Choosing the Ideal Onion Variety
It's hard to believe, but in only a month, we'll be mailing our 2014 catalog and taking orders for the upcoming season. It won't be long before it's time to start choosing your onions! In this issue, we'll address some popular questions about which onions will grow best in particular geographic areas.
Daylength plays a pivotal role in the selection of onions you can grow. To help you select the best varieties for your area, we divide our plants into short day, intermediate day, and long day types, and help you determine which are best for you using this map.
We often get questions from customers about growing varieties that are designated for a different geographic area. If that's something you'd like to try, pay attention to the "days to harvest" information provided for each variety in the catalog and on the website. Here are some guidelines to help you.
In general, the farther north you live, the fewer days to maturity your onion plants will need. That's because days are longer in the north during the growing season, so your plants can drink in more of the life-giving sunlight that makes them grow.
If you live in a short day area, intermediate day varieties that have fewer days to harvest, like Red Candy Apple, will perform better than those with more days to harvest, like Candy and Super Star.
Conversely, if you live in a long day area, Candy and Super Star will perform better for you than Red Candy Apple.
If you live in an intermediate day area, you have the option of experimenting with both short and long day varieties. Among short day onions, those with more days to harvest, such as 1015Y (110 days to maturity) will grow larger than those with fewer days to harvest, such as Yellow Granex (100 days). That's because the extra days to harvest allow the plants more time to put on more leaves before the bulbing process. The number of leaves corresponds to the number of rings and the size of the onion.
If you want to grow long day varieties in an intermediate day area, look for those with fewer days to harvest. Our new variety, Highlander, is an example of a long day variety that can be planted in the intermediate day region. Be aware that in long day areas, the approximate days to harvest is 95, but if planted in an intermediate day area, Highlander will take 110 to 115 days to mature. Since it will still be in the ground in hotter days of summer, it may be affected by heat stress if you have a heat wave in June.
Another new variety, the highly adaptable Red River, can be considered either a long intermediate day or short long day. Its days to harvest period varies from 95-105. Like Highlander, if planted in an intermediate day region, it will take longer to mature than if planted in a long day region.
If you are in an intermediate day area and try to grow long day varieties with too many days to harvest, they may not "finish" growing in time, because the 16-hour day length requirement won't be met if planted too far south.
Temperature, moisture, fertilization and disease always play a role in the performance of any variety, but knowing what to expect from each variety will assist you in choosing what to plant.
Our short, intermediate and long day onion variety classifications offer the best guidance as to what will grow well in your area. However, if you ever have a question about varietal choices, our knowledgeable customer service representatives will be happy to help!
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
Planting Time Aids
Dixondale Farms offers numerous products to help you plant, fertilize, grow, protect, and harvest your produce. The following planting time products include a fertilizer, a combination feed and weed aid, an all natural feed and weed, and an additional weed control option. All our fertilizers and feed-and-weed products come in four-pound bags, as well as our new resealable 12-pound bags.
Dixondale Farms Onion Special 10-20-10: This exclusive fertilizer contains a blend of organic humic acids and essential micro-nutrients that onions crave, such as magnesium, zinc, boron, copper, iron, manganese, and molybdenum.
This is the fertilizer you want to start your plants out with, in order to establish the root systems. Later, apply the Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0) until the onions start to bulb.
Dixondale Farms Feed and Weed 10-20-10: This is a unique fertilizer and organic pre-emergent herbicide all in one. The 100% natural corn gluten meal blocks weed germination, so you can establish your onions in a weed-free area, while our fertilizer blend provides the nutrients necessary for huge, delicious onions.
All Natural Feed and Weed 2-5-3
: This purely organic product combines an all-natural fertilizer with the pre-emergent weed control power of corn gluten meal. It's ideal for preparing a weed-free bed and feeding your onions up to size without resorting to chemicals. Treflan Herbicide Granules
: This herbicide does a bang-up job of pre-emergent weed and grass control, handling the toughest weeds with ease. Just apply it before transplanting your onions. A one-pound container treats up to 1,200 square feet.
