Rescue A Poor Onion Harvest

Sometimes not everything works out  and this year onions certainly didn’t. There was way too much rain in the beginning and middle of gardening season even raised beds couldn’t help. On the west side of the garden there are underground springs (we eventually figured out )  so that was where the first hi-rise raised beds were installed eight years ago. But this year even those beds became waterlogged. Consequently some of the early rings in the onions developed a brittle paper-like membrane – their way of coping. Unfortunately this type of inner ring can easily rot while in storage.

Onion Harvest 2017

The rest of summer had negligible rain but it was too late for the onions. All of the excessive rain had left its mark. Look at how brown the grass was in the above photo because of the lack of rain we’ve had since August.

Usually I check the stem or the top of onion which has a tendency to feel soft if I suspect there might be a problem. Another issue was the grow rate, they stopped growing so I have a number of very small onions this year. On the bright side just the perfect  amount  for a salad, eggs or sautéed veggie portions for  one or two people.

Some of the Red Wing Onions 2017 – a bit on the small side this year

So what do you do to preserve a harvest in a year like this? I cut them open and remove the inner ring that formed the brittle membrane. It’s usually the larger onions that have the problems but not always . After I remove the membrane I coarsely chop and freeze into small bag portions. This is a little extra work but at least the harvest is preserved and well worth the effort. Used in soups, the crock pot, oven or on the stove, the onions taste fine. In fact their taste hasn’t been affected at all .

2016-08-06 17.09.23.jpg
Red Wing Onions 2016 – I miss these beauties.

I buy onion starts from Dixondale Farms  and because I live in the northern part of the United States I purchase long-day onions.

An Onion Bulbing – it rises out of the ground

What this means are the onions  require 14 to 16 hours of sunlight per day to start bulbing or mature. Short-day onions require less sunlight hours – 10 to 12 hours a day in the southern states before they start the bulbing process.  Short-day onions can be grown  in the north but they won’t grow very large. There is also an intermediate growing zone and  they are described in more detail at the following website  dixondale farms just click on the green link.

Red Wing  onions taste exceptionally good, store for about 8 to 10 months and last year some of mine made it a full year. These onions normally are about 4 inches in size and have done well for me.

 Red Zeppelin, Copra and Red Wing  Onions in another year

I will admit that I prefer red onions for cooking and raw in salads but another storage onion that has done well for me in past years was Copra. I’ve also grown some Cippiloni onions from seeds but you need to start them under lights in January or early February. Onions  are one of my favorite harvests from the garden. Hope you enjoyed the onion journey.

A garden tip – If you’ve ever left some tools outside and found them a year later horribly rusted as I did recently with some pruners, soak them in a solution of half vinegar and half water for 30 minutes to an hour. You’d be surprised how well they clean up. Finish with a light oil coating.

Until next time.

12 thoughts on “Rescue A Poor Onion Harvest

  1. Enjoyed the update and information on growing onions. I’m still not sure which type I should grow here in Mo. I’ve never had a good onion crop here like what I’ve seen you grow including this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sheila! Maybe you may be in the intermediate area so you could do both types. Dixondale Farms sells intermediate area onions too. Look at their map of the US in the Daylength Onion Growing Guide on their site – you are in the intermediate area. Too much water and weeds are problems but don’t over fertilize either. Less is better. The most I’ve used is when I plant in the spring and compost tea a couple times during the season.


  2. Gardens about done here – 30’s at night and 50’s during the day,
    both temps on the low end with a mixture or rain and snow.
    But no complaints as we had two to three harvests depending
    on the crop.
    Been doing some reading about vertical farming on something
    of a commercial scale that looks promising if the energy and
    resource requirements can be addressed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vertical farming could be a way to for maximum production on a commercial basis, although if enclosed such as a massive greenhouse insect populations would take monitoring closely. In my little greenhouse I’ve seen how quickly something like aphids can multiply. Photovoltaic solar panels have come down in price so much these days. Chatham University at Eden Hall campus has a nice set-up in the Pittsburgh area. Rachel Carson graduated from there many years ago. Check it out online.


        1. Oh yes. Rotating veggies to different sides of the garden and using more of my bamboo trellises, but next year raising netting on the watermelons, segregate cucumbers from them to prevent powdery mildew problems and spray more faithfully with neem oil to keep the diseases away, are just some of my ideas. After the 4th of July I didn’t keep up for a couple weeks and some of my melons didn’t prosper as much as a result. Beans will go back to where I had them originally and I’m growing more Monachele Di Trevio beans next year. Always so many ideas I’ll see what happens.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That all sounds very exciting!! I am planning on adding a couple different garden areas next year. At a minimum one for water melons only. They tend to spread out so much and mix with other things. I’m also going to get some chickens. I know it’s not exactly gardening, but will definitely help my gardening.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Chickens would be great for gardening and taking care of the insects, plus you get eggs! I’m mostly vegetarian but do eat eggs especially on my kale salad. I mix it up between eggs or beans for protein,occasionally a little bit of chicken although chicken broth is a staple. I’m a soup person too.
              I look forward to hearing about your new growing areas and raising chicken stories. 🐣🐥😊


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