These onions were planted as seedlings last October and should be ready to eat in May or June. (Mary Lowther photo)

These onions were planted as seedlings last October and should be ready to eat in May or June. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Planting, growing and storing onions

Long-day onions are more pungent and are bred for storage

By Mary Lowther

Was it Adelle Davis who suggested frying up some onions if one hasn’t had time to prepare dinner because the aroma tells everyone that at least dinner is on the way? Most meals I cook contain onions, so you’d think I’d know how to grow great ones, but they’re trickier to grow than one would think. In our neck of the woods we should be able to grow short-day or long-day bulbing onions and three kinds of scallions if we pray to the correct garden goddess.

Short-day onions are mild and are sown in August or early September, ready to harvest the following May or June. They don’t store long. If sowing outside, sow them a half inch deep and three seeds, one inch apart, in rows 18 inches wide. The following spring when they start to re-grow, side dress with organic fertilizer down both sides of each row and scratch that in a bit. Water the roots as necessary and harvest them before they send up a seed stalk. I’m still learning how to save seed.

Long-day onions are more pungent and are bred for storage, and can be started now, inside in flats or outside in the same manner as short-day onions. I have sown onion sets, those tiny onion bulbs, but they never grew very big, if at all, and were disappointing so I stick with seeds, which are cheaper anyway. These onions will be ready to harvest in August or September. Once a third of the crop has withered and fallen over, knock the rest over and pull them all out after a few days.

They can be dried outside for a few more days or brought under cover to dry. I usually braid mine and hang them up in the pantry where, admittedly, it gets pretty darn cold in the winter and not the ideal storage temperature of between 5 C and 13 C, but it’s what I’ve got. I’ve never grown enough to last all winter because our voracious appetites use up whatever amount is in storage before Christmas rolls around.

Lisbon, Welsh and Fistulosum are scallions, or green onions. The Lisbon and Welsh type can be sown anytime between now and midsummer and go to seed the following spring. Fistulosum are hardier Japanese bunching onions and that’s all I know about them. The Home Gardening Annual bunching scallions I planted five years ago keep popping up every spring, sending up so many seedlings that I’ve had to divide the clumps and move them around or give them away. Perhaps they keep on going because I never pull up the whole bulb, just cut off what I want as I need them, and when they send up their lovely violet flowers, I cut these and put them in a vase, awaiting the next batch of greens to grow. I get about three cuttings a year and then they go dormant over the winter, ready to sprout up again in spring. Right now they’re about eight inches tall.

Once my onions are up in the garden I never water overhead because wet leaves are susceptible to disease, I’ve read. Since I always use soaker hoses I haven’t seen any diseases, although I do spray them with compost tea every two weeks. I’ve also heard that slugs don’t like onions, but I’ve learned not to believe everything I’m told.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening

Just Posted

Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Pandemic year like no other, Cowichan nurses say

May 10-16 is National Nursing Week

Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre at 5878 York Rd. is now planned to be open in the fall. (File photo)
Wellness and Recovery Centre now to open in the fall

Three community dialogues scheduled for May

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Editorial: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read