5) Planting onion sets in a small furrow

In this tip:

  • A)# Onion fly and carrot fly 
  • B)# Planting time
  • C)# C)# Planting onions
  • D)# Mulching (covering garden soil)
  • E)# Test: planting date and hay around.
  • F)# Onions planted early May (mid spring).
  • G)# Harvesting and cutting green leaves
  • H)# Cutting hay and sifting grass seeds
  • I)# Further….

Onion sets can be planted in a shallow furrow in the garden soil.  This is above all good when you have a sandy soil. Reasons:

  • Onion plants are better “fixed”in the soil.  After planting, birds will not pull them out that easy.
  • The soil in the furrow is lower, so less drying out and less watering needed.
  • When watering in the furrow, the soil next to it stays dry.  So less weed next to the row.
  • The furrow indicates where the onions have been planted.  No marks needed.

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A)# Onion fly and carrot fly

ui wortel biet 2

You can alternate rows of onions (O) with next to rows of carrots (c) as on this photo (OcOcOcOc). This can reduce the attack by the onion fly or carrot fly.

When you want to harvest more carrots or more onions (and still have onions next to carrots) you can:

  • sow 2 rows of carrots next to each other (OccOccOcc) for more carrots.
  • or plant 2 rows of onions next to each other (cOOcOOcOO) for more onions.

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Planting sets not to early helps against the onion fly, see B)# Planting time.

A layer of hay around and between the onion plants helps well against diseases and insects. See at E)# Test: planting date and hay around.

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B)# Planting time

(The description below is valid when you don’t put hay (or dry grass) on the soil between the onion plants).

Plant a short row of onion sets in early spring. Early planted onion sets can be attacked by the leaf miner fly (curled leaves) or onion fly (maggots,plants die).

So you better plant many (all) onion sets in mid spring or later.

These onions have been planted in early spring (early April). Much attack (from onion flies or miner flies).

These onion sets were planted at mid spring (May 15). From 50 onion sets I harvested 48 big onions.

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B1) Planting indoors for an early harvest

You can plant onion sets in flower pots with compost early March (late winter). Using a flower pot with insertion and strip is useful, (see tip 30 Root ball lifting flower pot   ). Let the onion plants in the pots grow bigger indoors. Take the plants with rootballs out and put the onion plants in the garden soil in early April (early spring).

Below a description with photos.

  

  • Fill a flower pot (with insert and strip) with compost. (You can also use a flower pot with insert (without strip). Taking out the root ball goes well too).
  • Use a tea spoon to make a small hole in the compost.
  • Put the onion set in the hole in the compost. Shove compost in the hole around the onion set. Press on the compost.
  • Put the flower pots with onion sets indoors: before a window, temperature 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F).
  • Regularly water the onions and compost.

  • Let the onions grow bigger indoors at a warm light place.

  • You can put flower pots with onion sets in a mini greenhouse with transparent cover. Put the whole outdoors by day (at sunny weather) and indoors by night.

  • You can put the tray with flower pots (and onion sets) under a tunnel greenhouse by day and indoors at night.

  • In April (early spring) you can plant the onions in the garden soil.
  • The next procedure is very useful;

  • Tighten a rope (with knots each 10 centimeters, 4 inch) above the ground.
  • Make a straight furrow in the garden soil under the rope.
  • Every 10 centimeters (4 inch);
    • put a flower pot with onion plant (or an empty flower pot of the same size) in the furrow in the garden soil.
    • push on the garden soil around the flower pot (to get a good round planting hole in the soil).
    • take the flower pot out of the garden soil.
  • In this way you made planting holes in the furrow.

  • At each flower pot take the insert out.

  • Take the onion plant with root ball from the insert.

  • Put the onion plant with root ball in a planting hole.
  • Press on the garden soil around the plant.
  • Photo above; two onion plants (left side) have been put in the soil. The right side onion plant needs to be taken out of the flower pot and to be planted.

  • Small onion plants (with root ball) planted in the garden soil.

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Remarks:

1. Hay around the plants

Put a layer of dry hay around and between planted onion sets and/or onion plants. Doe this right after planting onion sets or some later. Results: the soil does not dry out so rapidly, the onion plants grow faster and the onion plants are less attacked by onion flies and leaf miner flies. More info at chapter E)# test: planting date and hay around.

