POTATO ONION GARDENING JOURNAL FOR 2016, 2017, 2018
As the new year arrives, I have decided to start a new page to my journal, instead of just continuing it as one long document from the preceding years of 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The experimenting with the Perpetual Leeks has been fun to watch. The little bulbils have by January 2016 grown to be quite large under my grow lights. The true seeds for the Perpetual Leeks had pretty good germination, once I stratified them in my refrigerator. Before the cold, wet treatment in my refrigerator for 3 weeks, I only had about a 10% or less germination. But after the stratification process, the germ rate went up to around 90%. These small seedlings are growing well now under my grow lights.
Seedlings from Perpetual Leek true seeds - January 18, 2016. I hope to see either genetic variability in these, or increased size, or both!
Perpetual Leeks grown from bulbils (clones). January 18, 2016 (See what these looked like on April 2, 2016 in the picture under that date.)
I will be watching these Perpetual Leeks grown from both bulbils and from true seeds during the next 12 months. I hope to find some genetic diversity within the seedlings coming from true seeds, and hope that the size and vigor might increase due to the possible elimination of any soil-borne diseases that might have come from years of cloning during previous years. However, these Perpetual Leeks may, or may not, show the same similarities as Potato Onions grown from true seeds. Time will tell.
I am also growing a few assorted Potato Onions from bulbils that appeared in the fall of 2015. You can see from the picture below that there is quite a bit of diversity in these few. Notice the nice red one, and notice the difference in how some will bulb-up under the day length of the grow lights, yet others will not. I am guessing the ones that bulb-up under grow lights will be more day length neutral than the ones that don’t bulb-up.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE
One of the biggest decisions I have made for the new year of 2016 is to discontinue my membership with the Seed Savers Exchange. (I guess I can always join again in later years if I regret this move.) I have thought long and hard about this, since I have been a member for more than twenty years.
One of the reasons for this decision is simply an economical one. The membership cost has risen to $50 per year, and while I believe in their cause, I do not receive 50 dollars-worth of benefits from it. I only offer a few varieties of seeds through the Exchange anyway. I have offered my Potato Onion true seeds through the Seed Savers Exchange for the past two years, and have only received one request for them during the last two years of listing them. I also offer some old family heirloom cantaloupe seeds, and also some lesser-known varieties of tomatoes through the Exchange, and I usually only receive one or two requests for these seeds per year.
But, by simply offering my Potato Onions and true seeds through my tiny, little personal website, I have received more requests than I can keep up with. I have been astounded at the power of the Internet, and feel that if I offer my Potato Onions and few other varieties of seeds simply on my little, personal website, I think I can get my seeds out to others in a better fashion than I can through the Seed Savers Exchange. So, this means the second reason for me discontinuing my membership in the Seed Savers is that I can do a better job of preserving some genetics on my own without their help.
If I for some reason have the need to obtain some old, rare and heirloom variety of seeds in the future, I will turn to the Internet first, and then if they are unavailable there, I will then turn to the the Seed Savers’ website for them. We’ll see how that goes in the future.
So, starting this fall of 2016, I will simply put a list of other seeds that I happen to have available along with my offerings of Potato Onions and true seeds.
April 1, 2016 I found a cool YouTube on perpetual leeks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OEqDpRwyBg
April 2, 2016 I took the perpetual leeks from under the grow lights, separated the small off-shoots, and planted them out into the garden. We’ll see how they do! Below is a picture of how the leeks looked after taking them out of the pot they’d grown in all last winter:
I ate two of the biggest ones. Not bad, but not spectacular, either. I’m sure they’d be great if cooked and as an ingredient. You can plainly see how small babies are sprouting from the roots of the mother leeks.
April 7 2016 I planted the perpetual leeks that were grown from true seeds out into the garden. Here is a picture of the true seedlings:
I didn’t notice any difference in color, so I don’t know how much genetic diversity I might be finding in these. However, I hope these will be clean from any diseases, and might therefore give larger leeks than the ones grown from clones. Time will tell.
