Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oodles of Onions

In case 200 garlic cloves in October wasn't enough, we planted 500 onions in December.  We are big fans of the Allium family.  They are so easy to grow organically because they have few pests.  As far as we know.  We may find out that is wrong this year, now that we have a lot more plants, but I sure hope it holds true.

We didn't plan to have 500 onions - we were shooting for about 300, enough to fill one of our rows in the main garden.  We found another Texas company, Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs, to supply the onion sets.  After reading the descriptions for short-day onions, we ordered 1 bunch each of 4 varieties (1 yellow, 1 red and 2 white).  Since each bunch contains approximately 5 dozen sets, we would have about 240 sets from Dixondale, plus about 60 of our own that we started from seed.

When the sets arrived in the mail in mid-December, I was impressed by how healthy they looked.  Ed prepared the bed according to the helpful instructions provided by Dixondale, and I started sorting the bunches to choose the best sets to plant.  Unfortunately, three of the bunches had quite a bit fewer than the estimated 60 plants.  We were pretty disappointed, though still pleased with the quality of sets we got.  We planted what we had, then I emailed Dixondale, telling them which varieties were shorted and by how much, and asking them to send us the difference.  They responded promptly, were apologetic, and promised to send another shipment immediately.

When the box arrived, we were amazed to find that, rather than just making up the shortfall, they had sent us full bunches of the three varieties.  In fact, each bunch was 80 to 100 sets.  Wow!  That is some great customer service.  Of course, we didn't want to waste any of those little guys, so we changed our planting scheme a bit and found some space for the extras.  The plants are thriving, as you can see below, and will probably make some very nice bulbs when the days lengthen.  I hope our farmer's market customers are in the mood for onions later this spring.

By the way, I was just poking around the onion photo gallery on Dixondale's website and found out they grow a variety named Red Zeppelin!  I can see the sign in our market booth now: "Red Zeppelin onions from Rain Song Farm" (I might be able to work in some pun on Robert Plant if I try hard enough).  Sadly for me, Red Zeppelin is a long day variety and would never form a bulb here.  I could always grow it as a scallion, though.  Hmm, I may be placing another order...

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