Garden Daybook 1/24/13

IMG Jan211A

A string of very cold days and nights leave no doubt that we are in the midst of a true northern winter. We had high winds most of the night this past Saturday. I woke Sunday with expectations of downed branches, ripped plastic on the hoop house, and frazzled chickens. Thankfully, all was well. The snow has disappeared except for small patches here and there in hidden, shady places. My January gardening is all about what can be done indoors – meaning seeds and keeping up with the pantry. This week we have a few Uh Oh’s.

UhOh! Number one. I had been testing my stored seeds for germination and thought I was done. Then I found a few beans I had not tested. So – – I finished up with the last two – put them on top of the refrigerator and – forgot them. Darn! When I remembered them ten days later this is what I found. The roots and stem had grown right through the paper towel. I managed to untangle the seeds from the paper towel and discovered that my Hutterite bean seeds had 90% germination. Fabulous! Hutterite soup beans make the creamiest soup so I am thrilled that they will definitely be in the garden this year.

uh oh germ test jan8tojan18

Uh Oh! Number two. Last week, in Garden Daybook 1/17/13 I told you that after I my seeded onion and celery seeds the containers were put into my bottom heat unit. What I failed to show you was the inside of the unit. Here is a picture of the inside bottom of the unit. The flat holding the seeded containers sits suspended over the fifteen watt bulb. The heat from the bulb gently warms the soilless mix and greatly aids germination. As you can see in the next picture. . . . . .


It has taken three days for the ‘Red Wing’ onions to begin germination. Look carefully (you can click the picture to enlarge) and you can see that the emerging seedlings are doubled over. This is typical for emerging onions – they “elbow” their way into light. As the seedlings grow the leaf will unfold, stand up straight, and look like an true onion leaf. As each plant grows it will gradually add more leaves.

onion seedlings

Choosing the proper onion for your garden depends on your latitude. To use the latitude finder at this site simply double click on the USA continent on the world map and continue to double click over your location. The map quickly focuses in on your location. When you reach a map that shows your town look to the left bottom of the map to find your latitude. Any garden north of 35 latitude, mine here in northern central Ohio is 41N, should grow long day onions. Long day onions require 14.5 hours of sunlight to begin bulbing – about June 21 here. I start my onion seeds indoors in January. I transplant the seedlings into deep flats about a month or so after they germinate. I grow the flats in the hoophouse until they go into the garden which might be any time from mid-March to mid-April depending on the weather and the workability of the soil. My plan is to get the seedlings into the garden as early as possible so they grow the biggest, healthiest leaves by June 21 (day length 14.5 to 15 hours) when bulbing is initiated. The bulbs will be mature in late July/early August, depending on the variety. If you read the last few sentences again it will become clear that onions grown in the north grow leaves from the time they are planted until about June 21 when bulbing begins. The bulbs will take 4-5 weeks to grow and mature by late July or early August. So . . . the bigger set of leaves you grow by June 21 the bigger the bulb each plant can support. Giving onions an early start is the best path to good-sized bulbs. Mind you this only works with bulbing onions – scallions will grow well at any latitude. Well grown and cured storage onions and garlic will store well into winter.

Uh Oh! Number three. I sowed all of my onion seeds on January 14. I divided my Copra seeds between two containers – or so I thought! After three days one container had very heavy germination and one, nine days later, shows NOTHING!! It finally dawned on me that I must have seeded BOTH packets of seed in one container. Duh!! The container on the right obviously has no seed in it. Duh!!

uh oh onion seedlings yes and no

Speaking of onions – be aware that, if you have stored away onions and garlic, NOW is the time to go through your stash and take out anything that is showing green. I had a few heads of garlic showing growth and all the onions looked good except for a patch of green in one corner of one rack.


sprouting storage onions

I brought all the sprouting onions and garlic into the kitchen. I cut into each one, tossed out the parts that were going bad, and threw the solid parts into a small electric chopper. The chopped pieces were spread out on Paraflexx covered dehydrator trays. Chopped onions and garlic stick to mesh trays as they dry making them difficult to remove so I cover my trays with Paraflexx sheets. If you don’t have Paraflexx sheets then cover your trays with parchment paper or plastic wrap. I dry both onions and garlic at 105° until the pieces are crisp – timing depends on humidity. To buy Paraflexx sheets go to our Home Page and click on ‘Lehman’s Hardware” in our Favorite Links list. Lehman’s carries 12 inch and 14 inch sheets at reasonable prices. I dry all the garlic in one load and the all onion in a second load. Because both garlic and onions give off strong smells as they dry it helps to run your dehydrator in a basement, porch, or garage. Ask me how I know that!!


I store the dried pieces in tight sealing jars. I absolutely love the dried garlic. I toss it in soups and stir fries. I boil it with potatoes for mashing and stuff it into slits cut into ham and pork roasts. Yum!


If you live in the north and haven’t started your onion seeds – Get Going!! Don’t allow the cold to keep you from your gardening. Catalog browsing, seed ordering, and seed starting are all indoor ways to kick start your 2013 garden. Until next time . . .

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

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