April 20 2016 A couple years ago, someone from Scotland sent me what he called “Scottish Syboes.” These have been really hardy in my zone 4 winters, and today I decided to divide up one of the nests, (more like clumps!) of these Syboes. Below is a picture of just one of the clumps:
This clump of Syboes had at least 40 onions. The taste and texture is quite mild, sweet and refined. Below is a picture of how I prepared them for eating in a stir-fry:
These are delicious both raw and cooked. These do not bulb-up, and are more of a “green onion” as we in the USA would call them. When I google Syboes, I find that this is the Scottish name for them, and in England they are called simply “spring onions.” I found this interesting trivia on the internet:
“The ‘sy’ in syboe is pronounced to rhyme with the ‘si’ of side while the ‘boe’ is pronounced to rhyme with be or bay. If you have been unable to find it in some Scots dictionaries this is because it is often listed under its original spelling of sybow. Many Scots words have several alternative spellings, and syboe is no exception. Two possible spellings, sybie and sybae, reflect the pronunciation.
Syboe has its linguistic origins in an onion. The word siboe is a reminder of our French connections, being derived from the French word ciboule, an onion. This, turn is derived from Latino cepula, a little onion. Inevitably, problems are encountered when you use the word syboe to people who have no knowledge of the Scots language. The problems are even greater with speakers of American English. Not only do they not know what a syboe is, they might not know what a spring onion is.
Since my original starts came directly from Scotland, I’ll be true to the original Scottish name and will call them syboes.
After dividing up a clump, I planted a new row in my garden so I could multiply them out. After tasting these, I am quite excited about them! People who normally would not like onions due to their pungent taste would be more apt to like these syboes due to how mild they are.
I also had a look again at the Florida White Multiplier onions that have overwintered from last year. They are as healthy as can be, are dividing-out and sending up seed heads! I am also quite excited about these, as they not only promise to be short-day or day neutral, but they also promise to be white, a color I have had a hard time selecting for. Whites from other landraces have shown to be poor storers.
April 21 2016 I planted my Green Mountain planting stock into the garden.
April 23 2016 I planted my new South Mountain planting stock into the garden. I suspect these golden beauties are day-length neutral. (hope, hope.)
May 2 2016 I planted my Coral Mountain planting stock out into the garden.
Here’s a nice YouTube video that shows and explains the process of harvesting and curing Potato Onions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U1s80JnMa4
October 2016 Sorry that it has been a busy year for me, and I have not been very diligent in keeping up with my gardening journal. But, not only has it been busy, there was not much new to report on. Earlier on I simply decided to do a summary of some of the new things I’ve learned throughout the 2016 season.
February I need to continue the story of the Florida White Multiplier I wrote about in 2016. I went to separate the seeds from the dried umbels of the Florida Whites, but found, much to my disappointment, that in all those umbels were only about 30 seeds. But, 30 seeds should be plenty to do some experimenting of the genes locked up in this variety. But, in planting those 30 seeds, I had another disappointment - only ONE seed germinated! Maybe this Florida variety is so old and degraded that it makes no good bulbs OR seeds anymore? Maybe of all those many umbels, there was only ONE seed strong enough to sprout? Oh well, if there are any good genes in this variety of Potato Onion, maybe they’ll come through with this one and only seedling? Time will tell; starting from square one on these Florida White Multipliers…..
An update on the storage qualities of the nice, red-ringed Potato Onions I harvested from my trials of the SESE landrace: It is now February 18th, and most have stored very well for me in my little root cellar. This means for me that the search for a good storage red Potato Onion was not to be found in the Green Mountain landrace, but instead in the SESE landrace gene pool. I am very excited about this, because I should have enough of these bulbs to share and sell a few in the late fall of 2017!
