“Layered” Inspiration for growing onion:
1. I eat a lot of onion, when I cook Chinese, Mexican or American food it usually has a garlic and onion in grapeseed oil base before the meat or tomato gets added. In the past I grew things I didn’t like to eat like dill or Thai basil and I couldn’t convert myself to start eating them, so it felt like a waste of the garden space and effort. 2. The game Harvest Moon, which I love, has always has onion and really growing something I’ve grown in games is pretty fun for me in a whimsical way. 3. I’ve heard onion may deter pests. 4. The show “Grow, Cook, Eat,” season 2, episode 1, covers onion and my daughter and I love watching the show together and trying out the plants. They plant from sets and I’m planting from seed though.
How I “started“:
Starting from seed… I prefer to start from seeds when I can. The onion seeds were on sale… they are small black seeds, I soaked them in their metal bag with normal water (which in my case is filtered rain water) for about 24 hours before planting out into a mix of peat moss and vermiculite in a little pot. Then I put the pot in the green house which has broken plastic, so it’s not too hot and is near our house so it’s actually not too sunny either… kind of sunny and kind of hot, hotter then inside while the sun is out, but probably not even 90°F/32°C. About a week after sprouting moved the onions to the full sun greenhouse and about a week after moved them outside to the sun.
Why that soil?
I was heavily influenced by the late Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden concepts, but peat moss tends to clump and get to solid in my area. I tend to do container gardening with just a few inches of soil so I use really fertile soil, I don’t add any chemical fertilizer but I do add soil with natural fertilizers such as chicken manure, bat guano, or steer manure compost. I’m a permaculture gardener so I try to have 0 waste (or less and less) and I compost on site, but my compost isn’t ready to use so I get local steer manure compost that is really affordable at Home Depot, we got two chickens so in the future I will have their fertilizer.
Did a lot of transplanting, when it was sooner more of the transplants survived, when I waited more than a week after sprouting about half were not seated well enough into the soil and their roots shriveled and died off.
The onion started like Λ, I thought I would find two plants, but instead I found just one shaped like Λ with a seed on one side and both sides equally seated in the soil… all the onions were like that. It took about two weeks for the onions to stand up strait like |, I’m guessing that the seed went to the top end eventually before being discarded.
The onions are the only plant I’ve ever grown that sprouts folded in two rather than as a straight line with two little leaves…
I wouldn’t say onions can’t transplant, but I didn’t pay attention to how dry the soil was and I had them in full sun, so the sides of the little pots let the soil dry out much more than if they were planted in ground, I think they could take the heat well, if I would have watered deeper. I was pretty good about daily watering, but sometimes I kind of rushed through the onions and just gave a few drops because the plants were small. That’s how I lost half the onions in the sunny hill garden… by rushing the watering. Slow watering is better for the water to get absorbed rather than to just run off… but I’ve heard bonsai want that, fast watering that lets the water drain (not sure if it’s really true).
Currently I’m planting in many different places to see how they do better and also spread them around in case they really do deter pests. Another interesting thing about starting from seeds was noticing that as soon as they sprout they stink like onions! They smell really strongly as little sprouts, something I’ve never noticed with any other sprouts.
Working Towards a July Harvest:
So… the onions are now 25 days of 115 to harvest, so Sunday, July 25th they should be ready to eat. I planted the whole bag hoping that the seed from these onions would be better suited for my climate so that I will use my own seed next year. If that is the case I won’t need any of this year’s seed getting older and thus less likely to germinate.
As of now the green house onions are doing the best, second place is the onions in my daughter’s farm garden near her playhouse (7), the front square foot garden (2) onions are okay, but perhaps not getting enough water, the onions near the sunny hill garden at the entry of our home (1) have just been planted in… forgot them when I watered today.
The idea is to design the garden first with mandalas or keyhole shapes that make watering and weeding easier instead of me making six or seven back and forth trips to water rows…
I “should” take the onions I have in the greenhouse and scatter them through the garden, but I’m a bit tired. I watered in the new Panax hedge (120 cuttings) with pond water (took five trips I’m not used to yet) and tending the red wheat on the hill which is coming in nicely, to a hill that had no soil… I threw seeds on the sticks there and watered it with a weed cloth over the top. The seeds grew in and I added just a bit of left over compost on the top of the seeds coming in so that they can stand up in something, the roots look really good about three inches already and 2/3 of the seeds were already standing up in the dead leaf and stick mixture that North Hill is made of…
I remember there was a native american myth about 7 sisters who ate too many onions and smelled bad…
“The Mono or Monache in Central California saw six wives and one little child, when they told the story of The Wild Onion Wives:
Long ago, when the world was nearly new, six families lived at the edge of a village, and each day the husbands set out into the forests to hunt. While they were gone, the wives went out in search of herbs to prepare the meat.
One day, as the wives were digging in the Earth, they discovered a plant they had never before seen – round and white with a long green stem. The women thought it looked lovely. They tasted it. “It’s delicious. Just the right combination of tangy and sweet,” they agreed. The wives had discovered sweet onions.
Once they began eating, they could not stop.
They ate until it was late in the day, and then they hurried home to build the fires to cook supper.
When the husbands returned home, they were exhausted from their hunt, but they brought back a bounty of deer meat, and they looked forward to a delicious meal. But when they walked into the lodge, they smelled something strange.
“What is spoiled?” the first husband asked. “Something stinks,” said the second, and when the third approached his wife, he stopped and held his nose. “It’s you who smells so wretched!” he cried. But the wives were excited about their discovery, and so they reached into their baskets and handed over the onions. “Taste these,” they said. “If you taste them, you won’t mind the smell.” But the husbands shook their heads. “The stench is terrible,” they complained. They told their wives they must sleep outside that night.
