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The Year of the Allium Revisited

March 24th, 2012

Last year I declared it “the year of the allium” and was determined to experiment with growing more varieties of alliums to get us through the year. As a result of my efforts I was able to produce about 80% of the onions we ate. I just used up the last of my bulb onions from the pantry

I am currently harvesting leeks that were overwintered along with some winter hardy bunching onions. The Egyptian Walking Onions are just getting to the point of harvest as well. I will probably have to buy some bulb onions at the store to get me through when the leeks run out. Green onions are great, but they just can’t take the place of caramelized onions in soup or an omelette.

The last few evenings have found me out in the garden direct seeding onions, planting my onion seedlings, and wishing I had my onion sets and plants that are on order. The bed I’m planting them in was manured heavily last fall, which hopefully will amount to good sized onions this summer. With the amount of onions I’m planting this spring, this coming year may finally be the year in which I don’t have to buy an onion from the farmer’s market.

My goal has never really been to grow 100% percent of the food that we eat. I enjoy supporting local farmers and I don’t really have the space to do that here at Chiot’s Run. That being said, onions at the farmer’s market are quite expensive and I know I can save a lot more money using my planting space for onions rather than cabbage or zucchini.

Is there a certain kind of vegetable or fruit that you’re like this with? One that you choose to grow instead of something else either to save money or because you can’t find it locally?

26 Comments to “The Year of the Allium Revisited”
  1. Ken Toney on March 24, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I, too, am planning to grow a lot of onions this year. I have been trying to grow almost all of our food for several years. It has taken some time to build up the soil and build our high tunnel, but I’m nearly there. It’s amazing how many onions, garlic and carrots we use! This may be the year that I grow all of our onions. We’ll see.

    Do you like growing onions from seed? I haven’t had much success with onions from seed and just buy onion sets now.

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

      I do love to grow onions from seed, the varieties that you can find are great and I enjoy trying interesting things in the garden.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. George on March 24, 2012 at 6:43 am

    A couple of experiments I am running to try to have my own perpetual supply of onions:
    And even neater, the perpetual onion machine:

    Reply to George's comment

  3. daisy on March 24, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I’m just getting started with providing our food source, so I’m happy with whatever blesses our table! I enjoy supporting the farmer’s market too.

    Reply to daisy's comment

  4. KimH on March 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

    If I wind up getting a plot at the community garden I’ll grow fennel bulb there. No room for it here at my house, but fennel (or anise) bulb is a wonderful veggie, but its pretty pricy out there. Its easy to grow and is just delightful.

    I use a lot of onions.. I doubt I’d ever grow enough for my use… lol.

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Trying to grow bulbing fennel for the first time this spring – hope it grows well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • KimH on March 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm

        I bet it’ll do wonderfully. It was one of the easiest plants to grow for me. I surrounded my garden at the community garden years ago for a nice fuzzy border.
        I planted some next door when my daughter lived there & some of it either reseeded itself or never got going the year before when I planted it. Loved it.

        to KimH's comment

  5. Andrea Duke on March 24, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I just used my last onion last week. I have planted ‘Candy’ for several years now and they did store well for me. This year I am also trying Red Candy Apple and Superstar.

    I am also someone who doesn’t mind supporting local farmers. I am lucky enough to live about 30 minutes from the farmer’s market in Athen’s OH, which is a really nice one, but some of their prices are expensive. I grow a lot of my own and sell plants in the Spring. I also sell extra produce once in awhile, so I know what it takes to grow things and some vendors really are a little too high.

    I am hoping to do a better job of storing my potatoes this year. I have also learned this year that I don’t need to pick and freeze as many berries as I do and could use the space on foods that eat more of.

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 8:38 am

      I hear you on the berries, we did that a few years ago and we just don’t eat as many as we freeze – though this winter has been especially light on the cobblers since we’ve been trying to cut out excess sugar/wheat.

      Potatoes can be hard to store when you don’t have a proper root cellar. I found that growing a later crop specifically for storage proved to be my best option here. I grow early crops and eat those up through late fall, then right before the last frost I harvest my main crop of storage potatoes, which were ‘Butte’ this past year. I’m just eating up the remainder and they’re just starting to put off a few small sprouts. Definitely a great storage variety.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. K.B. on March 24, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I’m trying to grow most of my own vegetables, but I will *always* grow tomatoes, even though I don’t live too far away from one of Canada’s largest tomato growing areas. There are so many varieties you cannot find, even at the Farmer’s Market, and nothing, NOTHING, beats walking into the garden and biting into a sun-warmed tomato :)

    Speaking of onion, this is my first year of starting them from seed, and for trying to grow leeks. With pickling onions, large white onions, yellow and red storage onions, leeks and walking onions, I hope to be “onion independent” this year.

    The one thing I won’t grow again? Corn. It’s takes up too much space for the yield, and I can get great, sustainably-grown corn from the farm down the road. I’ll buy a few dozen from them this year, some for fresh eating, and some for freezing and dehydrating. I’d rather grow other things in the space the corn takes up :)

    Reply to K.B.'s comment

  7. Peggy on March 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Tomatoes, onions, and garlic are the three items I am working towards growing enough for to avoid buying. We lost our only local veggie CSA & the next closest one means driving 45 minutes for our weekly pick-up so I’ll be shopping at our little Farmer’s Market even more this year. Since no one has never had a garden at our “new” home we are starting from scratch.