Spring 2017 was extremely wet and cold here in Northern Utah. The weather was the main reason I couldn’t get a timely start to my planting season. The secondary reason was, of course, that spring and summer are extremely busy times for my work schedule. I had planted almost all of my garden area in Austrian Field Peas as a cover crop, in order to help enrich my soil. (Thanks for the seeds, Paul Tanner!) The field peas got bigger and thicker and I couldn’t get them tilled in when I would have liked, because weather did not cooperate. Once I finally found the right weekend for weather, the peas were so thick my tiller couldn’t chew through them. The peas had to be first mowed down by my lawn mower. But then, I encountered a roto-tiller breakdown. The engine in the old tiller was beyond my desire to resurrect, and I decided it would be far cheaper and faster to just buy a whole new engine from Harbor Freight for $119. The engine was mounted, and worked great, but this breakdown further delayed my planting. By now it was early June! One of the things I learned from this late planting date was the importance of the storage ability. A fair number of the bulbs stored in my little root cellar had already begun to sprout and actually had a fair amount of topgrowth already underway. I found that if the bulb being stored was on the smaller side, the topgrowth had already pulled a lot of energy out of the bulb, so that when planted, it never really rooted up, and a fair number of them actually died eventually. It made me understand a little better why some people have better luck by fall-planting. I can better understand how important it is to have either an excellent storage method, or else an excellent storing Potato Onions variety, or both.
After a long, cold and wet spring, the field peas became so thick and tall I couldn’t till them in. I had to mow them down first. But, the leaves and tendrils made MANY tasty salads. These salads weren’t just some lettuce with a few leaves and tendrils, they were made completely with pea leaves and tendrils and were excellent! Look at that shiny black new engine on that old TroyBilt tiller!
Summer 2017 was then suddenly extremely hot and dry. In fact, abnormally so. There was no rain for three months, and the TV weather personalities reported that by the end of August, Salt Lake City was 6.8 degrees hotter than normal! There were many endless days of 95 to 100 degrees with no rain. But, I diligently watered my Potato Onions trying to compensate for the heat and drought. I actually thought I was doing a pretty good job until when in late August or early September I found out that much of my crop was compromised by what’s called Pink Root or Pink Root Rot. I actually didn’t even know what Pink Root was until a more knowledgeable than I gardener alerted me of my diseased plants. (Thanks Will R.) I then did some studying on the disease to find out that it really is mostly unavoidable because the fungus lives in almost all soils and has many other hosts than Alliums. Rotation is almost impossible because of the ability to infect so many different crops. (Peas are one host, and I had used peas as the previous cover crop.) This disease only infects the roots, and is much more active in hot and dry soils, exactly what I experienced in the abnormally hot and dry summer. Once the fungus starts to grow on the roots, the roots turn pink to purple and then dry up. This inhibits the uptake of moisture and nutrients to the bulb and stunts its growth. This seldom kills the plant, though, and the bulb itself is supposedly not infected (just the roots). The recommended treatments are few and far between, and the recommended alternative is to find resistant varieties. But, my Potato Onions are what they are, and are apparently not totally resistant to Pink Root. I have put a lot of thought into my Pink Root problem, and have come up with some rather radical new decisions that will impact my future growing methods. (More on that later.)
