|Drip Irrigation and Soil Moisture||January 2012|
Onions require a lot of water throughout their growing cycle, but it's important to irrigate carefully and judiciously. Drip irrigation and soil moisture sensors are very effective in maintaining appropriate moisture levels, because they help you avoid yield loss due to excessively dry areas, as well as diseases and storage decomposition caused by too much moisture.
The best way to track soil moisture and schedule drip irrigation is to install special sensors that measure soil water tension in centibars (cb) from 0 (completely saturated) to 100 (completely dry). You should place them regularly along the rows at a depth of eight inches. Studies show that you can actually reduce water use by up to 25% with this method, without affecting onion health, size, or yields.
Here are some drip irrigation tips to consider:
- Apply about half an inch of water with each drip irrigation.
- Irrigate regularly and heavily for the first two weeks after planting, until the onion plants are established. Never let the sensor reading exceed 15 cb.
- From that point on, irrigate whenever the sensor reading exceeds 20 cb, continuing until the reading is 0-10 cb (saturation).
- Start irrigating at 15 cb again when the onions begin to bulb, because they'll need a lot of water at this point.
- Never let the soil moisture content drop below 60 cb, as too little moisture will detract from the quality of the bulb.
- If you live in a wet climate or supplement your drip irrigation with furrow irrigation, water your plants through the drip system only when readings reach the 27-30 cb range.
We hope you've found this drip irrigation guide helpful. If you have any questions we haven't covered, please let us know!
- Late in the season, once the bulbs have matured but the tops have not yet fallen over, it's a good idea to reduce the frequency of watering in order to minimize the risk of fungal infections that might ruin the onions in storage. For the last few waterings, wait until the sensors read 30 cb.
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
We've got two items of shipping news to make you aware of, folks!
First of all, we've installed a new strapping system on our 30 bunch cases. If you order multiple cases, they'll come with two cases strapped together; so don't be alarmed if you see that the number of packages shipped is half of the total number of cases. UPS and FedEx charge per box for the Delivery Area Surcharge, so when we strap two cases together, they only charge half of this fee. In addition, there's less of a chance of them losing packages.
Second, be sure to check our status on Facebook every once in a while. That way, you can keep track of the weather at the farm, and we'll be able to let you know if there will by any shipping delays due to the weather.
It's critical to fight fungal infection in your onion plants. This time, we feature two dependable products that will help keep your crop disease-free while it matures.
Mancozeb Flowable Fungicide with Zinc: This liquid fungicide, which contains zinc, iron, manganese, ethylene, and bisdithiocarbarmate, does an excellent job of preventing fungus damage to plants. Rain and high humidity can cause fungal growth on your onion plants in as little as 12 hours. You have to nip it in the bud, because by the time you notice your onions aren't storing well, it's too late. Mancozeb protects against downy mildew, tip blight, botrytis, stemphylium leaf blight, white tip, and more. Just mix two teaspoons into a gallon of water for each 50 feet of onion row and spray on your plants, starting two weeks after planting and continuing every two weeks until the tops fall over.
SeaCide Organic Fungicide and Pesticide: This all-organic product offers an effective one-two punch against both insect and fungal attacks -- and it's 100% safe for the environment. SeaCide contains cottonseed oil, lecithin, and edible fish oil, which combine to form a coating that protects your plants from diseases and insects alike. In addition to this natural barrier, it coats soft-bodied bugs like thrips and makes it hard for them to breathe, offering further protection. Just mix a teaspoon per gallon of water and spray it on two weeks after planting, and then spray again every 7-14 days until the tops fall over. Sorry, we can't ship SeaCide to California.
|From Our Friends|
Check out these colossal onions from our friend Dale Miller. They're as big as melons!
Here's what Dale told us about his crop: "Grown in a raised bed in Washington State from stock I ordered from you in spring 2011. These are Walla Walla sweets.No long arming required to make these look big! I live in Eastern Washington, ironically only a couple hours away from Walla Walla."
Got some onion-related photos to share? Send them to us at email@example.com, and you just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
| Around The Farm|2012 Green Thumb Award
We're proud to announce that Dixondale Farms has won one of the coveted Green Thumb Awards for 2012, for our introduction of the Texas Early White short-day onion. Until recently, there was only enough seed available for large operations. Now that we've gained control of the supply, we're able to offer Texas Early White to any gardener who wants it -- and many do.
The Green Thumb Awards
, sponsored by the Direct Gardening Association (DGA), are awarded yearly for outstanding new gardening products available online or by mail. The DGA itself is the world's largest non-profit group of vendors selling gardening products directly to consumers via mail-order shopping. Now, the awards won't be formally announced until January 19, but we thought we'd let you in on the secret a bit early!
|Cooking With Onions|
Microwave the onions on high until they're tender -- about 1-2 minutes. Then combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl, and add the shortening until the mixture takes on a coarse, crumbly consistency.
Stir in the onions and cheese, and enough of the buttermilk or yogurt to moisten the mix. Knead the resulting dough on a lightly-floured surface 8-10 times, and cut it into four pieces. Place them at least two inches apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and bake for 8-12 minutes at 450 degrees or until they turn golden brown. Serves four.
From Dixondale Farms
Onions can enhance so many dishes, and can be consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. Please share your favorite onion recipe, so we can include it in an upcoming newsletter. You can email it to us here, or post it on our new Friday Recipe Corner on Facebook. Digital photos of your dish are also welcome!
Q&A: Onion Spacing
Q. How far apart should I space my onion plants?
A. It depends on how big you want your onions to be. If you want jumbo onions, a 5-6 inch spacing (or more) is required. The most common spacing is four inches; in that case, there will be three plants for every foot of row. If you plant two rows per bed, as we recommend, that comes to six plants per foot. Our average bundle contains 60 plants, so assuming four-inch spacing and double rows, each bundle will plant approximately 10 feet.
Of course, if you'd like to enjoy some green onions during the growing season, you can space your onions closer together. Just pull every other plant during green onion harvesting, until you've achieved the final spacing you desire.
|Fun Onion Facts|
According to the National Onion Association, American farmers produce about 1.6 billion tons of onions a year -- about 4% of the world's entire supply. Washington is the top onion-producing state, with about 21,600 acres under cultivation. Texas is fourth on the U.S. list, with about 11,000 acres -- and we're proud to say that Dixondale Farms accounts for a significant proportion of that total!
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click here for information on when to order your onions, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
|We're on Facebook! |
Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, recipes, and even weather information and other tips. We encourage you to add your pictures and growing stories, and to leave something on our Wall.
We've been posting videos at Facebook, too. Be sure to take a look at our two fertilizer demonstrations: first, how we fertilize our onion beds before planting, and second, how to apply our Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer after planting.
Speaking of videos, we also recently prepared a YouTube video demonstrating how we control weeds when we plant our onions. We hope you'll enjoy it, and take away a few tips to help with your own weed control efforts.
By the way, don't forget to share your onion recipes with us here -- and be sure to regularly check the posts from your fellow onion growers, to find some new recipes to try!