The next day, the husbands once again went out hunting, and the wives returned to the spot in the forest where they had found the onions. “I don’t care if my husband doesn’t like the smell,” said one of the women. “These are too good to resist,” and she began to eat. The others could not resist. “Who cares about our husbands?” they said. “They’ll learn to love these if they try.”
And once again, they ate and ate.
When the husbands returned that evening, they were in a terrible mood. “The deer would not come near us because we smell so terrible,” one said. “It’s all your fault, and the fault of that terrible plant.” “We don’t believe you,” the wives said. “You must have been unlucky.” Still, once again that night, the husbands told their wives they must sleep outside under the stars. The next day, the same thing happened. And the day after that, it happened again, until a week had passed, and the men could catch nothing at all. “All the animals run from us because of that terrible smell we carry,” the men complained to their wives.
“We can’t sleep outside forever,” said the wives. “It’s chilly and uncomfortable.” So they bickered. The wives wished their husbands would try the onions, but the husbands wished their wives would give up on this strange plant. They could not reach an agreement, and once again, the wives slept outside.
On the seventh day, the wives made a grave decision. “We cannot live this way,” they agreed. One of the wives lifted her baby girl out of her special cradle. “We’re going away,” she whispered, and all the women walked out into the fields, to the spot where the onions grew. They brought along their ropes made of eagle feathers, milkweed fibers and willow bark. When they came to a big warm rock, they stopped to rest and talk. “We must leave our husbands,” said one of the women. “Yes, we must,” the others agreed.
The oldest wife, who knew magic, began to whisper powerful words up to the sky. She tossed her rope high in the air, and it began to rise, higher and higher. When it was high above the Earth, it hooked over a cloud, and the two sides of the rope hung down to Earth. The women and the baby stood on the ends of the rope and began to sing. They sang to the sun and moon and to the sky. They sang to all the bounties of the Earth. They sang so sweetly and loudly, the ropes began to dance and rise. Soon the ropes were swinging in great circles, rising higher and higher, carrying the women higher into the sky with every swing.
Before long, the people of the village saw the women dancing in the sky. Their mothers and fathers called, “Please, come back!” But the six wives and the little girl kept swinging and rising. When their husbands returned from their hunt that night, they discovered their wives were missing. They were hungry. And they were tired. And now they were lonely, too. “Let’s follow them,” one of the men said. The others agreed, and so they carried their eagle feather ropes out to the fields, and they tossed the rope into the sky. They, too, began to sing. Their rope folded over a cloud and hung down, and the men climbed upon the ends and soon they, too, were rising into the sky.
When the people of the village saw the men rising, they cried, “No, don’t leave, come back!” But like their wives, the men just sang louder and rose higher, and when the wives heard the commotion below, they looked down and saw their husbands rising after them. “Look, it’s our husbands,” one of the women said. “What should we do?” “They sent us away, we’ll be happier without them!” said the eldest wife. And so as the men drew closer, the wives called, “Stop!” and the rope carrying the husbands stopped rising. Forever after, the husbands stayed right where they were, while the wives who loved onions rose higher.Original Article
Since that time, the wives and husbands have lived in Sky Country. The women turned into the seven stars of the Pleiades – the faintest star is the little girl. Their husbands stayed just behind them in another constellation, this one called Taurus.”
Connection to Nature:
In the onions there isn’t much money saved since they are cheap to buy, but for me there will always be that connection to the Pleiades which is arbitrary, yet the constellations themselves are all arbitrary as well, stars that appear grouped in a 2-dimensional view often are not at all close in real 3-dimensional space.
In gardening food I eat I find a certain deep connection to my ancestors, who must have at a point been farmers, probably before leaving China and Japan. And all farmers were in a sense astronomers, as were sailors and fishers and most people in general.
The stars change over time, dancing, exploding, but at a slow pace, so that they have been consistent for a very long time, looking at the Pleiades when I first find them (I still haven’t) will remind me of the 8th century Japanese observers and also make me wonder if my children’s children will take the time to see them also. So much changes rapidly, but the stars are something consistent. Not unchanging, but at least consistent.
The stars change with the seasons and the seasons still rule the gardening world, even if we grow indoors with lights the length and color of the light needs to provide what the correct season would provide a plant.
Not only the sunlight, but also the moon light grows plants, a study in Italy showed that the moon affects the thickness of sap directly and that affects plants in a few ways.
Gardening is a good time for me to be mindful, I like to be active, so I feel better about growing something, but after the design and choices are made much of the work is routine, dipping the watering can into the pond, walking around to water, looking at the leaves to make sure no major pest damage is going on, those things are more soothing than it seems like they would be. It’s not hard as much as gym exercise, but not sedentary, it’s not stressful decisions like which bills to pay first, but it is a bit of paying attention to what is there to pull me into the present. Gardening humbles me, to think of the people who must work so hard farming the food I eat, the farmers everywhere who feed the world and often make less than business people, it’s strange to think the people who do the most necessary work often make the least profit… Gardening connects me to the past and the present, it’s fun when my daughter picks me a crimson clover flower, it’s fun to see the wheat come up this first time, it’s sometimes a bit heartbreaking when plants die off, but behind the individual plants your skill as a gardener is always building and there comes a time when you can find why fungal rot killed your seedlings or simple heat dried out your plants too far for them to come back from… to reconnect to the food chain is really therapeutic for me now that I finally have a space I can do it, it wasn’t as easy as I had expected, but also not as hard, pieces of it are easy and pieces of it are hard.
I hope to update this with more pictures and a harvest, but even if I don’t make it to harvest I enjoyed the strange shape and smell of the onion and now when I cook with my favorite yellow onions I will look at them in a different way, as something that lived, that someone tended, that made sugar out of sunshine on this planet until it’s basic building blocks were fated to become my body which sails my mind and soul through this world.