Fall 2017 Harvest time came, and I have not only experienced some disappointments from the Pink Root disease, but in my harvests as well. The Green Mountains were the smallest I have ever harvested, as were the Dakota Reds. The Green Mountains have also quit flowering. This is further proof of my theories of the longer a variety is cloned, the smaller the bulbs become and the less prevalent the flowering stimulus is. But, it is also plain to see that this is accompanied by a buildup and accumulation of fungal and other diseases. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that it is time to start anew on my Green Mountains, needing to start over from true seed to clean up the diseases and to reinvigorate the size and yield. The resulting harvest of bulbs of Green Mountains and Dakota Reds will be sold to anyone wishing to buy these less vigorous and most likely diseased bulbs for a cheap price. If no one wants to buy these, I will start experimenting in 2018 with trying to clean up some of the disease by dipping each bulb in bleach right before planting. Perhaps some control, and possibly buying some additional longevity to keeping the old bulbs a little more vigorous might be learned by such an experiment. This very problem shows in no uncertain terms why shipping bulbs outside of country boundaries is illegal. But, it also shows me that I probably shouldn’t even be shipping known diseased bulbs within the USA. For this reason, I have made the decision to ship bulbs to others for this fall only, one last time. In the future I will specialize in the production of true seeds only for sharing and selling. It will, after this year, be the responsibility of the gardener to develop their own Potato Onion crops from the true seeds that I can supply to them. This decision was made after much thought and consideration. One of the bigger reasons I have come to this decision also has to do with my own personal situation of my increasing age, lack of time and the limitations of my small garden. But I am comfortable with this decision, and would for at least a few years, continue to play around with Potato Onions and still be able to produce true seeds for others who are able to continue keeping the culture of Potato Onions alive into future generations.
There are, though, some very positive developments in the harvest of my Potato Onions this year.
Florida White Multiplier From the single and only seed that germinated, I have successfully multiplied it out to be a half dozen white bulbs, which are all at least 4 or 5 times bigger than the original tiny bulbs I received. While not giant in size, it is again a further testament that size and vigor can be immediately restored by cleaning up a diseased old variety. These few Florida White Multipliers display a unique trait of not wanting to die back and go dormant at the end of summer. This is a trait that is also somewhat evident in my South Mountain Potato Onions. The South Mountains and these Florida Whites are probably daylength neutral, and their reluctance to die back shows me that bulb growth and development are less controlled by diminishing day lengths. I am not really sure, therefore, that these few white bulbs can really go dormant and dry out at the necks if I pull them and store them in my little root cellar, so I separated them and fall-planted them for overwintering in the outside garden.
South Mountain These also seem reluctant to die back with the diminishing day length, but did eventually die back. These are now on my drying rack. The trait of not wanting to die back according to diminishing day length leads me to think they have the ability to better bulb-up in size at more southerly latitudes. I will have enough extra of these bulbs to share and sell.
Coral Mountain These pink and white ringed ones are still performing quite well even though they have been cloned for a few years. They are still large in size and flowered pretty well. I will have some extras of these to share and sell.
Dakota Gold These gold Potato Onions are extremely nice! Their large size is again a testament to the fact that going through a true seed radically increases size and vigor. These Dakota Golds are at least 4 times bigger than their Dakota Red parents. Having only about a couple dozen of these beautiful bulbs of a brand new variety, I will NOT have any of these share or sell this year.
Garnet Mountain These are the really exciting bright spot of my year’s efforts! These are dark red-ringed, and store well. They are large and have a nice round shape. For years I have tried to select a dark red variety from my Green Mountain landrace, but the reds from that landrace have very poor storage qualities. These new Garnet Mountains, though, are selected out from the SESE landrace, and are not only beautiful red, but have good storage qualities! These Garnet Mountains also have a tendency to produce a few bulblets within the umbels. This is a fun trait, and the bulbils can be planted and grown inside the house under grow lights during the winter. The great thing about my harvest of these this fall, is the fact that I have enough of these to share and sell! I am really excited about this new selection of mine!
I might here also make mention of my Perpetual Leeks experiments. I grew out a number of seedlings to find that there are some different phenotypes that came from them, although these differences are somewhat subtle. While the color was all the same, the sizes of the stalks and the differences in the rates of the production of daughter offshoots differed some from plant to plant. One trait was that leek size was small and gave many small offshoots. Others were larger in size but gave off fewer offshoots. Others seemed to have offshoots that varied in size. I ended up making two different selections for multiplying out during the 2018 year. The two I selected were large (but not the largest) and had uniformly sized yet productive offshoots. They looked the healthiest to me. I will have many true seeds to sell, and will even sell some living starts this year if there is any interest. Initially, at least, the perpetual leeks seem to be resistant to Pink Root. (Interestingly enough, I also found Pink Root in my garlic, which I don’t offer or sell. I have been experimenting the past couple of years with planting the garlic bulblets as a way to keep disease down.)
