- Author: Alison Collin
Onions (Allium cepa) are biennial members of the Amaryllidaceae family and Allium genus which also includes leeks, garlic and chives and shallots. They are an important food crop worldwide, and feature in the cuisine of many different cultures.
Numerous varieties of onions are available. Most are easily grown, but not all varieties make good bulbs at this latitude so it pays to understand the specific requirements in order to meet with success and not to waste time, money and effort planting varieties which are not likely to do well.
The most important criteria for growing onions is the length of daylight available. This is called photoperiodism.
Onions grow foliage during the cooler weather – each leaf representing one layer in the bulb - until a specific daylight length is reached. Once this point has occurred, foliage growth stops and bulb formation begins, so the larger and stronger the plant is at that point the bigger the mature onion will be. If you plant the wrong type at the wrong time they will grow tops but not produce onions, or will simply bolt and flower.
They are divided into the following groups:
- Short day onions bulb up when the daylight length reaches 10-12 hours. (Note: This is in spring, and NOT when the days are getting shorter)! These are best started in the fall or early winter so that they can bulb up early the following year – they will be ready to use around late May -July. They are hardy, and overwinter well, although one has to remember to maintain irrigation and not let them dry out at any time. These are generally the sweeter flavored onions and do not store well.
- Intermediate day onions which are not so temperamental and will bulb when the light length is about 12-14 hours. In this area, if seed is started early in the year (January), or transplants are planted out in February they will have several months in which to grow into good sized plants by the time bulb production begins. This will enable them to develop quite large bulbs which can then be dried and stored by the end of August/September.
- Long day onions that require 14-16 hours of daylight in order to bulb up. These grow well in the north of the USA but do not do well in this area. In general, they are the more pungent varieties and tend to be the better keepers. An exception to this are the Walla Walla onions which although technically they are long day onions can be grown in intermediate day areas with good light since they mature early. These are very sweet onions and do not store well.
Onions can also be further divided by color of their skins -- yellow, white or red, or by their taste -- sweet, pungent, or mild. Each daylight length group contains a variety of these possibilities. Some store well, while others only keep for a limited amount of time.
Mature bulbs vary in shape and size conical, round, flattened disc, and some, such as the Cippolini types, only grow to 2”, while some aficionados attempt to grow individual onions weighing over 10lbs!
The Egyptian "walking onions" (Allium × proliferum) make clumps of bulbs at their bases which are rather pungent. Clumps, which are more generally eaten, also appear on the end of stalks in place of flowers. If left, these flower stems bend over and the bulblets will root when they reach the ground. This is why they are called walking onions.
Onions germinate and grow easily from seed. January is a good time to sow intermediate-day onions inside, or alternatively, transplants become available a little later. These often come in large bundles of single varieties which makes it difficult to try several different varieties in the garden unless one has a lot of space.
I have had good luck growing the variety 'Candy' but although they had a very good yield and flavor, they did not store well. It was disheartening to find their middles softening before I had used them all. Recently I have grown 'Zoey' as a good storing yellow onion, but they may be rather large for some people -- many weighing in at nearly 2lbs. each! For red onions I like 'Monastrell', a slightly flattened onion with a good flavor, beautiful color, and excellent keeping ability. I harvested both these varieties at the end of August last year, and am still finding them in excellent condition as I am about to sow a new crop.
A onion problem diagnosis chart can be found at the bottom of this document.
Onions are a great crop in our area and are certainly worth growing.
- Author: Jan Rhodes
I love apples…crisp and juicy, sweet and tart, green or red. I eat one daily, sometimes with peanut butter or almond butter… I even add a few raisins and some cinnamon now and then for a special treat. I have four lovely apple trees in my yard – Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Arkansas Black and a Yellow Transparent Apple that someone was going to take to the dump because it wasn't what they wanted. I couldn't bear the thought of a perfectly good apple tree going to the dump, so I planted it and, I have to say, the apples are tasty and early.
