In this issue...
  • Tip of the Month
  • From Our Friends
  • Around the Farm
  • Cooking With Onions
  • Q&A: Dealing With Downy Mildew
  • Fun Onion Facts
  • Send Us Your Product Reviews!
  • About Dixondale Farms

  • Affiliations
    Preventing Thrips Damage in Onions March 2010

    Bruce & Wife Dear Fellow Gardener,

    While caring for your onions, there's a nasty little pest that you need to watch out for: thrips. Onion thrips are tiny sucking insects that pierce the onion leaf and extract the juices stored there. These miniscule critters can complete their life cycle in as little as two weeks; I often joke that they're born pregnant. Even worse, female thrips don't need to mate in order to lay fertile eggs.

    Females lay eggs in onion leaves; they hatch shortly thereafter, and the larva immediately start feeding. After a few days, the larvae pupate and begin the second stage of their two-stage lives as adults. They reach adulthood 17 to 30 days after the eggs are laid.

    Adult onion thrips prefer the top section of the onion plant in the mid-afternoon; the larvae stick to the center of the plant. You'll need to keep this mind when applying insecticides to control these pests. You'll also need to apply the insecticide frequently, given their very short life cycle; weekly applications are best. Just remember to vary the insecticide on a weekly basis for optimum control, since thrips can quickly generate tolerance to insecticides.

    Thrips are hard to see with the naked eye. If you're worried about whether or not your plants are infected, the easiest way to check is to cup your hand at the base of the plant and slap the tops in that direction. The adult thrips will fall into your hand; they resemble small fleas. If you have adult thrips, you can assume you have larvae, too.

    If you count more than 10 thrips during a test, start spraying immediately, and continue weekly sprayings throughout the growing season. Keep these facts in mind: activity increases as the temperature rises, and there's a strong correlation between total yield and the thrips population.

    As if sucking your plants dry wasn't enough, there's a new viral disease called Iris Yellow Spot Virus (IYSV) that thrips can transmit to your onions. There's no cure for IYSV; and since this virus severely impacts the foliage and will ultimately ruin the crop, you'll need to destroy the infected plants and start spraying for thrips right away.

    Here's wishing you healthy onions,

    Bruce "Onionman" Frasier

    Tip of the Month
    Growing Onions in Raised Beds

    Raised beds are popular choices for those gardeners with limited space or poor soils, and they're a viable option for growing onions -- as long as you keep a few things in mind. First of all, consider the root systems. Onions are shallow-rooted, with most roots concentrated within eight inches of the plant itself. Therefore, the rows should be at least eight inches apart; otherwise they're going to compete for the same nutrients.

    On the other hand, you can space your onion plants as close together as four inches within the rows. However, the farther apart they are, the bigger the onions can grow -- and some varieties, like the Ailsa Craig, can grow very large indeed. On the vertical scale, be sure the soil is soft enough for root penetration to at least a foot deep.

    Another consequence of crowding onions is that doing so will impede air flow through your crop, so that they won't dry out as quickly when it rains or when you water. This can result in more fungal diseases of the foliage, which may ultimately kill the plants. Be sure to spray fungicides as often as once every ten days or so to prevent disease.

    melvin From Our Friends

    Check out Oklahoma native Melvin Kowalski's recent crop of short day and intermediate day onions -- impressive!

    We love hearing from you! Send us your favorite "onion photo" and we'll try to include it in a future newsletter, our next catalog or our online Photo Album. Click here for details on how to submit your photos.

    Fraiser-Martin Around the Farm

    Back in 1982, when I decided to get out of the Army, Jeanie and I were expecting our first baby. We were living with Jeanie's parents until Rebecca was born, and I was scheduled to fly out to Missouri for a final interview with Proctor and Gamble to manage a Pampers plant. Not bad; at least I could get some free diapers!

    While sitting at the breakfast table one day, Jeanie's dad, Wallace Martin, asked me if that was what I really wanted to do. I told him no -- what I really wanted to do was to go to work for him, but he hadn't offered me a job. His reaction was, "Well, I'm offering you one now."

    I asked him what he wanted me to do, and he told me to go buy a pickup after breakfast. So I went down to the local car dealer and told him who I was. He said to pick out anything I wanted, and Wallace would bring a check down later when he came to town. I bought the plainest pickup they had on the lot. When I returned to Wallace's home, I could tell that he approved of my frugal purchase.

    I then asked him what to do next. He said to go to the farm and see Miguel, who was the farm foreman -- and that for the next two years, I would go see Miguel every day and ask him what he needed me to do. Wallace told me, "For the next two years, the biggest decision you're going to make is how you want your eggs for breakfast!" That's how I learned to farm, and how I learned that growing a good crop is more important than just about anything else.

    Wallace is 85 years young now, and still comes to the farm twice a day to see if I need any help or advice with making decisions.

    Cooking With Onions
    Betty Carol Gilbert's Onion Casserole

    • 1 pound of sliced onions, separated into rings
    • 1 beaten egg
    • 1/2 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese (shredded)
    • 1 cup of heavy cream
    • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
    • Paprika to taste

    After preheating your oven to 350 degrees, arrange the onion rings in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Boil the mixture for one minute on the stovetop, then drain the water and transfer the onions to an 8-inch baking dish.

    Next, combine all the remaining ingredients except the cheese and paprika in a bowl, mix thoroughly, and pour the mixture over the onions. Then sprinkle the casserole with cheese and paprika to taste, and bake it for 25 minutes.

    Makes 6 servings.

    Onions can enhance so many dishes, from simple salads to complex entrees; and they can also be consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. We periodically receive sumptuous recipe suggestions from our employees and from you, our customers. We want to share one with you each month, so that you can take full advantage of the fruits of your labor! If you have one you would like us to print, please email it to us at

    Q&A: Dealing With Downy Mildew

    Q. What is downy mildew, and how do I treat it?

    A. Downy mildew is one of the most common diseases that you may face during the growing season. This foliar condition is caused by a pathogen called Peronospora destructor that hits the older leaves first, manifesting as drawn-out pale or yellowish patches that may or may not be accompanied by a grayish-violet fuzz. Infected leaves will fade to pale green and then to yellow, ultimately folding over and collapsing. The result is decreased bulb sizes.

    Downy mildew is most common when the weather is wet and cool (lower than 72º F), and can occur repeatedly during the same season -- so just because you've stamped it out once doesn't mean it won't come back. Spores can even overwinter on plant debris, volunteer onions, and stored bulbs. They can survive for up to 5 years, even in very cold weather.

    Weekly applications of Mancozeb can protect against downy mildew, as long as you spray the crop thoroughly and only before the disease appears. Other, more costly alternatives are Ridomil, Pristine, Quadris, Rovral, and Bravo. Organic efforts using Seacide will protect the plant by coating the leaves, making it more difficult for the spores to get a grip.

    Fun Onion Facts

    Back when the West was wild and cowboys still wandered the open range, they often made do with the wild prairie onion, Allium stellatum, for their culinary concoctions. Better known as the "skunk egg" due to its powerful odor, it was an important ingredient of a commonly-served dish known as SOB stew (and yes, that's the PG version of the name!).

    Send Us Your Product Reviews!

    In addition to sending us recipes and photos of your onions, we encourage you to give us feedback on our products. You'll find a "write your own review" link on every product page. Don't be shy -- we need your opinions!

    About Dixondale Farms

    As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the U.S., Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site by clicking here.

    Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. If you have either questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Time at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at

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