Having identified one of the culprits in not getting more than 20 seasons of cloning out of Potato Onions as the Pink Root fungus, I will do some experimenting with ways to keep this disease at a minimum. I am not sure what that will mean in the future, as I don’t have the luxury of a six or seven year rotation schedule given my small garden. But I will for sure be dipping each and every bulb in a disinfectant solution before planting next year. I will also be more vigilant in watering, since the drier the soil, the more the fungus grows. I will also probably have to do some research on what garlic growers and potato growers do annually in keeping diseases at bay. But, at least in the meantime, I will focus more on growing from true seed, since I have found ways to reliably get true seeds every year. One advantage to this is that I can eat my mistakes! The first year seedling bulbs are very large indeed, and I can eat the culls. Even though I grow hundreds of onions every year, I have not had even a single one to eat or cook with for the past few years! My wife says it is ironic that my garden is filled with onions, but she has to buy her onions from the grocery store! All of MY onions are sorted, labeled, sold, mailed, or promised to someone else. Any onion that is still in my little root cellar after Christmas is set aside for planting stock in the spring. I am actually looking forward to having the luxury of eating my own Potato Onions!
General comments: I have not had much success (or much time, either) in searching for ways to disinfect bulbs and tubers like garlic or potatoes. I have made the decision to dip each bulb into a 9:1 water/bleach solution for five to ten minutes. This was easy to do, and I’ll see if I can recommend this treatment after I have time to analyze the effects, if any. I figure it can’t do any harm. (Or can it? Will bleach harm the growing points of the onions?) I also have a great way to analyze if it actually does any good, because my small Green Mountain and Dakota Red bulbs have stored extremely well, and hopefully I can actually see if there is any less pink root as they grow in the 2018 season. My greatest hope is that I can increase the actual bulb size from their smallish, one inch diameter. (Size was increased dramatically, see pictures below.)
I also need to comment on the Florida White Multiplier. I am still learning about this one. This white onion doesn’t act quite like the other Potato Onions I am breeding and selecting. This one doesn’t really ever quit growing and die back in the late summer or fall like all the others; it keeps growing on and on. It is, however, quite hardy in my zone 4 climate and survives the winter cold and snows very well. (Kind of ironic for one named Florida, isn’t it?) For this reason, I am not even calling it a Potato Onion, I am calling it a Multiplier Onion to point out that difference. I did not dig these last fall (2017) and I am going to continue to watch and grow these out in 2018. My hope is that if I offer these to other gardeners, I will just have to send them live starts. But, these also set true seeds for me, so I could send true seeds in the future to many countries of which do not have seed restrictions on seeds coming from USA. (Flowers in 2018 did not ever produce any seeds!) I have also learned from past experience with different landraces that the white bulbs have pretty poor storage characteristics. This leads me to believe that a white trait also corresponds with shorter storage ability.
April 21st 2018 I planted some l’itoi’s multiplying onions that were given to me. It is my hope to be able to coax some true seeds from these, and see if there is any diversity in the genepool of these. I was unacquainted with l’itoi’s, but had heard about them from various sources. I did some reading on them, to learn that these multiplying onions came from Spain way back in the days of the Spanish inquisition. (Or so some people believe.) If this is at all true, it is a very old variety and could use a little rejuvenation by going through a true seed again. We’ll see….
I also planted some seedlings (from true seeds) from the Green Mountain landrace, in an effort to rejuvenate (and maybe even improve on) the original Green Mountain Potato Onions that I have grown for the last couple of decades and has now aged to the point of giving me not only smaller bulbs, but less true seeds.
I also planted a large number of the original Green Mountain bulbs (clones) that I bleached, in the hope that I can get some more life out of them. (Pics below!)