With so many apple trees, you would think I could satisfy my apple appetite. And, though I have gotten a few over the years, mostly what I get is tasty chunks after I carve out the coddling moth damage. Ewwww. So, this season, I decided to take action, enough is enough. I water, prune, and dutifully spray these trees…I really should get something more in return.
My winter time research left me daunted – traps and pheromones, recording temperatures and sheesh – too much for someone who likes to keep it simple (you can translate that as “lazy”). So, I remembered my trip to Japan some years back where I paid $6 for an apple (I really wanted one) and realized why they were so expensive when I saw workers in the orchard lovingly placing bags on each apple to prevent insect damage. No wonder those apples looked so perfect and cost so much.
With that idea in mind, my Internet wanderings led me to apple bagging. I found a wealth of information, including video how tos. Seems I am not the only one who thought of this, in fact, lots of growers, backyard and commercial organic orchards are on board. There are even a number of sources for bagging materials of different kinds. There is even an added bonus for embracing this technique. Not only does bagging prevent coddling moth, it can help prevent other apple pests and problems … all without pesticides, fungicides, spraying and other rather bothersome tasks. This practice is most commonly used for apples and pears, and can help guard against such threats as codling moth, curculio, apple maggot, apple scab, and other impediments to a quality harvest. Bagging may even help deter birds and squirrels.
I decided to give it a try, however, since this was an experimental effort, I was determined to use what I had on hand and to try not to bag more than a dozen apples per tree. Why go all out if it might not work, right? The process begins with thinning your apple crop, that is, keeping one baby apple in each cluster. I always thin my apples (same for my grapes). The yield is less, but the apples are bigger and the tree is healthier. Per my research, I thinned my apples and when they reached about half an inch in diameter, I bagged them.
There are a good number of options for bagging – lots of bagging supplies to buy from Internet resources, including bonafide Japanese Apple Bags. And, there are lots of folks who use resealable plastic bags or nylon stockings (really!) I happened to have small (6”x8”) plastic bags (not zip lock) that I use for baked goods and backpacking. They seemed to be a good size for apples, so I used them and fastened them with a twist tie. It didn't take too long and kind of made me chuckle. A real conversation piece when company came by.
Over the summer, I kept my eye on them. With the heat, some moisture collected in the bag, and some articles suggested cutting the bottom corners to let the moisture drain. I decided I didn't want to risk insects getting in, so I opted not to do this. In the end, it did not seem to make a difference. The apples grew and matured as usual. Some articles suggested removing the bags some weeks prior to harvest, I opted not to do this, also – didn't seem to make a difference. I did have to wait a bit longer for the bagged apple to take on their color.
The proof of the pudding, so to speak, came a harvest time – though not all bagged apples escaped coddling moth – a few sneaked through the twist tie area (probably my bad) – I was excited to finally harvest and eat a good number of apples from my very own trees. In chatting with other Master Gardeners, I found that several had also tried this method, all with varying success. So, while it appears that this idea is not new in these parts, I found it to be worth the time and effort, and will definitely employ bagging next season. I do, however, intend to find biodegradable bags for the process.
I have included resources and photos here. Now, excuse me while I munch my home-grown apple!
FRUIT BAGGING OPTIONS
There is an array of options when it comes to bagging fruits. Plastic resealable bags and brown paper bags can be used to protect your fruit and are readily available. Additionally, there are specialized Japanese fruit bags that can be ordered online, or nylon mesh bags that may be better to use for softer fruits. In most cases, the bags can be reused the next year!
Some sources of commercial fruit bags I found:
- http://www.seattletreefruitsociety.com/maggot-barriersArticles about fruit bagging:
- Videos about apple bagging:
Inclusion does imply endorsement by the University. Other sources are available. These are a good place to start./h3>
National Pollinator Week is June 18 to 24,, 2018.
What better way to celebrate and support the importance of pollinators than to plant a pollinator garden? Even a few plants can help support pollinators such as butterflies, beetles, and bees.
