Monday, May 26, 2014

A New Obsession or Inability to Read?

It all started last year when a co-worker asked me if I'd like some onions to plant because he had too many and wanted to give the rest away.

When he said "some" I thought he meant like 5.  Or maybe a dozen.

A few days later, a plastic bag showed up at my classroom door with little bundles of tiny onion bulbs.

When I got home and opened the bundles and I just about croaked.  There were at least 80 onions in there!  They had been labeled and bundled by type.

I wasn't really expecting to plant so many, so I put them in both gardens and hoped for the best, scrounging for space that I hadn't planned to devote to onions.

They did really well and I used them right through the winter.

I missed the chance to order them with that same co-worker this year, so I realized I'd have to buy them myself, which meant I was going to have way too many onions.  I went to the website where he ordered them last year and started looking around.  I wasn't too picky about the names, I just wanted some of each color: red, yellow and white.

It looked like I was going to have to buy hundreds of onions because each color came with over 100 little bulbs.

I figured I'd hand off "some onions" to an unsuspecting co-worker at my school and spread the wealth.  Plant the seed of onion growing so that soon, the whole region would be growing nothing but onions!

This reminds me of the kids book Holes.  Did you ever read it?  A part of the story was that the area was celebrated for onion growing, Vidalias I think, and the had onion festivals and they said the whole town just stunk from eating all those onions.

MMMMmmmmm the smell of ocean breezes combined with onions....

And then I happened upon a special package just for small gardens like mine.  Approximately  60 bulbs, some of each color.  Perfect.  And since there were about 60, why not get two packages?  That way, I'll have plenty of each but I'd still have less than if I had ordered bundles of each color by themselves.

They were surprisingly cheap and came right when I asked for them to be delivered.  Have you ever ordered live plants?  It's weird when they come because it says they've been inspected by the agriculture gods and the box has holes in it.   It made me feel like a farmer.

The directions said they can sit for up to 3 weeks in a cool place.  They would be dry, but they should spring right to life.  That's how they were last year, so I wasn't worried.

Until week 3 was headed my way and I thought they'd spontaneously croak for real.

I decided that since I had two bundles of these mixed types, I'd do one bundle in each garden.  I did them in both last year and they did equally well, though I think we have learned that garden #2 is my favorite for lots of reasons (location, symmetry, full sun most of the day, a gate that latches on its own).

Let me veer off the onion track for a second.  I've used drip irrigation in garden #1 for a long time.  Maybe 10 years already?  It's a system of hard, slightly flexible plastic tubes (but not super flexible rubber tubing like I've seen in catalogs, that you can make into circles around each potted plant, this is harder stuff) and there is a hole every 6-12 inches that lets the water drip out.  It's something I really like because it keeps the water right on the ground instead of spraying like a sprinkler and with all that I read about how it's better to keep water off the leaves to prevent disease, it makes sense.

I decided I wanted to put it in garden #2 because using the sprinkler wasn't all it should be and I have a problem with powdery mildew on the leaves of  my squash plants.  Since garden #2 is very square (symmetry!) as opposed to the drunken ellipse that garden #1 is, I figured it would be easy to lay the irrigation pipe before I planted.

When I installed the irrigation in garden #1, I had already planted for the year and had no rhyme or reason to how I laid the pipe.  This means that when I plant now, things go in nonsensical patterns and there are gaps.  I blame it on the fact that nothing is square, so I can't create actual rows that make sense.

Garden #2 was made for rows.  In fact,  I get a little nervous when I plant there because I have to remember that I can do rows instead of haphazard geometric shapes.

It's a lot of pressure to have a plan when I plant.

This year, the pressure was on to get the pipe out there so I could plant the onions.  One thing after another got in the way and there sat the onions taunting me.

This is what the pipe looks like.

Those are all weeds that I have since removed.  Remember, I was in a hurry to get it down.  These weeds were a breeze to pull out because of the great compost and mulch that went into this garden before winter.

With the irrigation pipe down, I went to get a bundle of onions.  I only had time for one bundle that day.

And as I started planting, I realized that there are way more than about 60 bulbs in this one bundle.

Way.  More.

By the time I got them all planted in both gardens, I had counted way over 200 bulbs.  That's right.  Way over 250 onion bulbs.

I had to go back and look at the website to see if I had read incorrectly because by my estimations, if I had 150 total, that was going to be a stretching it.

Here's what the website says:

"What we produce is a wonderful mixed assortment (approximately 5 dozen plants) that provides gardeners with limited space..."

I don't do fancy math, but 5 dozen is 60 and when they say approximately, I figure they overestimate rather than underestimate.

What a surprise.  I suppose I could have stopped what I was doing after bulb #200 and given some to colleagues, but I was on a roll.

And they are doing extremely well so far.

Garden #2, looking way more brown than it does in real life.  You can see close to a million happy, green onion tops.  When planted pretty close together, 150 doesn't take up as much space as I'd expect.  Only two rows.

Garden #1in its haphazard randomness.  The bigger onions are a few that didn't collapse last year, so I let them winter over.  I'm not sure if they are making bulbs under there or just decorating the place.

Around mid-July, the tops should all lay down as I explained last year.  Then I have a few days in which to pull them out and let them dry.  The trick is going to be storing them.

Where do people store 300 onions?  Last year, I put them all under the tables in the greenhouse, theorizing that it's darker (and I put newspaper on top) under the tables.  They seemed to do OK, but a few froze during the winter.

And I only had about 50.

I'm not about to put them all in the refrigerator.

I don't really have a good place in the house to store them. 

It's a dilemma I think about daily, while k-ster looks out at garden #2 and says "are you just going to grow onions now?"

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