Homegrown: Onion suggestions

I’m wondering what suggestions you have for the best onions to plant in Grand Junction. I’m looking for a medium to large onion that will keep for a while during the winter on an unheated covered patio. I’ve always favored a yellow onion, especially the Spanish sweet yellow. Do you have a recommendation?

— John

Actually, most onion varieties do very well here.

The one I’d probably avoid is Maui Sweet. It’s best planted in the fall and allowed to grow and ripen over a mild winter. Vidalia is similar.

The best super-sweet variety for us is Walla-Walla, I think. You can also do any of the Spanish type varieties and the Bermuda types as well.

Poor storage of onions is usually due to one of three reasons.

The first is the variety. There are some varieties that don’t store well. Most of the “super sweet” varieties such as Walla-Walla and Vidalia do not store well. These varieties are milder and sweeter than the run-of-the-mill onion, but you should plan on using them within a month or two of harvest.

Bermuda type onions store a bit longer but the rounded Spanish types are the best choice for storage.

Of the different colors of onion, reds will store the shortest time and yellows will last the longest.

The second reason is improper curing. For good storage, an onion must be properly cured first. In late summer, the tops of onion plants will usually start to lie over. When most of them in your garden are doing this, stop watering and loosen the bulbs from the soil to cut or break the roots. You can either let them lie as they are in the garden for a week or two or bring them inside and put them into mesh bags or crates where they have good air circulation until the necks dry down.

If you leave them outside for a time, be sure to bring the onions indoors before you get any rain or freezing temperatures. Once they’re dry, cut the tops off with pruning shears or a sharp knife, leaving an inch or two of leaf above the bulb.

The last reason onions don’t last is improper storage.

For onions to last their longest, they need cool temperatures, low humidity, darkness and good air circulation. Temperatures should be as close to freezing as possible without hitting it. Frozen onions will quickly rot once they thaw.

Moisture or high humidity will encourage bulb rots that will spoil the onions.

Good air circulation is vitally important. Keeping your onions in mesh bags or slotted crates or boxes will help. Resist the temptation to pile too many onions together as the ones in the middle are much more prone to rot because of the lack of air circulation and because it can get warm in the middle of that pile.

Hopefully, doing this will give you homegrown onions all winter.

I have several patches of what I think is holly growing in my yard. The problem is they have overgrown the front of my house and I would like to get rid of them. Do you have any advice on how to completely kill them?

— Chris

Sounds to me that what you might have is called Oregon Grape Holly.

It’s not a true holly but it has holly-like, spiny leaves. It’s well-behaved for most people, but occasionally it can become a nuisance, sprouting up in places you never intended.

The best way to get rid of it is to use a Fertilome product called Brush and Stump Killer.

What I’d do is to cut the plant off near ground level and paint the freshly cut ends with this product. Be careful, it’s pretty potent stuff and if you get enough in the soil it can sterilize the soil for up to a year and affect nearby plants you didn’t mean to harm.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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