Grass seeds in dry hay will give you small grass plants between the onion plants. You can sieve these seeds from dry hay. See chapter  H)# Cutting hay and sieving grass seeds. Instead of hay you can use dry mowed (lawn) grass.

  • Lay hay in the furrow around and between onion plants or on onion sets.
  • Do this right after planting or when onion plants are above the soil.

  • Spray water on the hay right after putting on. Moist hay does not blow away.

  • An area of my garden with onion plants or onion sets covered with hay.
  • (In this area I also put hay in furrows with sown winter carrots. That’s not good; this results in many grass plants growing between the carrot plants).

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2. Old onion sets

Old onion sets left over from last year (left side of photo above) are shrunk and look dried out. At right “fresh” onion sets.

On the left side there are “living” old onion sets; thicker, heavier and (mostly) having a little green stem. At right fresh onion sets.

Experiment. On the left side of this furrow, fresh onion sets have been planted. On the right side 2 old onion sets have been planted at each planting spot. Later on dry hay has been laid on.

The grown onion plants. At left from fresh onion sets, at right from old onion sets. All onions are big (maybe the old sets gave slightly smaller onions).

So: “thick” old onion sets yield into normal onion plants and slightly smaller onions.

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3. Weird shaped onions

Early planted onion sets can give these weird shaped onions. Planting date March 16 (winter/spring), dry hay laid on. Harvest: big onions with weird outer layers. Preparing these onions in the kitchen is some harder.

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C)# Planting onions

C1) Testing if sets are good

You can test if onion sets are good. Lay them on loose moist garden earth and spray water over every day. Within one week good onion sets have roots and stems. Plant the good onion sets in the garden soil.

Attention: when onion sets have been stored in a moist room they can have roots. When they are stored dry again, the growing stops. After putting in the soil, these dry sets won’t grow anymore; no new roots, no leaves, no onion.

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C2) Procedure for planting onion sets

  • When needed, lay stepping boards on soft soil.
  • Always stand on a lane or on stepping boards to overcome “hardening”of the soil.
  • Fix an elastic string between 2 bamboo sticks. See tip 2)    no 4.
  • Or use a nylon cord with knots. See tip 2)   no 64.
  • Use a hoe to loose the soil and to make a furrow under the string or cord.

  • Make a  V -shaped furrow using a furrow board. See tip 2)  no 2.
  • Or use a garden trowel to make the furrow.
  • Every 10 centimeters (4 inch) plant an onion set in the furrow soil. Plant depth: until half of the onion bulb is visible.
  • Remove the elastic string or cord with knots.
  • Hoe the soil next to the furrow; earth will fall into the furrow. After this the onions are just visible (or just invisible).
  • Spray water in the furrow; after this the onion sets are firmly in the soil.
  • Remove the stepping boards and hoe the crushed ground.

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D)# Mulching (covering garden soil)

Mulching is putting a layer of plant material on the garden soil around or between plants. The garden soil does not dry out so fast, so plants grow better.

At sown onions (tip 22), mulching reduces the attack by insects;

Here you see 2 rows of sown onions next to each other. Left of the yellow line, dry grass has been put between the onion plants. Onions grow well there.

Right of the yellow line, no grass has been put there. Many onion plants died there due to attack by onion flies or miner flies. Later on, onion sets have been planted there.

Conclusion: mulching reduces the attack by insects. This works well at sown onions and at onion sets (see further).

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E)# Test: planting date (March 20 to May 1) and hay around.

This test indicates when onion flies or leaf miner flies lay their eggs on onion plants;

E1) Planting onion sets, first test:

  • Put at March 20 (early spring) one onion set in a furrow. From then on, put each subsequent day another onion set.
  • At May 1st (mid spring) put the 43rd onion set in the furrow. The row is full.
  • From early April (early spring) on, put a layer of dry hay around and between the visible onion plants. Hay is for sale in a pet shop and not expensive.

Two photos of the row of onion plants (between yellow arrows); on May 1, mid spring (top photo) and on June 1, late spring, (bottom photo). There is dry hay around the biggest onion plants.

E2) Big onion plants, first test:

Big onions on July 4 (early summer). At some plants the leaves curl or lie down (flop over). These onions can be harvested. A few days later all onions have been pulled out of the soil.

