycle so it finalizes the cycle by blooming. Flowering can be controlled by planting the right variety at the right time.

Well, I thought I did plant the right variety at the right time, but then again, how much do you really know when you're getting your onion sets from Lowe's??? I knew I needed short-day varieties and that's what I got...I thought. The temperatures have been surprisingly temperate here in OK and we haven't had the wild hot/cold/hot swing we usually have in spring, although it has been quite windy this year. In any case, I'll order my future sets from a reputable source or try seeds!

Over the weekend I covered the path between my two garden strips (summer and spring) with first brown paper sacks, then cardboard, and finally hay. Bermuda grass, crab grass, I will vanquish you! If only between my two gardens. I still plan to make a cardboard collar around the whole thing, but one step at a time. I also put diatomaceous earth on everything (damn snails!) and sprayed on some nice and stinky fish emulsion. Interestingly, the diatomaceous earth seems to work on the snails, but I've found those crafty little cabbage loopers still thriving. What gives? I need to know more. More research on this and info in the future. Along with pics, I hope. I have so many!

1 comment:

Verde said...

Hi there, I came over from the sharon's food group to check out your blog. Very nice - I'm going to love your gardening information.