Growing Onions

Single yellow onion

I have had very good luck growing onions – and am I glad! My favorite are red onions – they are so much better than yellow or white onions on most everything. Unfortunately they do not last as long as yellow ones which is not a problem because they get used so quickly. Another plus is I can grow green onions; which I love. Check out some good recipes at Make sure the onions bought are long-day onions; short-day onions are for the South and do not grow well in the Midwest.


My onions are planted in the spring from sets as that is the easiest way. If the onion is larger than a dime, use those for green onions. Remember to plant them with the roots down (one year I planted several with the roots up – they were about one half the size of the ones planted with roots down). Good Friday is when I plant the cool weather crops: onions, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, and radishes. You could plant the last week of March but Cletus insists on Good Friday. The onions should be planted 1 inch deep. If you are growing green onions, plant them 2 inches apart from the dry onions and put them every other onion. They will be pulled before crowding becomes an issue. If no green onions, put them 3 inches apart. Put the rows about 1 foot apart. Do not hill onions or else they may rot at the base.


Onions have shallow roots and are easily taken over by weeds. Boy, do I know about that! Late in the season the onions are almost indistinguishable from weeds unless you are ruthless at keeping them weeded. Foxtails are especially prevalent near harvest time. Many farmers do not bother weeding them – too much work…and I agree – it is a lot of work keeping them weeded.
I side dress onions with 10-10-10 fertilizer about half way through the season. Onions are watered once a week, depending on the rain, so they get 1 inch total.


Yank the green onions when they are about 6 to 10 inches long – they should be crisp. If any have stalked, use them immediately as they are not very good if they sit out. Harvest dry onions in late July or early August when most of the tops fall over. I use a potato fork to harvest them. Trying to pull them out resulted in too many broken tops. Allow them to fall over naturally; that way they produce the biggest bulb. Scallions have no bulb while green onions have a 1 to 2 inch bulb.


Try and use green onions and scallions soon after they are harvested. Store in a perforated bag in a refrigerator up to 1 week after harvest.

Post Harvest

After harvesting the onions in the morning, let them sit in the shade for the rest of the day; unless it is raining. Put them on screens or hang them for 2 or 3 weeks. They need full air circulation in a fairly low humidity place. Many farmers put their onions in the attic where it is nice and dry. After the bulbs have dried cut their tops off 1 or 2 inches from the bulb. Discard any bulbs that have green growing from them. Store in a cool, dry place. They should last until late winter. Ideally storage temperature is 33 to 39 degrees. 40 and over they start to sprout. Some farmers put their onions in burlap sacks to store them.


Filed under: growingTagged with: ,

Growing Spinach

spinachWe have had very good luck with spinach. In fact last year we couldn’t give it away fast enough – and just from one packet of seeds.

The seeds are sown when the soil is ready for planting in the spring (4 weeks before last frost – middle of March where we live). Seeds can be sewn in late winter over frozen ground and they will germinate in the spring but we do not prep the soil until spring – disc then rototill it.

Spinach likes well-drained soil, ample moisture, and full sun. The seeds germinate in soil as cold as 50 degrees F.


I take a 1×1 board and dig a furrow 1/2 inch deep with its edge. The seeds are dropped in 1 inch apart and covered with soil and watered. The plants are thinned to 3 inches apart when they are an inch tall. The rows are 1 foot apart and I plant a successive row 7 days apart.


I generally sidedress spinach with 10-10-10 fertilizer when the plants are a few inches tall.


Spinach is best when harvested young. I snip or pinch the leaves off and bag them. The leaves need to be washed before eating because they collect grit during rain. Spinach is ready to harvest in about 40 to 50 days depending on the variety. When the seedstalk forms, in late spring, harvest the remaining crop as the plant deteriorates quickly.

P.S. Rabbits like spinach.


Filed under: growingTagged with:

Growing Radishes

Just-picked radishI love radishes on salads! Which is why I cannot wait to plant them.


Radishes are a cool weather plant that grows quickly (about 22 days) from seed. They have been very successful in the past several years. Usually I plant about twenty radish plants then in seven days I will plant another batch and so on so there is a continuous supply. Radishes are annuals.

Usually I will mix in a handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer before planting. My favorite spring radish is the Cherry Belle which does not get very hot (unless they are picked too late).

There are two basic types of radishes – spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties, ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Champion’, ‘Burpee White’, and ‘Crimson Giant’ should be planted in early spring to mature as quickly as possible in cool weather for the best production and quality. Most spring radish varieties mature in less than a month.

Winter radishes such as ‘China Rose’ and Long Black Spanish’ require a longer growing period but are superior to spring types in many ways. They hold their quality in the garden longer, store better, and have a more distinctive flavor. By growing a number of varieties from both types, you can be harvesting radishes throughout the spring, and again in the fall and winter.


I have had good success with Cherry Belle and Champion (an heirloom).


Radishes need loose, well-drained soil for root expansion. They love full sun; at least six hours a day.

To save space plant radishes between late growing plants such as broccoli or plant in an area that will be used for warm weather crops such as peppers or tomatoes. Plant in the early spring when the soil can be worked.