I also planted a large number of Dakota Red bulbs that were also bleached, to see if I can rejuvenate these to any degree. (Pics below!)
April 23rd 2018 I planted a new variety that shows a lot of promise that I am calling Dakota Gold. This variety originated from the Dakota landrace and has beautiful golden skins over white flesh. These have stored very well for me over the winter.
April 24th 2018 I planted another very promising gold variety that originated from the SESE landrace. I believe I may call this Southern Gold. This is attractive and stores well. Gold skins and white flesh.
April 25th 2018 I planted a variety that I am the most excited about. This variety also came from the SESE landrace and these are beautiful red skinned and red ringed interiors that I am calling Garnet Mountain. I have tried for years to get a good red Potato Onion, but have been disappointed. Any red ones from the Green Mountain landrace have had very poor storage qualities and I cannot reliably get them to live into the next season unless I replant them and protect them in the fall. While I can get some nice pink ringed ones (Coral Mountain) from that landrace that store well, the nice and dark red has been elusive until now! The SESE landrace of seeds throws off some nice golds and reds that store well. I took some pictures to show how nice these really are! (see below)
Aren’t these new Garnet Mountain Potato Onions beautiful?
This is the interior of my new Garnet Mountain Potato Onions. These have been in storage all through last winter, so the growing points are anxious to wake up and be planted, thus their green color. It is pretty plain to see that if I had planted this bulb, it would have given me at least three more onions in its next generation.
June 23 2018 I found it necessary to dig some of the Florida White Multiplier onions and separate the bulbs and replant them. It appeared to me that they were starting to crowd each other out and might benefit from dividing and replanting the nests. Besides, I was also anxious to learn what these looked like under the soil. They looked small, and sure enough, they are small. But they are white and nicely-shaped. I found the seed heads to be quite small and insufficiently pollinated, so I am not going to try to save any seeds on these. I still need to do more trialing on these - they are not ready for me to yet call these a success and share with the world. Below find the picture I took of one of the nests. You can see by the ruler that these are quite small.
Florida White Multiplier Onions
May 1st 2018 I planted my Coral Mountains after a soak in the 9:1 bleach solution. This finishes up all my Potato Onion planting.
Now, on to the growing stage!
May 12 2018 All of the bleached bulbs have sprouted very nicely. I actually had a little lingering thought in my head that bugged me: What if bleaching these bulbs kills them? Well, that little fear was unfounded! At the very least, the bleaching before planting didn’t hurt anything.
All bulbs and seed heads have now been harvested. The most important thing I have learned this season is the value of soaking bulbs that are going to be replanted in a 9:1 bleach solution. The results for me have been nothing short of astounding. When looking at the pictures below, you can see the actual size of the bulbs from last season (2017) that were soaked in bleach on the right-hand side compared to the size of the bulbs that were soaked in bleach and planted and grown (2018) on the left. The difference is nothing short of amazing!
Difference between bleach soaked bulbs and non-soaked.
I didn’t get around to making any detailed notes during the 2019 gardening season. I am typing this on New Year’s Day 2020, so one of my resolutions is to get this summary of last year’s gardening season typed up for history’s sake. By typing up a summary, you will learn one new, important fact about Potato Onions. (Spoiler alert, that fact concerns day length.)
Spring of 2019 started out as one could expect for northern Utah. Spring and winter have this battle in a normal Utah March, with days of snow, rain, sun, warm and cold. The month of March is normally one where gardeners like to make their first attempts at soil preparation. Those attempts are often hindered by a muddy and too wet soil. But usually a “window” of good weather is found during March that will allow one to till the soil and prepare the beds. March of 2019 was much this way, and by the end of March it seemed my plans would go pretty much as normal, allowing me to start my initial garden prep in April. April in northern Utah is still frosty, though, with many nights of below-freezing temperatures. So the windows for planting frost-hardy plants are usually towards the end of April. April of 2019 was no different, and by the end of April, I had begun to plant a just couple of varieties of Potato Onions.
