|Disease Prevention Strategies||February 2012|
Those of you in milder climates may already have your onion plants in the ground, and we wish you the best of luck this year! One way to maximize your crop's potential is to be proactive about disease prevention. Too often, a wonderful onion crop spoils in storage before it can be completely consumed. In nearly every case, it's because fungal diseases were acquired while the onions were still in the ground.
All onion storage diseases share one starting point: leaf wetness. If you get more than 20 inches of rain in your area annually, conditions favor the development of such diseases. Sadly, once an onion becomes obviously diseased, it's too late to do anything to save it. Prevention is the key here. You have to take steps to block the diseases from ever taking hold in the first place.
That means treating your plants regularly with fungicides. You need to keep fungal spores from attaching to the leaves during the growing season, which is why a preventive fungicide program is so important -- whether chemical, or all-natural. We offer both (see below).
Here are some other tips for keeping your onions healthy, from planting through storage:
- Use pre-emergent herbicides during bed preparation. Onions don't like to compete with weeds.
- Rotate the crops every three to four years.
- Avoid fields with any disease history.
- Plant in areas where there's good drainage and air movement to promote rapid drying of foliage, and be sure to orient the rows to take advantage of the predominant airflow.
- Avoid overhead irrigation.
- Stop fertilizing your onions about a month prior to harvest, or when they start to bulb.
- Stop watering once you see the first top fall over, or about a week before harvest.
- Harvest only after the onion tops are well matured.
- Cut the tops when you don't feel any moisture when you rub right above the neck with your thumb and forefinger.
- Harvest and handle bulbs gently to avoid wounds, and don't let them get rained on.
- Promptly cure the bulbs in a well-ventilated area, so the necks are completely dry before the crop is stored.
- If you see any damaged or rotting onions among a stored batch, remove them immediately, hopefully before they have a chance to taint the others.
If you'll follow these steps, your stored onions are much more likely to last until you've eaten them all!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
It's critical to fight fungal infection in your onion plants. This month, 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. Start the program two weeks after planting, and spray 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
Long, Long Rows
Here's Arlene Waguespack of Lake Arthur, Louisiana, showing off some of the 3,000 onions she and her husband grew: among them the short-day Southern Bell Red and 1015Y. The Waguespacks host a family get-together when picking their onions, and send us the most wonderful pictures of the event every year.
Got some onion-related photos to share? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you just might see your photo in a future newsletter!
| Green Thumb Award|
Texas Early White Takes Top Prize
It's official! On January 18, 2012, Dixondale Farms was presented with a coveted Green Thumb Award 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.
|Around The Farm|Our New Strapping System
As we mentioned in last month's special Shipping Notes section, we've recently 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 this fee.
The new strapping machine offers other benefits as well: multiple shipments won't get separated in transit as easily, and without staples, the boxes are less likely to scratch anyone. Plus it speeds up the packing process, since the closing is automated with this new equipment.
|Cooking With Onions|
- 6 large red onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon oregano, dried and crumbled
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 7 cups stock
In a stockpot or five-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes or until softened and slightly colored. Sprinkle the onions with the sugar, oregano, coriander, cumin, allspice and cinnamon; cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the red wine vinegar and orange juice, and cook for another four minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for one more minute. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Adjust the heat so that the mixture simmers gently, cover, and cook 20 minutes longer. Then stir in the salt and pepper, and serve.
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: Cold Tolerance
Q. How much cold can my onion plants tolerate?
A. An onion that has taken root properly can handle temperatures down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Check out this Facebook video I did earlier this month for a more detailed explanation
|Fun Onion Facts|
We have a new world record onion, folks! In September 2011, a British man named Peter Glazebrook, who's been trying to grow a record breaker for 25 years, revealed his 17-pound, 15-ounce wonder at the Harrogate Flower Show. The Glazebrook onion beats the previous record of 16 pounds, 8.7 ounces held by another British man since 2005.
No specific variety was mentioned, but it looks to us like an Ailsa Craig Exhibition onion. Further research reveals that Mr. Glazebrook grew his onions in pots for almost a year. That means that he tricked the onion with artificial light as the days decreased in length, which allowed it to keep growing (if slowly) until the days started getting longer again. It takes a lot of effort to produce a monster onion!
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 my video about onion cold tolerance, as well as our two recent 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!