Sow the seeds (they are small) 1/4 inch deep and 1 1/2 inches apart. When the sprouts are about two inches tall, thin to 2 inches or else the radishes won’t grow right.

Radishes get hot if they are left in the ground too long. Hotness is no relation to their size.


Radishes grow best when watered evenly. Do not let them dry out nor get waterlogged.


Cherry Belle are about 1 inch in diameter when fully matured. Harvest them while they are young, before they turn pithy (spongy) or woody.

Crimson Giant are about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.

After pulling out of the ground, pull the leaves off to prevent further growth.


Store radishes in water in the refrigerator. I cut off the root and leaves before storing. Because of their high water content radishes do not freeze well. They will last a week or two.

Filed under: growingTagged with: ,

Garden Plowed and Ready for Next Year

Alas. The garden is plowed under. As in the past, the garden was chopped down using a weed mower on an Allis-Chalmers tractor. The scraps were raked up, burned, and the ashes evened out over the garden though if I was in town I would have put the scraps in the compost pile.

Last year I planted annual rye grass (green manure) which was plowed under in the spring. Unfortunately, the only place I could find it within reasonable driving distance went out of business. So this year the ground is bare.

Another tractor, an old Farmall, wasn’t charging the battery through its generator (yes, generator). After a few voltage measurements, we thought the voltage regulator was bad though it was put in a year ago. The generator was tested and had a new bearing put in. Yes, the regulator was bad. It was tested, too, and failed.


Filed under: maintenance

Onion Mishap

Onions did very well this year (2006). White and Red (actually they are purple) onions were the only ones I planted. After the garden was harvested and mowed, I noticed several onions were missed. Not to squander an opportunity, I dug several of them up and put them in our basement to dry (we have a dehumidifier). After a few weeks I grabbed one and it was mushy. The problem was I did not trim the green growth off them and they were growing again since we had an Indian summer. Oh well, I have about 100 more that are ready to cook.


Filed under: garden happeningsTagged with:

First Freeze – Oct 12

Goodbye tomatoes and peppers. Off to the compost pile with ye. I may plant annual winter rye grass (the green manure) which helps prevent soil erosion and provides nitrogen in the spring when it is plowed under.


Filed under: gardening

Awesome Cherry Tomatoes – Oct 7

The cherry tomatoes are still coming! I planted “Husky Cherry Red” tomato plant which has grown 6 feet x 7 feet and about 1 to 2 fee high. It was fertilized once using 13-13-13. With a freeze expected within a week, I managed to nab 30 or so cherries which mostly end up on our salads. Penne pasta with cherry tomatoes is an excellent way to enjoy the garden’s bounty. Large clusters of green tomatoes still linger on the vine. We did not stake the plant; just let it grow.

Lime, which helps prevent blossom end rot, was not added to the soil.

We were lucky: no discernable pest damage. There was a period of no rain followed by a torrential downpour which caused several tomatoes to split. Because of a tall tree in our back yard, the plant did not get full morning sun.

The Lycopersicon lycopersicum or Husky Cherry Red tomatoes are part determinate demanding full sun. Maturity (from the time of transplant to your garden until fruit is ready to pick) is in about 65 days. One plant is plenty for a regular family. Here in central Illinois, the plant has produced from mid August to mid October. Cherry tomatoes are one inch in diameter.

Doug the Gardener

Filed under: gardening

Vegetable Garden About Done – Sep 26

Only tomatoes and green peppers left in the garden. I managed to find several red onions now that the weeds are chopped down to a few inches. Nearly all the tomatoes are green and the few red ones that remain are rotten. The peppers show several flowers and have a few tiny peppers growing but now it is the race to the freeze. Temperatures are getting to the low 40s at night.
Our neighbor had a good pepper year; we did not.
The popcorn harvest was a dud. Most of the ears did not fill out and the ones that did had small kernels.
Like the Cubs fans always say: wait until next year!


Filed under: harvesting

First Zucchini – Jul 10

Ahh, the first zucchini from the garden. I pick it when it is about 8 inches long though we have eaten much larger ones. The large ones tend to taste woody. Our favorite recipe is zucchini bread which has gone over well every time I make it. A delicious variation on this recipe is to add 1/2 cup of pineapple and reduce the zucchini to 1 1/2 cups (thanks to Angie, our wonderful neighbor).
I’ll post my recipe for minestrone soup which uses zucchini later.
Zucchini on the grill is excellent! Cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes, thread on a skewer, brush with olive oil and grill on the rack about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
I use a small shears to cut the zucchini from the plant – tearing it off sometimes breaks the stem off the zucchini. Leave one inch of stem. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate asap.
I have frozen zucchini successfully but when it unfreezes it has a lot of moisture and its resilience is lost but it is still good in zucchini bread.
DtG – Doug the Gardener

Filed under: harvesting

First Snap Bean Harvest – Jul 10

First snap bean harvest went well – at least we got some, unlike last year. Yield was about 1/2 bushel. I can’t wait to make vegetable soup. Not much rain in the past few weeks – about 1/4 inch.


Filed under: harvesting