Jul. 27th, 2013

jaunthie: (Seamask)
I've mentioned before that there are certain things that I can grow very well in my garden. Other things I try to grow I fail at fairly consistently.

This year, most if not all of the normal rules seem to have gone by the wayside.

For example, let's talk garlic and onions. In previous years, I have grown garlic, and I have been able to grow it in truly epic quantities. I plant garlic, it grows like crazy, I harvest braids and braids of the stuff. Nothing easier.

Except for this year, apparently. I planted garlic, and pffft. Nada. Nothing. My elephant garlic produced single cloves instead of heads. My regular garlic fizzled out with nothing to show for it whatsoever. Granted, I'd never tried growing garlic in that particular bed, but seriously? Totally baffling.

And then there's onions. I have tried growing onions before, several times. And I failed to get actual onions every single time. The best I ever managed was to harvest some of the green tops; the onions themselves never grew beyond quarter-size.

Except for this year, apparently.

I wasn't even going to bother trying to grow onions this year. I passed on the opportunity to split onion sets with Jake. I did not order seeds. I was skipping the hassle this year, not going to bother, too many other things I'd rather plant and not enough bed space, nope, not going there. Except there I was at the Flower and Garden Show early this spring, and there was this vendor selling onion sets at $4 a bundle. That's practically giving them away. And they were nice, fresh-looking, likely-looking sets that actually smelled like onion plants. They even had two varieties that I was actually interested in growing, Big Daddy and Walla Walla.

So I was a sucker and bought $8 worth of onion sets. Of course it was too cold to plant them in the ground that week, so I chucked each set into a pot with some potting soil, and pretty much ignored them afterwards until it was much later in the spring when it was time to plant things. And they were still alive, despite being randomly chucked into pots that were really not big enough. Looked pretty good, even. So I unpotted them and planted them in two of my side beds.

And they grew.

One bed had two volunteer pumpkins sprout (not an uncommon occurrence in my beds; long story). And I let them grow instead of weeding them out, because at least that way I'd get something out of that bed when the onions invariably failed. I used the same rationale when transplanting a parsley plant into that bed. And when I planted out the green beans I'd started in peat pots in the other bed with onions in it.

Well, apparently someone forgot to 'splain things to Lucy, or whatever the name is of the onion god this year. Because the onions did *not* fail. They grew, and kept growing. And then there started to be roundnesses poking up through the earth at the base of the plants that looked remarkably like onion shoulders. Perplexed, I consulting my gardening resources, and they suggested that this was normal onion behavior, but that I could mound over the onion shoulders with some extra mulch, if I wanted to. So I did.

And they kept growing.

About a month ago I was making something for dinner, and I realized I was out of onion. So I went outside, and sure enough, there was one onion plant that looked like it had an onion big enough to be actually useful. So I harvested it, and yep, it was just the right size, and yum.

Weird. This couldn't possibly happen with the rest. And oh look! The Big Daddies that were looking so promising, all their tops started flopping over (aided and abetted by the pumpkin vines, which are aggressive beasts.) So yeah, I might get an onion or two more, but surely the rest is doomed, right?

I harvested a few more onions (pretty much any time I needed one for cooking), and they were good. And today I decided maybe I'd better check about how to tell when onions were actually ready for harvesting, and drying, and storing.

Turns out that's about a week after the tops flop over, maybe two. You let them cure in the ground (presumably you stop watering them), and then you lift them out and dry them on some sunny, dry surface or hang them in the sun for a week, if you're going to try and cure them for storage.

Whoops. Well. I guess I'd better go see about those Big Daddies.

And lo and behold:

onion1
onion2
onion3
I harvested four and a half dozen onions out of that one bed. Some of them are the size of softballs. Plus a dozen-and-a-half shallots. I braided them in lots of three, and there they are, currently drying on the ornamental trellis in my yard, plus a bunch of the tomato cages. Because I sure as heck wasn't ready to harvest onions, and I didn't have anything better to use as drying racks.

And that's only half the onion harvest. The Walla Wallas aren't flopping over yet. I probably have another three dozen onions to look forward to, maybe more.

I am flummoxed. Fershimmeled. Confounded. And up to my ears in onions, if they cure properly. (I'm not taking chances with the Walla Wallas; I'm going to caramelize and freeze them in job lots when they're ready.)

It's the same story with my peas, which I can usually grow by the pound and have been utterly mediocre this year (several plants failed entirely). On the other hand, I can't grow dahlias, and yet look:

dahlias1
dahlias2
dahlias3

Dahlias. Growing in my yard. I'm having to *deadhead* the things, they're so prolific and happy.

Well played, Mother Nature, well played.
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