onions and garlic, in frugal perpetuity

garlicINVESTMENTS MAY DIMINISH OR EVEN DISAPPEAR, but the best edible alliums march bravely onward, proliferating as they go. I’m taking comfort in plants with that kind of potential for perpetuity right now, especially edible ones. So I was happy when my springtime order of multiplier onions arrived last week, and that I’d set aside the best of this year’s garlic harvest for replanting as my 2009 crop. If all else fails, I will at least be well-seasoned.

I’ve never grown multiplier onions before, an oldtime favorite I pre-ordered in March from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which offers them for fall arrival. I haven’t found much consistent information about growing the so-called potato onions, particularly in the North, except for Southern Exposure’s fact sheet, which says to save half the bulbs for springtime planting in case the winter’s too hard for them. Sounds a little ominous, but here I go.

potato-onionIn my cold area, I’m meant to give them up to 5 inches of soil on top of their pointed ends (only 1 inch or 2 in warmer zones), then scrape some of it away come spring, as they prefer to be closer to the surface in the growing season. As with garlic, shallots and other alliums, the bulbs want fertile, well-drained soil and a sunny location to be happiest.

I’d welcome any insights or war stories if you’ve grown multiplier onions, which are also sold by Territorial Seed in Oregon.

I’m far more confident with garlic, particular basically foolproof varieties like ‘German Extra-Hardy,’ with its large cloves and super-tough disposition.

As I say in the current “Chores” column (updated monthly in the sidebar column of every blog page), replant your biggest cloves from heads of harvested garlic for best yield, or hurry and order a supply, to plant ideally about a month before frost is in the ground. Mine went in last week.

Prepare a sunny spot, and plant each clove 1-2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in the row, with about 12 inches between rows. Green growth will happen this fall, which is great; don’t panic. It’s a hardy thing. Now as for those potato onions, only time will tell.

  1. Kelly Custer says:

    Wondering how your multiplier/potato onion growing is going? I’ve grown them 2 years fall planting in z5a, with protection. So far just enough to multiply my stock for a good planting this fall. The first year they didn’t multiply much I think b/c I had them planted too deeply. This year I pulled the dirt off in spring to two inches, but I broke some of my plants, and it just seemed too disruptive overall. So next I will use a deep leaf mulch instead of extra soil, and continue to plant under remay or cold frame as well.

    Also, I love walking onions. They are one of the first things I eat in the spring, and last to eat in the fall. So easy and abundant! I harvested bulbs today for my soup, and they cooked nicely (weren’t woody in a long cooking soup, anyway).

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Kelly. I gave up. :) I didn’t have much multiplication, either, and I didn’t make them very happy as you describe, too. I will be interested to know how they do with the lighter-weight insulation — keep us posted!

  2. Carla says:

    I just harvested my first garlic crop. I pureed the dented or damaged in any way cloves with olive oil and froze it. I hung the rest in a dark bathroom to cure with stalk and leaves intact. I also harvested onions grown from sets today.

    I’ve read garlic needs to be kept away from light as it turns green. Is that a very, very strict thing or a mostly dim area be adequate?

    Have you ever used the garlic bulbils that happen if you forget to remove the scapes? I froze them thinking they might be good.

  3. Sandy says:

    Do you have instruction for harvesting shallots? Mine look like it may be soon.

    Is it the same as garlic? Would like some info if possible

    Thanks Sandy

  4. Joe says:

    I am interested in any info on buying, planting and nurturing shallots, egyptian
    onions, cipollina and any other types of alliums. thanks. joe

  5. bill says:

    We live in Eastern PA and planted garlic over the winter, however we are unsure when to harvest (Jun, Jul, Aug?). Can you provide any ideas?

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