Planting onion starts

I wrote about growing onions in my Sunday column but wanted to give you a bit more information about how you would plant onion starts.

I planted mine today. This is probably the earliest I've ever gotten any type of onions in the ground! They are a cool-season crop so I haven't jumped the gun in that regard.

Also, they can't be planted until the soil can be "worked." That means having soil that is dry and crumbly, not wet or clumpy (technical horticultural terms). After I discovered yesterday that our soil is just right, I decided to go for it.

The onion plants came from Dixondale Farms ( a few days ago. I ordered 'Copra' and 'Highlander', a new variety they're carrying this year. They come in bundles of 50-75 plants. I heartily recommend 'Copra' because it will store from 10 to 12 months (wow). We grew it last summer and are still eating it. 'Highlander' has a storage potential of 4 to 5 months, which is still respectable. I'll let you know how those ones did later this year.

You can see the size of the starts in the top photo. Click on it for better detail.

I decided to plant two long rows of each variety so was able to fit them into one of my 3' x 8' raised beds. The starts shouldn't be planted any deeper than one inch'; I like to press the soil around them well so they don't fall over. They are spaced about 2 inches apart and will later be thinned 4 inches apart to give the remaining onions room to bulb up. You'll notice I planted them on either side of the drip tape lines so they'll get plenty of moisture.

I also made some little trenches on either side of the plantings that contain bone meal. Root crops need a lot of phosphorus to grow well; bone meal contains more phosphorus than nitrogen or potassium so it's an ideal choice. I covered the trenches and now I just need for the rain to start falling -- which is due any minute -- to gently water them in.

The fully-planted bed is in the photo to the right. Now you pretty much know all you need to know about growing onions!