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May Harvest At The Raincatcher’s Garden

A wheelbarrow of leeks, onions, garlic. Bush beans are growing in raised bed behind the harvest and our mulch piles are in the upper right corner.

Blackberry Pickings; these will make delicious jelly or cobblers.

This is a view of our raised beds brimming with healthy veggie plants and bordered by grapevines. You can see Dorothy and Syann measuring tomatoes in Bed #1.

Ann Lamb

Why would you measure tomatoes plants and weigh harvest? 

Growing blackberries in Dallas



Radish Reminders and Onions

Sow radish seeds early February through mid- April. We enjoyed them all through fall and winter and now get a second chance. Radishes are perhaps one of the most satisfying crops because they germinate quickly and profusely from seed but don’t forget to thin them! At approximately two weeks old or one inch in height, snip off the leaves and add the tops right into your salad bowl. In fact, you can eat radish tops anytime. They are one of the “root to leaf” crops being touted by American chefs and gardeners.

Above: Stunted Radishes, No Room to Grow

Above: Stunted Radishes, No Room to Grow

A word from Jerry Parsons,  Ph.D., horticulture specialist with the Texas Cooperative Extension in San Antonio:  “Plants require a certain amount of space for optimum root expansion and foliage growth if maximum production is expected.” The key words to understand are “optimum” and “maximum” . Plants limited by space restrictions will produce, but not to the maximum. They will grow, but not in the optimum condition. This is true for those vegetables which need space to physically expand (the radish, turnip, onion bulb) as well as all vegetables which need the intensity of sunlight to energize the chlorophyll of cells to insure optimum functioning of plant processes and, consequently, maximum production.”

Radishes from our Garden, Properly Thinned

Radishes from our Garden, Properly Thinned

Onions-you have probably already planted them or are “fixin” to get them into the ground.

Above: Onion Sets Ready to be Planted

Above: Onion Sets Ready to be Planted

Remember to allow space for them to grow. Judge this by the expected size of the variety you are planting.

For example, green onions need less space than the larger bulbs of 1015Y onions. Spring is coming! Here’s what you can look forward to as an onion grower.

No worries about how to eat these crops. The Dallas County Master Gardener Cookbook, A Year On The Plate, will have plenty of recipes. (Publishing Date To Be Determined) But just like spring, it’s coming!

Onion Planting Advice : The Lowly Onion


Pictures and Video by Starla

Oh, oh, oh and don’t forget National Seed Swap Day at Preston Forest, Whole Foods Market today from 12-4.

Master Gardeners  will be there with seed activities and seeds to give away.

The Lowly Onion

Because of their circle within a circle anatomy, the Egyptians considered them to be the symbol of eternal life, and they buried them along with their dead.  The Greeks, on the other hand, used them to increase the strength and endurance of their athletes before the Olympic Games.  Throughout the ages they have served as food and medicine for both the poor and wealthy.  What is this ancient vegetable?  The lowly onion, of course.

Above: Dallas County Master Gardeners-Cindy, Tim, and Linda with our onions harvested in 2013

Above: Dallas County Master Gardeners-Cindy, Tim, and Linda with our onions harvested in 2013

Onions (Allium cepa or bulb onions) are thought to have first originated in Central Asia or perhaps Iran and Pakistan at least 5000 years ago.  Our earliest ancestors probably ate wild onions and gradually started cultivating and domesticating them since onions are portable, easy to grow, prevent thirst, and could be dried for times when food was scarce.  To the Romans, the onions’ medicinal qualities included to cure vision, induce sleep, and heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches, dysentery, and lumbago.  In the Middle Ages their antiseptic qualities were thought to cure snake bites, alleviate headaches and prevent hair loss.  In North America, despite the abundance of wild onions consumed by Native Americans, the Pilgrims in 1648 planted bulb onions as soon as the ground could be cleared.

Today it is estimated that the per capita consumption of onions in the United States is over 20 pounds a year.  The onion is also the official state vegetable of Texas.    If you want to grow onions in North Texas, Jan. 1-Feb. 15 is the time to plant them.  Onion varieties are generally divided into three major categories:  long day, short day and intermediate day onions.  Dixondale Onion Farm in Carrizo Springs, TX, stresses that when selecting onion varieties “the size of the onion bulb is dependent upon the number and size of the green leaves or tops at the time of bulbing.  For each leaf, there will be a ring of onion.  The larger the leaf, the larger the ring will be when the carbohydrates from the leaves are transferred to the rings of the bulb.  The triggering of this transfer or bulbing is dependent upon day length and temperature and not the size or age of the plants.  When selecting your onion varieties, remember that the further north you are, the more hours of daylight you have during the summer.”  The onions that can be grown in Dallas County are those varieties found in the short day and intermediate day category.  This, unfortunately, eliminates some of the “specialty” onions found in some seed catalogues; however there are still white, red and yellow onions that do well in here.  Most garden centers carry onion slips that are selected for our area or go to the Aggie-Horticulture website  to see a list of recommended varieties.

Onions prefer a loose, well drained soil and should be planted 4-6 weeks before the last spring freeze.  To grow larger onions, they can be fertilized with a synthetic or organic fertilizer that has a larger middle number, such as 10-20-10 when they are first planted.  After the original planting, they can be fertilized with ammonium fertilizer (21-0-0) in alkaline soils or calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) in acidic soils about every 2-3 weeks, if desired.  Stop fertilizing once the onions start to bulb.

Above: Onions planted at The Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road in 2014.

Above: Onions planted at The Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road in 2014.

Plant the onions slips one inch deep and no deeper as their ability to form a bulb will be compromised.  Onions grown to maturity should be planted about 4 inches apart; however, if green onions are desired, the onion slips can be planted about 2 inches apart and every other one pulled for green onions.  Water thoroughly and regularly until the tops turn brown or yellow and fall over, then cut back on water.  At this point a fully mature onion should have about 13 leaves.

When they are harvested, dry them thoroughly for several days to avoid problems with rot.  The entire neck (where the onion meets the bulb) should be dry and not “slip.”  Once the onions are dry, clip the roots and clip the top to 1 inch.  Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location if not consumed right away.  Any onion that shows signs of rot should be removed immediately.  In general, according to Dixondale, sweeter tasting onions do not store as long as the more pungent types.

So, plant yourself some onions—and Bon appetite !!


More about onions click here and for onion recipes click here!

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