In 1997 Texas officially recognized the “Texas 1015” as the official state vegetable. This juicy disease resistant sweet onion was developed by Leonard Pike at Texas A&M.
Hopefully the local stores have 1015 onion slips the week after Christmas and I try to get them in the ground between rains, as early in January as I can. If a hard freeze is predicted after I get them out, I cover up what I can because several hours at 28 degrees and below could cause problems. You may not lose all of them but they won’t develop well. Most folks tell me that they will replant after hard freeze damage to help assure a crop. Onions can be planted in our area until mid-February.
In addition to the 1015 I plant a few bunches of red onions. My experience with these has been spotty to say the least. Last year I left them in the ground for a couple of weeks after I had pulled my 1015 onions and they grew quite a bit more in bulb size. I pull onions when most of the tops fall over but I noticed that most of the reds had not fallen when the 1015s did. The reds add some pizazz to salads.
Onions are biennial which means that they grow vegetaviley for one season then produce flowers and seeds in the second year to complete their lifecycle. If the transplants are too large (say over ¼ inch) and are exposed several hours to below 45 degrees – dormancy will be induced. This means that when warmer temperatures arrive and growth resumes the plants may bolt and seed stems develop. I usually have a few with stems that start to fatten. It’s usually late in the season and I just tear off the affected stem, and leave the plant alone until all are harvested.
Onions do well in black gumbo if it has been loosened up with organic matter over several years. Two to three inches of compost worked into the soil and or a couple of inches of barnyard manure over the bed will be rewarded. The bed should be above grade to insure that the onions will not stand in water.
Set the plants 3 inches apart and an inch or so deep. If your soil is right you can push your finger in to the right depth without much effort. Onions planted too close together can be thinned and used as green onions. Green onions and sweet iced tea make me think of warm weather.
As the season begins to give up the cold days you can fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Try to avoid a fertilizer with sulfur because the sulfur will make the onions hotter.
Be sure to provide adequate moisture. Bulb size will be reduced if they are moisture stressed. You can reduce moisture when most of the tops fall over.
When most of the tops have fallen over, pull your crop and place them in a dry shady place to dry for a couple of days. You can cut the tops off (leaving about 2 inches of stem) and spread the bulbs in a well ventilated shady area. I don’t cut the tops. I tie the onions, with the tops on, into bunches of 4 to 6 and hang them from the rafters of my tractor shed and bring them to the cook as needed.
Robert Shugart is an Ellis County Master Gardenerand guest columnist in the Daily Light. For further information, contact the Ellis County Master Gardeners at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, 701 South Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie, or call 972-825-5175 or e-mail: email@example.com.