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Mississippi Gardens Newsletter ArchivesFall gardening: Growing onions is easy
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - August 25, 2003

OnionsVegetable gardening is great fun in early spring when the weather is cool and after we have spent most of the winter imagining what our next garden is going to look like. I get excited about growing stuff that time of year and can't wait to get the tiller out and dig in. However, gardeners who know about fall gardening can get just as enthused about planting this time of year.

A glorious thing takes place toward the end of summer. We get another opportunity to re-establish the vegetable garden with hopes of a grand harvest in the cool, fall climate. One of my favorite veggies to grow in the fall garden is multiplying onions. These babies are so easy to grow and so necessary in the kitchen. Every gardener can grow multiplying onions in their own back yard or patio container.

Onions are probably the most important culinary vegetable. One anonymous gourmet said, "Without onions there would be no gastronomic art. Its absence reduces the diner to despair". And, it was General U. S. S. Grant who said, "I will not move my armies without onions." We know onions are a very important part of our diet but we may not know when to plant them or how to grow them.

The onions we grow at this time of year are commonly known as "multiplier" onions. If planted in August and early September, they can be harvested as soon as they get large enough. This usually begins in November (Thanksgiving onions) and continues through March. They will start forming flower buds in March. If all are not eaten, they can be dug, dried in the sun for a few days, cleaned and stored in the shed for replanting in late summer.

The way to get started, of course, is to select a well-drained soil and prepare it by removing weeds and incorporating some compost. If lime is needed, mix in the recommended amount at this time. If a soil test has not been taken, consider incorporating 2 or 3 lbs of 6-8-8 per 100 square feet. Later on, when the onion tops are six inches high, they may be side-dressed with ammonium nitrate at the rate of 3.5 tablespoons per 10 feet of row.

Purchase onion "sets" at your local garden center and get them planted as soon as possible. The onion "set" is broad at the base and pointed at the top. When planting, push the base of the "set" into the soil just far enough so that the pointed end is at or near the soil surface. It is very important to note this because they do not fare well when planted upside down! In a week or so, a green shoot will appear and your onions will be off and running. Provide irrigation in dry times so that leaves do not wither. Happy Gardening

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These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.