Itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow… and purple disappointments

I noticed today that most of my onion tops are lying withered and yellow on the ground. Once the base of the stem dies, the bulb simply won’t grow any more because it’s not getting any more nutrients – time for harvesting!

I began to tug, full of hope… which quickly faded as I realized just how darn small all of these onions really are. They range from between one to two, two and a half, inches in diameter. That’s about half the size of the ones I buy at the store – the small bagged ones, even, not the loose giants in the bin.

I was so discouraged, I only ended up pulling about a third.

And don’t even ask about the garlic. It’s so small I didn’t even bother pulling it up, though it’s all pretty obviously falling over and shriveling, ready for harvest.  I kneaded around in the soil and found that most of the cloves never even multiplied – the few I pulled up in disbelief looked nearly the same – a bit fatter maybe, lots more roots – as when I put them in the ground in the first place. I’m going to leave them there and see if any survive and can maybe resume growing in the Fall – it’s just not even worth the effort to yank them.

There are several factors that could be the problem. Number one is that the chickens seemed to delight in knocking over the fat green onion shoots and sitting on them. Squish. These onions could simply have reached a premature death. (Note to self: fence next attempts at onionery).

I’m beginning to think that the chickens may need their own separate run off in the woods somewhere, because the work they’ve done so far with bug control is far, far outweighed by their destructive eating (the poor cabbages have been decimated by the %&$* birds, for instance, yet are nevertheless still covered with cabbage lopers. Whaaaa?).

Number two: Soil, soil, soil. At the time they were planted, we couldn’t afford huge loads of manure to work into the soil. I contented myself with a few bags’ worth, but really you get back what you put in. I guess the native soil is even poorer than I had thought. And since the strawberries didn’t perform either… I forsee lots more wheelbarrowloads of manure and compost in my future. (On the plus side of poor soil, I’ve had very little trouble with weeds).

Number three: Maybe I just planted them too late. Next year I’ll plant in March instead of April.

Ah, well. At least my family is not depending on me for their survival. I’ll chalk it all down to the learning curve, and in the mean time make really, really teeny tiny little onion rings.

3 Responses to “Itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow… and purple disappointments”

  1. debbie swickard Says:

    So SAD!!

  2. Linda Says:

    Came upon your blog this evening, and enjoyed reading about your chickens, and gardening hurdles. I love to garden and hope to have some chickens here one of these days. Doing my reading first, and then if I can convince my husband, I’ll take the leap.

    Have you had your soil tested? Your nutrients might be off for some of the things you’re trying to grow. Garlic is planted in the fall (most places), and onions will start to bulb right around the summer soltice, and continue growing until the daylight hours start to shorten (for me that’s about August). Also, are the onion varieties suited for your area, i.e. Long day bulbs for northern climates and short day bulbs for southern climates. Here’s a link to some information if you’re interested.

  3. diana Says:

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the comment and link! Interesting about the onions; I knew they were supposed to last until August, but I never thought about what varieties they were because I just got them from the bin at my local feed store. I will try to remember to ask, the next time I’m there. I am coming to think that I simply overestimated the water overabundance problem around here, and thus that – being on an elevated slope as they were – what they really needed was more regular watering.

    I did have my soil tested, but what I thought was goign to be a more thorough test turned out to only tell me the ph and “nutrient level” as a whole number, not broken down into magnesium, calcium, etc. So that’s definitely on the to-do list. I just haven’t acted yet because I don’t know whether to test the underlying soil, or the soil I’m laying on it about 4″ deep, or a mix of both.

    Well, live and learn! I know I should be writing down some of these numbers so I can compare with future years as (hopefully) the yield gets better and better. :)

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