From Our Friends
Mighty Big Onions
Rocky Criss, LtCol, USMC (Ret) of Pine City, New York, sends us this charming picture:
"This is a photo of my great-niece, Leigha, taken in August 2013 in Pine City. The onions are all from Dixondale Farms and are similar to ones I grow every year from you. I think this big type is an Ailsa Craig. I grew dozens of those sized onions, as you can see behind Leigha. We tried to get her to hold up two at the same time, but they were too heavy for her to lift both at once!"
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Around the Farm
The Onion Farmers' Favorite
Bruce stopped by the Barton Creek Farmers Market in Austin, Texas recently, and was excited to see Winfield Farm selling Texas Legends, 1015Y Texas Super Sweets, and Red Candy Apple onions.
When he asked them where their onion plants were from, they said, "There's only one place to get good onion plants -- Dixondale Farms!"
|Cooking with Onions
Rustic Onion Tart
- One 10 inch pie crust (frozen is fine)
- 3 medium red or yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup (not packed) roughly grated Swiss cheese (Gruyere is great)
Defrost pie crust if using frozen, according to directions on box. Peel and slice onions.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large, heavy bottomed saut� pan on medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the onions and sprinkle a little salt over them. Cook, stirring for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for an additional 30 minutes or so until the onions are well browned. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook about 10 minutes more or until the onions are completely caramelized. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 450� F. Bring dough to room temp and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Put all but 2 tablespoons of cheese in center of dough and spread to within 1-1/2 inches from edges. Add the onions, layering them on top of the cheese. Fold the edges of the crust dough over, pleating them as you go, so that a small circle of onion is still showing in the center of the tart. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top of the tart.
Place on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes at 450� F. Reduce heat to 350� and bake for additional 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4.
Q & A: High Tunnels
Q. I've heard some growers are planting under "high tunnels." Will you explain this method of growing onions?
A. Some large-scale growers have started using high tunnels, consisting of clear plastic stretched over a semicircular frame, as a cheaper kind of greenhouse. They're good for extending the growing season, usually moving it ahead into a better price period. They can also let you grow crops up to three climate zones earlier, which makes some onions ready a month sooner than normal.
The main function of high tunnels is to raise temperatures a little each day for several weeks. Other advantages include soil warming, protection from wind and bad weather, easier pest and disease control, and better moisture control.
High tunnels don't require external heating or electrical connections, just trickle irrigation and a water supply. On the negative side, large structures are costly. There's annual work "skinning" and "unskinning" the plastic, and daily work venting the tunnels due to temperature changes and storms. It's also a lot less convenient to spray, cultivate, and harvest tunnels compared to open fields.
The best way to increase earliness using tunnels is to plant onion varieties that need fewer hours of daylength to bulb. Since you can plant up to a month earlier, you can grow short-day onions in intermediate-day areas and intermediate-day onions in long-day areas. I suggest experimenting with some "longer" short-day varieties like 1015Y, Red Creole, or Texas Early White for an even earlier harvest of bulblet onions.
Fun Onion Facts
Americans eat about 21 pounds of onions per capita these days. That's still just one-third of Libya's per-capita rate of consumption; they're still the champs at 63 pounds per year!
All Your Questions Answered
We have answers to your frequently asked questions! Just click the link for information on when to order your onions and how to find your frost and freeze dates, as well as for tips on planting, caring, feeding, harvesting, and storing them.
One of the things that's so wonderful about home gardens is that they tend to be endeavors that involve the whole family. Even the children get involved -- both two-legged and four-legged! -- and these gentle ones always seem so interested and amazed when the great big onions are harvested.
It's a wonderful learning experience for the human kids, and as for us, we're gratified by the success of our customers all over this great nation of ours, and the size of the prizewinners they grow. And needless to say, we're proud to be a part of their family gardening traditions -- and happy that they're part of our family farming tradition.
Got some pictures to share? Send 'em our way!
About Dixondale Farms
As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the U.S. (100 years strong!), Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site.
Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. We've posted answers to frequently asked questions about growing onions on our FAQ page. And of course, we're also available from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CT at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Join the community of friends and growers on our Facebook page! You can connect with us and fellow growers to share stories, photos, recipes, and even weather information and other tips.
Award-winning Dixondale onions abound. Visit us to see some of the amazing blue ribbon winners!
And be sure to check out our short videos, on topics ranging from bolting and fertilizing to how onion plants are harvested and how they deal with cold weather.