Butterflies and other pollinators are very sensitive to pesticides so avoid using them in your garden. Insecticides kill insects, so if you want butterflies, don't use insecticides. If you do feel you have to use an insecticide, even an organic one, always use minimally. Do not apply when butterflies, bees or other pollinators are active and do not apply to open flowers.
To attract butterflies, provide good food, water and shelter all from a butterfly's point of view. Here are some tips to encourage butterflies to visit your garden.
Minimize pesticide use. Encouraging natural pest predators and using other alternative controls will make your garden safer for butterflies and their caterpillars.
Pick a sunny site. Butterflies generally feed in sunny locations. Choose a place in the garden that receives about six hours of sun each day. Gravel walkways and rocks for basking are good places to watch for butterflies warming up.
Plan the layout of your plants. Plant in groups of the same flowers rather than individual plants of the same kind scattered in the garden. This works because butterflies are near sighted and masses of flowers two or three feet across attract butterflies from a distance. Choosing plants of different heights adds interest to the garden and helps attract more pollinators.
Add native plants to your garden. Many native plants have good sources of nectar, and also are host plants that butterflies seek out to lay eggs. Research has shown that local native pollinators prefer local native plants. Please remember not to cut your garden back severely in the fall or you may lose overwintering eggs for the next season.
Provide shelter. On a rainy day or in high winds, butterflies wait out the bad weather on the undersides of leaves, in trees, shrubs, or vines. They also take butterfly breaks during their day; provide them places to hide with a combination of sites to roost and shelter.
For inspiration and information our local chapter of California Native Plant Society has created excellent resources for anyone to use. They have posted photos and lists of native plants with information, including a new two page Native Landscape Planting Guide. There is information on pollinators, water use, color descriptions and more.
Please remember it is both illegal and destructive to remove plants and flowers from their natural habitats but our local CNPS chapter has a plant sale every year and lots of great information on their website. Also, many nurseries are now carrying more native plants, be sure to ask.
References and further information:
CNPS Bristlecone chapter http://bristleconecnps.org
California Native Plant Society plant information www.Calscape.org
Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu
National Wildlife Federation https://www.nwf.org
- Author: Alison Collin
In the constant search for green leafy vegetables that will do well in a hot climate I stumbled upon Brazilian Spinach (Alternanthera sissoo) and Okinawa Spinach (Gynura crepioides), and although a tropical plants I decided to give them a try in our dry high desert climate.
Brazilian Spinach: This plant forms a mat of bright green, crinkled leaves on stems about 1' long which flop and root wherever nodes touch the ground. It prefers part shade, and in many places it is grown as living mulch under fruit trees. It is not fussy about soil type, but does require warm temperatures, a fairly steady supply of water, plenty of organic matter and lots of nitrogen since it is a fast grower.
I acquired a couple of rooted pieces and planted them in pots indoors. They very quickly became established and once all danger of frost was past I planted one directly into the garden and the other remained in its pot but was also placed outside. The potted one grew vigorously all summer far outperforming the specimen that had been directly planted, and at the end of the year I once again brought it inside where it served as an edible houseplant. They may do well in planters with plenty of irrigation and shade from afternoon sun.
The leaves are crisp and mild and can be eaten raw in salads or added to other dishes, but if large quantities are to be consumed it is recommended that they first be cooked and strained because of the high levels of oxalate that they contain.
I found that the leaves are a little coarser than leaf lettuce and while not unpleasant they do not have a lot of flavor. I used them as an “emergency” lettuce when making sandwiches, and I certainly preferred them to Malabar spinach which I grew in previous years.
Okinawa Spinach: Is an attractive low-growing plant with purple tinged leaves. The cultural requirements are similar to Brazilian spinach. It can be eaten raw or cooked and young shoots are often used in stir fries or tempura dishes in Okinawa. It has a slightly nutty flavor with hints of pine in the younger shoots. If overcooked it has a tendency to become slimy.
