|Bulbing, Bolting, and Splits ||April 2012|
We often get questions about three related onion topics: bulbing, bolting, and splitting. Bulbing is a natural, necessary part of the onion maturation process, while bolting and splitting are developmental problems. Let's take a quick look at all three.
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell when an onion is bulbing, since the bulb itself may not be entirely visible. Your biggest clue is that the ground will start cracking at the base of the plant, as the expanding bulb pushes dirt out of its way.
If you've planted the onion too deep, you may not be able to tell when this starts to happen, and you'll end up with smaller bulbs because the soil will restrict their expansion. Therefore, we recommend you plant the onion no more than one-half inch to one inch deep. About two-thirds of the onion bulb should be above the surface as it matures. Sunscald shouldn't be a concern if the plants aren't planted too far apart, because the foliage should shade the bulbs.
Bulbing is dependent on day length and temperature, not the size or age of the plant, so choosing the proper varieties for your area is critical. Northern climates tend to have more hours of sunlight during onion growing season, with intermediate day lengths across the middle of the country and shorter day lengths in the southern extremes of the U.S.A. We carefully match your onions with your locale's day length.
Once the onions start to bulb, stop fertilizing. This discourages further leaf growth, and allows the bulbs to mature properly.
It's natural for an onion plant to send up a flower or seed stem after bulbing, if given the opportunity. But if it does so before bulbing, in response to environmental stress (generally cold weather), this is known as "bolting." The onion won't develop any further, and the inner ring will soon become inedible.
Don't store bolted onions, as seed stems weaken the tops of the onions as they exit, so infection could more easily result.
If the temperature consistently falls below 50° F for two weeks or more, mature plants with 7-10 leaves will bolt. A cold, wet spring followed by a hot summer can also cause bolting. Larger plants are more susceptible to bolting because they mature earlier, and thus have more leaves.
Easy ways to avoid bolting are to buy the proper plants for your region, and to plant them at the proper time. Don't over-fertilize, because vigorous growth may lead to bolting. Furthermore, make sure the soil isn't too loose; otherwise, the plant may be encourage to bolt and spread its seed.
Double Formation or "Splits"
Splits are often discounted at markets, though there's really nothing wrong with them; they can be eaten and enjoyed like any other onions. It just happens that, for some reason, the bulb split in two early in the growing process, and each half has developed separately (though they do remain joined). But if you want to avoid splits in your own onion patch, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Some onion varieties are just more susceptible to splits; for example, some red varieties and sweet Spanish onions will split if planted too far apart. Otherwise, splitting may be caused by over-fertilization, uneven watering, temperature fluctuations (especially when it goes below 20° F), and planting too deep. In addition, bigger plants are more likely to split.
There are several ways to try to limit splitting. First of all, talk with your county extension agent to find out which varieties are more prone to splitting in your area, and avoid them if possible. You can also plant your onions a bit later than you normally would. Don't plant them too far apart, and definitely don't plant them more than an inch deep.
We try to remove the doubles in the plants we ship. That's one reason why our plants tend to be small, since larger ones are more likely to split.
Maximizing Your Yield
You can't control the weather or completely preclude your onions from bolting or splitting, but if you'll follow the guidelines above, you can limit those problems and make sure your onions bulb properly. We hope you've found this discussion useful; if you have questions, please check our FAQs page for answers.
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
Texas Jumbo Sweet Onions
This month, we're offering up something really special: a ten-pound box of our very best Texas jumbo sweet onions. We hand select only the largest, sweetest onions available, and include our favorite onion recipes along with them. Not only are these onions great for your own table, they make an awesome culinary gift. You can't beat the price of just $21.95 for one box; and if you order two or more, you can get them for just $20.95 per box.
But remember: these onions are available in MAY ONLY. Don't worry -- it won't be long now, and you can order in advance!
From Our Friends
Our friend Dave Springer proudly displays two nice handfuls of his most recent onion harvest, which includes both Intermediate Day and Long Day onions. He tells us he's from New Jersey, but visited Texas last summer. We love this picture -- and we especially appreciate the Longhorns cap he's wearing!
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|Happy Birthday!
Here's a picture of Bruce and Jeanie celebrating Bruce's birthday recently. Can you believe we got him to wear his birthday hat again this year?
We also recently had a luncheon for all the employees with birthdays in February, March, and April -- a rare and special get-together while the busy season is underway!
|Cooking With Onions|
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 cups chopped fresh ripe or thawed frozen peaches
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño pepper
- Fresh lime juice
Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl, adding salt and lime juice to taste; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This month's recipe is courtesy of the National Onion Association.
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: Early Arrival
Q. I saw on Facebook a few days ago that you'll be shipping some of your priority mail packages early. Does that mean that I should hold onto my onions until I'm ready to plant?
A. The two nights before we posted that notice, we'd had rain showers come in from the mountains of Mexico. We decided to start shipping some of the priority mail packages that were scheduled to be shipped the following week a few days early, so we could take care of our customers with the plants we harvested before the rain. From past experience, we know that the plants we ship a few days early do fine. If you receive yours early, just remember to take them out of the box immediately, and plant them as soon as the weather is appropriate.
|Fun Onion Facts|
According to folk wisdom, drinking a mixture of onion juice and honey will help clear up a chest cold. We can't say much for the flavor, but it can't hurt to try!
Some folks also think that if you mash up some onion with crushed aspirin and a little water and apply the solution to a wart, it will soothe the wart and, eventually, make it go away. Again, you may as well try, because it can't do anything worse than make you smell a little oniony. And what's wrong with that?
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.
|Join Us 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 quite a few videos on Facebook, too. Be sure to check 'em out
. Lately, a lot of folks have been planting their onions early due to the mild temperatures. But if there's a cold snap, your onion plants will be vulnerable to bolting, and may develop seed stems. For more information, check our Facebook page for a link to our new video on the subject, or click here to watch the video on YouTube.
By the way, don't forget to share your onion recipes with us here -- and regularly review the posts from your fellow onion growers, to find some new recipes to try!