Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mulitplier Onion or Potato Onion

 I'm perusing the garden seed catalogs on line and in paper form. I'm looking for a few things in particular, one being onions. I've been experimenting with onions for the past three or four years. First it was how to grow them since at one time I couldn't produce a decent sized onion to save my soul. I've moved on to producing seedThat requires either wintering over full grown onions in the garden or placing stored onions back in the garden the next spring.

Though sometimes when you buy bulbs from the store or catalog, weather conditions will prompt them to bolt straight to producing seed instead of a nice large onion. I had that happen with some of my red onion bulbs I bought super cheap at the grocery store last year.

My problem comes in when I try to start my onions from seed in the house. Three times I've produced spindly worthless transplants. 

 Last year I placed the seed directly in the garden and came up with some nice salad worthy shoots. I then took the greens and small bulbs, dried them, and produced a powder. Onion powder being a nice addition to cooking but it can't replace a hardy onion for frying with mushrooms on a home-grown T-bone steak.

So off I've gone to browsing through the catalogs and Internet for ideas how to solve my seed to onion problem and low and behold I made Columbus like discovery. No, won't change the entire world but it might just greatly alter ours. I found potato onions or multiplier onions as some call them. They bypass the seed to onion stage and go straight from onion to onions....  That I've got to tryThe concept from one onion to producing multiple onions in one plant blows me away. They promise that one small onion will create several larger onions and a larger size onion will produce numerous small onions. Something like what potatoes do, hence, the name.

The mature bulbs are small from a half inch in size to three inches but reportedly easy to peel the skins off. They keep extremely well, something that is becoming a big priority with me.

They are suppose to be planted in the fall but you can put them in in spring which will be what I'm going to do. I will then put a few in in fall to see if they can winter over in our area. Most I've seen are for zones 5 - 8. A bit above our temperature zone. I did see one variety listed in my favorite seed catalog and it was not under onions but under leeks. That is why I've missed it before and it doesn't have a whole lot to say about them. On the Internet not many sites tell about them either but those that do praise them greatly. 

Multiplier onions / potato onions are an old old breed once popular in home gardens. Then commercial production came along and they aren't what the mass production formula is looking for. That's okay, I'm not mass producing, I'm looking for self-sustaining and this onion looks like it will be right up my alley. I can see where those doing square foot gardening  and patio pot gardening could really use this space saving type of onion.  

This is a little of what one site had to say about potato onion or multiplier onions.

planting zone 5.
"Sources differ about planting depth, some saying shallow planting is appropriate and others calling for deeper planting. This onion does tend to grow very close to the surface and a planting hole perhaps an inch deeper than the diameter of the bulb seems to work well. The onions vary in size from half an inch to three inches in diameter (1 - 8cm).
Zones 5-8
Each bulb cluster of potato onions may contain many bulbs, averaging 2 to 2-1/2″ in diameter. When a small bulb (3/4″) is planted, it will usually produce one or two larger bulbs. When a large bulb (3 to 4″) is planted, it will produce approximately 10 to 12 bulbs per cluster.

Individual bulbs can be grown in flower pots to produce a steady supply of green onions during the winter."

I might just have to try the flower pot method too. And since I've traveled so far with fair success in growing onions, I'm going to venture off into trying garlic once more. It has hated me too but I'm going to figure out what I'm doing to offend it and make amends so I can finally get a successful crop. Yup, onions and garlic are one of my targeted projects for this summer's garden.

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