Fall & Winter Growing Guides
Onions, scallions, garlic, and shallots have been cultivated for over 5,000 years and all are of the genus Allium. Alliums share a tendency towards a pungent odor caused by the alkyl sulphide. Because of their diverse genetic base, Allium varieties can be grown and harvested nearly all year-round.
CULTURE: Alliums prefer a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil limed to a pH of 6-7. Just prior to planting, get your crop off to a good start by applying 1 cup of our complete fertilizer per 10 row feet and dig it into the top 6 inches of soil.
Onions can be over-wintered down to zone 6. If you want to harvest baby onions and scallions from fall and on over the winter, start seed in July. Otherwise, plant all over-wintering types in August. Sow directly into the garden or into shallow flats. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil and keep well watered. After emergence, thin to 1-2 inches apart for salad onions and scallions and 5-6 inches apart for globe onions. Most Allium species have shallow root systems, so a regular watering schedule will help plants perform to their full potential and will give rise to a milder flavor.
Shallots and garlic are planted in October in the Northwest and in the southern states are planted in November through January. Garlic is extremely winter hardy and will over-winter down to zone 3. Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart and cover with 1-2 inches of soil. Water only sparingly to keep the soil from being bone dry. Excess water will cause the bulbs to go into winter in a soft condition and they may deteriorate. When regrowth begins in the spring, fertilize all your over-wintering Alliums with 1 cup of our complete fertilizer scratched in around the roots for each 10 row feet. Water if the spring is dry.
DISEASES: Various fungi attack Alliums. Often the cause is excessive moisture or improper crop rotation. Alliums should not be planted in the same area for at least 3 years. Applications of sulfur or other fungicides may become necessary if serious problems develop. Consult your local county extension agent with specific disease questions. INSECTS: Because of their pungent odor, most Alliums repel many pests and can protect other garden vegetables when used as a companion plant.
HARVEST: We do not recommend cutting the tops off storage onions when they are still in the ground as the cut upright shoots act like a funnel for collecting water, which provides a breeding ground for bacteria that may lead to premature decay. Harvest your onions at the desired size or wait until full maturity. This will be evident when the tops begin to dry out and fall over. Withholding water will help the bulbs dry out. Wait another week and then dig the bulbs, and if the weather is warm and dry, allow the bulbs to lie on the ground to cure. If the weather has become unsettled, bring the bulbs in and hang from the ceiling to dry or place them on a screen in a warm dry location to cure for about a week.
Garlic and shallots can be harvested when they reach their mature size in late summer or early fall. Periodic digging is the best way to tell if they are ready. For long-term storage, harvest garlic before the cloves break through the outer leaves, as dirt that collects between the cloves harbors bacteria that reduces shelf life. Store all Alliums in a cool dry location (55-65°F) in onion and garlic bags (ZSU881) to provide good air circulation.
|Seed Depth||Seed Spacing||Soil Temp for Germ.||Days to Germ.||Thin Plants To||Approximately 200 seeds per gram.|
Every year more gardeners are finding that overwintered onions are easy to grow. The largest globes are obtained by starting onion seeds in late July and August. They mature none too soon the following summer, and have an exceptionally sweet flavor that will enhance just about any dish.
Allium cepa, Aggregatum Group
CULTURE: Shallots prefer well dug, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter and lots of sun. Seeds can be sown outdoors in the spring when soil temperatures are above 50°F. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep and 1/2–3/4 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 2–3 inches. See Onion Culture for fertilizing tips. Each seed will usually produce a single shallot that can be harvested in summer when the tops begin to fall and turn brown. Our shallot varieties are adapted to 36-55° latitude.
Allium cepa, Aggregatum Group
Multiplier onions form a cluster of underground bulbs from each single bulb planted. Once established in your garden, multiplier onions will improve in size and quality, and their bulbs can be replanted year after year. A great food source for the self-sufficient.
CULTURE: Plant multiplier onions in the fall as you would garlic. Plant individual bulbs 6 inches apart in the row and at a depth that allows the very tip of the bulb to lie even with the surface of the soil. A few inches of mulch or compost spread over the bulbs completes your planting. The following spring the onion will send up leaves. Be sure to remove any seed head that may want to form. Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as Fish & Kelp Grow (page 50) in March and again 8 weeks later. Well-drained fertile soil and regular watering during the summer produces larger bulbs.
HARVEST: Harvest typically occurs from July to August. Bulbs should be dried on racks or screens, out of direct sunlight. Select and save the biggest and best bulbs for replanting in the fall. Store bulbs as you would globe onions, inside a mesh bag in a cool, shaded, dry location.
Allium cepa, Proliferum Group
Egyptian onions, also known as tree or walking onions, are very hardy perennials. These fascinating onions form several small bulbs underground, plus they produce clusters of reddish hazelnut-sized bulblets that form at the top of each seed stalk. Normal flowers do not occur.
CULTURE: Plant bulblets 5–6 inches apart, 1 inch deep, in rows spaced 12 inches apart. Once Egyptian onions have established themselves, you can harvest and cook with the bulbs at the base of the plant and replant the bulblets gathered from the top of the stems. If left untended, you will understand the term 'walking onion', as the onion stalks will bend down to the ground and take root all by themselves.
HARVEST: From late summer through early fall, use a garden fork to lift the clumps and separate the onions. In more severe microclimates, bulbs should be stored and planted in the spring. The underground bulbs have a very strong flavor and can be used in a wide variety of your favorite recipes. The stalk bulblets are somewhat spicy and are delicious pickled. They can also be used when pickling other garden vegetables. Be sure to replant some of the bulblets to keep your walking onion patch going.
|Seed Depth||Seed Spacing||Soil Temp for Germ.||Days to Germ.||Thin Plants To||See Hardneck and Softneck information below for cloves per pound.|
Softneck Allium sativum subsp. sativum
These varieties produce 6-18 cloves in several layers around a soft central stem. Approximate cloves per pound is 50-90 but this can vary based on seasonal conditions and the variety. These easy-to-grow garlics are excellent in the kitchen and usually have the best storage qualities. Great for braiding.
These garlics typically produce 5-10 cloves per head. Approximate cloves per pound is 40-65 but this can vary based on seasonal conditions and the variety. Cloves grow in a single circle around a central woody stem. These varieties also produce, or attempt to produce, a flower stalk. What makes these garlics stand out is the range and quality of flavors they exhibit. Hardneck garlics typically have a shorter storage life than softnecks.
CULTURE: Garlic thrives in rich, well drained, composted soil with a pH between 6–7. Adapted to many climates, garlic is easy to grow and is bothered by few pests. Separate the cloves of garlic just prior to planting. Plant the cloves 4–6 inches apart, covering them with 1–2 inches of soil. Elephant garlic is planted 6–8 inches apart and covered with 4–6 inches of soil. In the maritime Northwest, garlic is best planted by October so it has time to establish a good root system before cold damp weather settles in. When spring growth begins, water to keep the soil slightly moist, and fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer applied every two weeks until bulbing begins. As harvest approaches, watering should be less frequent to avoid molding or staining. Cut off any flowering stems at the top leaf to redirect energy to the bulb.
HARVEST: Garlic should be harvested when 3–4 green leaves remain on the stem. Each green leaf represents one layer of covering over the bulb in the ground. If there are no green leaves when you harvest, you may find the cloves are exposed when you dig up the garlic. Tie the plants in small bundles and dry in a cool, shaded, well-ventilated location. After about 2 weeks, you can hang the bundles in a cool location, out of any direct sunlight. You can also remove the stems and store the garlic heads in a mesh bag.