Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lots of Alliums

I had a real "duh" moment this Spring. Trying to be a little bit too clever with the space in my yard, I planted red onion starts in one of the tulip beds. While the tulip leaves were winding down and feeding the bulbs, I reasoned, the starts could grow in between, and by the time the spent tulip leaves were ready to be cut back, the onions would be in full swing, and there would be no gap in the plant growth in that bed.

Sounded good in theory. But, when this is the bed, in partial bloom (the tall late bloomers just coming into view in the back rows):

... well, that adds up to an awful lot of greenery for little onion starts to compete with. So, long story short, the red onions didn't have the environment they really needed to thrive. Say it with me: "Duh."

Oh well. They're small (above photo, bottom half), but they'll still be delicious. This was my first year growing shallots (above photo, top half), and I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.

Now, back to the garlic from my previous post. I did some research, as I said I would, and I've concluded two things. First, I should've done more foliar feedings in the Spring. I'm not actually sure that I did any, which was a huge oversight on my part. Second, the soil probably wasn't friable enough. Bulbs will not grow as they should in soil that does not let them expand. I've seen signs of this in years past, when my onions pushed their way out of the soil sooner than they really should have.

Both of these issues are easily fixed for next year's crop. I'm already working on improving the soil, and it should be ready by October's planting. But, in the meantime, as I was hanging my garlic to cure, I gave them all a second look. They're really not as small as I first thought. Some are, but some are pretty big, and most are perfectly acceptable.

Finally, while we're on the topic of faults, I thought I'd share some results of my efforts to reverse one of my stranger ones. I hate to cut plants back. Dead-heading, thinning, suckering ... gah! It just seems so ... so ... mean. I've had as many as 3 tomato seedlings [accidentally] growing in one tiny little peat cell this Spring. Thin them out? No way. And just look at them now (Black Cherry heirlooms):

That's a seven foot wooden fence with three more feet of welded wire attached to the top. Okay, I'm digressing. I'm supposed to show how I've improved on this behavior.

My dreams of a big, lush basil bed can only come true if I'm willing to consistently, brutally keep the basil trimmed back. Unlike a lot of edibles that bolt, flowering does not mean the death knell for basil, as long as the flowers are removed down to the next node. They will, in fact, keep bushing out all summer long. I'll admit it's been a challenge, cutting the plants back by half sometimes, but, here it is, almost August, and my basil is still going strong (although I've got some more flower removing to do there...). Woo hoo - progress is good!

Sweet basil (left) and Red Rubin Basil


  1. Wow, I just learned a lot reading all of these. I think my onions came out of the ground too soon this year too. I want to plant more in the fall (I don't even know if I can do that?) and will definitely work on the soil. I didn't know I was supposed to pinch off the flowers on the basil. I'd better get on that right away. It looks like you have a TON of onions, shallots and garlic. That's awesome!!!!!!