GoodSeed Farm > It’s Time to Start Your Vegetable Garden

It’s Time to Start Your Vegetable Garden

Starting with onion plants instead of “sets” gives you the biggest, fattest sweet slicing onions.

Potatoes & Onions

It seems too early to be vegetable gardening, but experienced gardeners have their onions in the ground by St. Patrick’s Day. Onions are cold-hardy, whether you plant “onion sets” or transplants. To get fat onion bulbs, you need to grow big healthy tops before the days get long. That’s when the plants switch from growing foliage to storing food in the bulbs, so planting too late means puny bulbs at harvest time.

If your garden is too gooey to plant, try making some fluffy dirt just in the onion rows: Sprinkle 10-10-10 fertilizer and a little superphosphate on the row and then spread three inches of peat moss. Till the row six inches deep, trying not to step on the freshly tilled dirt. Rake it smooth. Magic. Now you can tuck in your onions easily.

The easiest way to grow onions in the home garden is by planting onion “sets”, tiny onions that grow into big onions. All you need to do is press the little onions into loose soil two inches deep and two inches apart, and the tamp the soil firmly.

Onion plants grow the biggest sweet onions. Onion plants come in bunches of about 60-70 plants, each the size of a pencil. Starting with onion plants instead of “sets” gives you a head start, so you’ll get the biggest, fattest sweet slicing onions within the growing season. ALWAYS TRIM OFF THE TIPS when planting, and plant them as shallow as possible (one inch deep).

Onions need fertilizer three or four times before harvest. Use 10-10-10, sprinkling the fertilizer around the base of the plants (fertilizer dust can scorch the foliage). Super-phosphate and bone meal are good for onions too. Fertilize when plants reach 6 inches, and again every two or three weeks. The best way to fertilize onions is by “side dressing.” This means sprinkling fertilizer at the base of the plants, taking care not to get fertilizer dust on the stalks, where it can burn.

Thin every other plant, harvesting the weaker ones. Big, healthy tops mean big fat onions. Pinch off any seedpods, because if the plants set seed they won’t grow big bulbs. Once the days are long enough, healthy vigorous onion plants shift gears, and energy from the big tops is transported down to make a bulb. Bulbs continue to grow until the tops wither and turn brown. That’s the best time to harvest.

Eager vegetable gardeners are already thinking about planting potatoes. Early varieties like Yukon Gold and Red Norland can be planted in late March in this part of Ohio, if you’re careful to protect the tender young plants from frost on cold nights. Once the plants have sprouted 3 to 5 inches tall, “hill” around them with loose soil. Hilling is also the way to protect the young plants from frost, so keep an eye on the weather; hill your plants when you have a late frost warning. If you cover them a little bit they’ll pop right through in a day or two.

If you plant early, we recommend dusting with sulfur. Sulfur protects from rot, and it gives new sprouts a quick acid charge. Cut them into chunks with 3-5 eyes apiece. shake the pieces in a bag with an ounce or two of powdered garden sulfur, then let them dry out for a day or two before planting. If you pre-sprout potatoes before planting, it will decrease the likelihood of rot. Put them in a warm sunny place until sprouts form, then cut them into pieces before planting.