But Mother Nature was not kind to me at the end of April. Hoping to finish my Potato Onion planting during the early days of May ended up being absolutely impossible, due to the wettest spring on record for Utah. (The rains and flooding in the midwest delayed or prevented many farmers in Nebraska and other states from planting their corn and soy, remaining flooded for weeks.) My personal garden was nothing but cold, soggy mud. The only couple of rows of Potato Onions sat in the cold mud for weeks, while the rest of my Potato Onions waited patiently for the day it would dry out and warm up. That day never arrived in May.
My soil did not dry out and warm up until the first week of June. By June, the Potato Onions in my little root cellar were sending up green shoots. The green shoots were sucking the bulb dry before I could get them planted. But I had no choice but to try to plant them anyway. My soil, was practically unworkable, having gone from mud to what resembled concrete. Not a hospitable condition for some weakened and softened Potato Onion bulbs. I did my best to plant them anyway.
Meanwhile, the couple of rows of Potato Onions that were planted the end of April, started recovering from their month of cold mud, and in the end, were the only ones that ended up giving me a decent harvest. The June-planted ones, though, had an even tougher time surviving. They didn’t start rooting-up into the concrete-like soil until the end of June. Top-growth seemed somewhat normal for them, but it looked like they weren’t bulbing-up into decent-sized bulbs. July and August became the hottest and driest months ever on record for Utah. Turns out that by harvest time, they weren’t decent-sized at all.
What should have been a great season, considering my 40 years of gardening experience, ended up being my hardest and most challenging year ever. The spring was the coldest and wettest on record, yet what followed was the hottest and driest on record. I dutifully watered and weeded, hoping that my efforts of fighting Mother Nature might pay off. However, the harvest was pitiful. My failures were accredited to the horrible weather.
Much of my harvest was so small and weak that I made the decision to fall-plant my harvest. I feared that the small bulbs may not store adequately during the winter in my little root cellar. The few better bulbs, though, were set aside for root cellar storage for spring planting and selling, but most were planted in the fall as an insurance policy that I could have a good crop again in 2020.
After fall-planting, the cold came before the snows, and I was afraid of losing the newly-planted bulbs to freezing soils. I went to the farm store and bought bales of straw so that I could mulch them in for the winter. I am confident this will work, but time will tell when the spring of 2020 comes.
So, a summary of my lousy season might lead you, as it did me, to chalk-up all my failures and disappointments to the abnormally bad weather. However, it became VERY plain to me that my poor harvest wasn’t totally attributable to that. The small bulbs were instead attributable to the late start in June as it corresponds to day length.
My Potato Onions are selectively bred to my latitude, and attempts to breed for different latitudes and day lengths have not gone very well for me. I am convinced that the richness of the gene pool can produce onions responding to different latitudes, but that breeding would need to be done while actually AT those different latitudes. So, my own Potato Onions that do best for me, need that stimulus that comes naturally on the summer solstice of about June 21st, when the days start decreasing in length. As the days get shorter, the bulbs get the stimulus to start increasing. But, my Potato Onions were planted the first week of June, and by the summer solstice they were just barely starting to root up. They never had time to get a healthy start in April-May and put on good growth by the time the solstice told them to get on to the stage of bulbing.
Potato Onions need to be planted early enough to acquire growth BEFORE the summer solstice, or else bulb size will suffer. This was the key take-away fact that I learned this past year of 2019.
Maybe the abnormal weather was responsible for one anomalous thing with my Syboe onions, though. After some years of growing these Scottish onions, I finally got ONE seed stalk. Miraculously, there were a few seeds produced, and I am anxious to try growing some Syboe onions from seeds.
I also had a couple of seed heads form from the I’itoi onions, but they were so small and weak that there were no seeds formed. Maybe I can get some true seeds from them some year.