    How do you store your onions? I’ve never been successful and was wondering if you could offer up some advice. Thank you!

    Reply to Peggy's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      I store mine in a basket on a shelf in the basement. They usually last all season long, I eat up the larger bulb onions first and leave the smallest ones for last as they seem to store the longest.
      From my reading, there are some different things that affect storage length of onions:
      *the variety of onions, some don’t keep long at all, others store for months
      *the amount of fertilizer used during growing season (too much and they don’t store as long)
      *I’ve also read that storage capability is affected by the type of onion you start with. I’ve heard that starting with sets has the lowest storage time, plants comes next, then seed is best (I’m doing experiments this year to test this theory)
      *don’t store near potatoes or apples

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Maura on March 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Oh, dear… this is the only one of your posts that made me cringe.
    I’m allergic to… (wait for it)… alliums.

    Yes. Go ahead and make fun… at least it isn’t chocolate ;-)

    My Pavlovian response actually made me hold my breath when I saw the photos… what in the heck is wrong with me?

    Enjoy your onions this year!
    *runs away screaming*

    Reply to Maura's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Oh what a terrible allergy to have, but you’re right at least it’s not chocolate :)

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Arika on March 24, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Susy, where do you buy your onion sets from? I’m in S.E. Michigan, and all of the seed catalogues I’m looking at sell onion seeds and onion transplants but not onion sets. Any ideas?

    Reply to Arika's comment

    • Susy on March 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      This year I got some from Maine Potato Lady and I get my plants and some seed onions from Johnny’s Selected Seeds also.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Arika on March 27, 2012 at 12:38 am

        Thanks- I’ll have to look @ Maine Potato Lady next season! I use Johnny’s too :)

        to Arika's comment

  10. kristin @ going country on March 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I will always grow my own potatoes, because I just really like the varieties we’ve settled on that aren’t usually available even at the farmers market. But I’ll never grow corn again, probably. It sucks out too many nutrients from the soil, takes too much space and effort for the return, and every person in the area grows it and sells it along the side of the road.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  11. Whit on March 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Tomatoes! We try to grow tomatos because we don’t like buying them from our heatlh food store that imports them from other countries!!! Eck! If we have a wet, cold winter here in the PNW, farmer’s markets will barely have tomatoes.

    Best new thing about our new house–greenhouses–i hope we’ll be able to have tomatoes from May thru October next year!

    Reply to Whit's comment

  12. Cristy on March 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I just discovered your website and I LOVE IT! I’m looking to get into organic gardening (I already have a small raised-bed garden and berry bushes), and I want it to be less chemically and more… natural.

    Also, your photography is wonderful!

    Any tips or recommended posts for a first-time visitor to your site?

    Reply to Cristy's comment

    • Susy on March 25, 2012 at 6:33 am

      Thanks for stopping by and saying hi Cristy! I blog here daily about everything, but with a heavy focus on gardening. Good to hear you’re getting into gardening and doing it organically. My main piece of advice is to give your garden some time, things won’t be perfect right away. When gardening without chemicals you might be tempted to use a pesticide when you notice cucumber beetles and squash bugs, don’t do anything. If you let them go their natural predators will move in. Sometimes you’ll lose some crops, but be happy knowing you’re building a more natural ecosystem. Best of luck, remember that not all crops do well in all locations, I can’t grow a zucchini here to save my life, but most everything else I grow does really well.

      There are few posts you might find useful:
      the Seed Starting 101 series for all things seed starting
      Tips for Growing Carrots
      How to Grow Potatoes
      Here’s a listing of all my posts included in my category EDIBLE, browse though and you’ll find everything edible.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Cristy on March 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

        Thank you for the links! I’m in central wisconsin, so I know not everything is going to do well here. The last few years I’ve just been getting a bunch of different plants, planting them, and seeing what happens.

        Are there any organic fertilizers (besides a manure) or things like that you recommend? I saw there is an organic Miracle Grow, but I’m not sure how “organic” that is…

        I’m also loving your active participation in the comments. It feels really welcoming! :)

        to Cristy's comment

      • Susy on March 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        I’d recommend manure if you can get some from a local farm. I’d shy away from Miracle Grow “organic” when it comes to garden products “organic” means something totally different. It’s most likely some kind of manure from a confined feed lot operation. If you can’t find local manure I would recommend the Dr Earth Fertilizers.

        to Susy's comment

  13. Rick on March 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

    We have been able to do this with onions for a couple of years now. Our next goal is to grown all our own potatoes. This year we were able to grow about 60%. This time of year is the toughest for potatoes, the stores have all been used up and we are still 3 months from fresh tasty garden potatoes!!

    Reply to Rick's comment

  14. Louisa on March 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I’ve never done much with onions-onions are a big thing around here, so even at the farmer’s market they’re super cheap.

    The things I always have to grow are corn for drying and grinding-we’re big into heirloom and native stuff, and there’s so many amazing varieties of corn out there! Also, Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato(direct seed, grows like mad, with the most delicious and tiny tomatoes you’ve ever tasted) and Beaver tomatoes, which ripen almost a month before the next earliest tomato.

    Reply to Louisa's comment

  15. Cristy on March 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you for the fertilizer link (for personal reasons, I don’t do animal byproducts). And thank you for steering me away from the Miracle Grow. That’s good to know! :)

    Reply to Cristy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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