E3) Harvest first test:

  • Harvest of the first test; 38 big onion plants (5 kilogram) from 43 onion sets.
    • At 3 onion sets the plants died (nothing left from the sets).
    •  At 2 onion sets the plants had soft onions.

E4) Planting onion sets, second test:

  • Next year the test has been done with 3 rows of onion sets.
  • Put at March 20 (early spring) 3 onion sets in 3 furrows. From then on, put each subsequent day 3 onion sets in 3 furrows.
  • At May 1st (mid spring) put the 43rd onion set in each furrow. The rows are full (129 onion plants).
  • From early April (early spring) on, put a layer of dry hay, mowed dry grass or dry straw around and between the visible onion plants.
  • There were 115 big onion plants from 129 onion sets.

E5) Results and conclusions:

  • There was no (or only little) attack of miner flies or onion flies.
  • Some onion plants showed curled leaves, but the big onions looked normal.
  • Onion harvest is good; many big onions and few small onions.
  • Under hay (straw), the soil does not dry out fast and the onion plants grow better (faster).
  • Hay works well against attack by flies, even during the “risk period” (early spring, March and April).
  • Dry hay is better than straw or grass; it gives more and bigger onions.
  • Onions sets planted after April 25, showed no curling leaves and no vermin.

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F)# Onions planted early May (mid spring).

In early May (mid spring) onion sets have been planted. At the end of May (mid spring), dry hay has been put on the soil.

In August (mid summer), onions have been harvested, dried and the foliage has been cut.

Almost all onions look cool and undamaged. Two onions have a “weird bottom side” (photo above, bottom right) due to attack by the onion miner fly. More info at tip   4) Insects and diseases of plants     , chapter A2) Leaf-miner fly (on onion plants).

Putting hay on the soil works well, also at onion sets after May 1 (mid spring).

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G)# Harvesting and cutting green leaves

You can harvest onions when the leaves are green.

  • Pull onions out of the soil when the leaves are flopping over.

  • Use scissors to cut the biggest part of the leaves.
  • End up with 1 to 2 centimeters (0.5 to 1 inch) of foil.

  • Lay the “cut off” onions in a big cardboard box.
  • Put the box with onions at a dry (sunny) place to let dry.
  • Turn the onions in the box when the upper sides of the onions are dry.

  • After 1 or 2 days all sides of the onions are dry.

  • Use a soft brush to wipe off the dry garden soil.

  • Lay the dried onions in an other cardboard box with the stems (tilted) upwards.
  • Don’t put too many onions in the box; leave free space around each onion.
  • Let the onions dry in this box for about 1 week.

  • Put the dried onions in another cardboard box.
  • Form 1 layer of onions in the box.
  • Put many onions in the box with stems (tilted) upwards.
  • That goes well when you put the box slanting.

  • Many onions in the box with the stems (tilted) upwards.

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H)# Cutting hay and sifting grass seeds

When you buy hay, usually it is long stem hay. Putting long stem hay around onion plants is hard to do. Hay with short stems work better.

Shortening hay can be done as follows: put hay in a big bucket or flower pot. Use hedge shears to cut the hay stems shorter.

When you have put hay on the soil, there can be grass plants growing between the onion plants. This is due to grass seeds in the hay.

You can sift the grass seeds from the short stem hay as follows;

  • Short stem hay in a bucket.

  • Use a big flower pot with many bottom holes. Hole size about 1 to 1.5 centimeters (o.5 inch).

  • Put short stem hay in the flower pot with bottom holes.
  • Hold the flower pot a few inches above the washing up bowl.
  • Shake the flower pot to drop short hay leaves and grass seeds through the bottom holes.

  • After sifting:
    • In the black flower pot there are long hay stems. Use this hay on the garden soil.
    • In the green bowl there are short hay stems and grass seeds. Put them on your compost heap (compost container).

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I)# Further….

  • At dry weather, water the plants in the furrow 2 times per week, in the evening. Use a watering can with a sprinkler head with small holes.
  • When there is no hay around and between the onions:
    • Next day, loose the soil between the plants using a “hand trident”.
    • At the same time, remove the weed from the furrow.
    • And reshape the furrow. again.
  • If there is hay around and between the onions:
    • No need for loosing the soil and reshaping the furrow. The hay keeps the furrow in shape.
    • Pull out small weed plants.
  • Once a week, hoe between the rows.

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