- Author: Bobbie Stryffeler
|Ed. Note: Potatoes grow well in the Eastern Sierra. Usually we grow them in the ground, but some gardeners have alkaline soil or no soil at all! Gardeners like to try new things and this article has some fun ideas to try. You can find some UC info on potatoes here. Mention of products does not constitute endorsement.|
I told a friend I built a potato pen and they asked if I had a problem with my potatoes escaping the garden…well no, they don't escape but if they try I have it covered.
Truth is the potato is one of my favorite home grown vegetables, but over the years of gardening I hadn't given the process much thought. Last spring, moving my focus from tomatoes to potatoes, I decided to grow more, more variety, with hopes of plenty to enjoy throughout the winter months.
With a little research I found that the potato possibilities are endless! Grown by the acre or container. A mound of dirt, potato sack, wooden spud box, recycled plant containers, a laundry basket, or your own invention, are all suitable options for growing a tasty crop of taters!
Some suggest planting directly in the laundry baskets or cages. In dry regions like the Owens Valley it might be better to line the inside of the basket, cage, or pen with straw or newspaper to maintain soil structure and also create a ventilated barrier that retains some moisture and keeps the tubers cool. It is also important to note that potatoes that are exposed to light rapidly become green and poisonous.
Some common characteristics of these containers are depth (no digging just filling), well-drained, and ventilation to reduce chance of rotting seed potatoes. The biggest challenge in container planting is keeping the soil cool where a garden bed or larger space can maintain a more constant cool temperature.
Meet my invention, the Potato Pen (left). I wanted a minimal investment and these materials were extras from my garden shed. I didn't want to worry about the weed covered surface so I lined the floor of the pen with newspapers and cardboard. The chicken wire sidewalls were lined with a thick layer of straw to retain some moisture and keep the tubers cool. The pen provided depth for growth, room to add soil as the plants grew, supplying the root system with room for an abundant crop.
I first let the potatoes sprout in an open egg carton, cutting the larger potatoes in half or more. This also allowed for the cut potatoes to dry, reducing the chance of rotting. This process is called “chitting” your potatoes. It is thought that this encourages faster growth and an increased crop.
The sprouted seed potatoes were then started in about four inches of soil with sprouts facing up. As the sprouts grew I added more soil. The straw was probably not the best idea as it became a mega condo project for every earwig in my yard. At night they devoured my potato plant leaves. I filled shallow plastic cups with water and a splash of fish oil and strategically placed them around the potato plants. I was amazed at the numbers filling the cups overnight.
Overall the potato pen worked well. At season-end it was filled with an abundant crop of potatoes. Originally, I had planned on removing the stakes, pulling down the sidewalls of chicken wire and straw and harvesting all the potatoes at once, but I soon realized there were too many potatoes. So many that I left the majority in the cool soil of the potato pen (root cellar).
As I said at the start, the potato possibilities are endless. So why not grow your own? It's recommended that you buy your seed potatoes from a reliable source as potatoes are susceptible to disease and virus. Follow a few basic steps and prepare to enjoy the best tasting potatoes yet.
Potatoes are a cool season crop. Plant two or three weeks before the last spring frost or sooner if you plan to protect the plants. They can survive freeze damage but will most often have a reduced crop. As noted above, let your seed potatoes develop some sprouts before planting. I'm thinking the round cages will be easy to protect against unexpected spring frost.
Regardless of what container or bed you decide to plant them in make sure you use fertile, sandy loam that is well drained. They will grow in most soils but a good soil mix will improve the yield.
The UC Vegetable Research and Information Center provides a great leaflet (Growing Potatoes) that covers varieties, soil preparation, fertilization, planting methods, irrigation, cultivation, pest control, and harvesting. http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/potato_growingpotatoes.pdf
If garden space is limited have some fun and try growing them in the laundry basket. It's cheap, lightweight, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. https://preparednessmama.com/grow-potatoes/