Onion Planting Time

Sixty six hundred onion in the box, sixty six hundred of onions, take one out, plant it in the ground, sixty five hundred and ninety nine onions in the box......

I thought of this song normally sung to 100 bottles of beer all day Monday. It was a hard day on the farm. I had previously tilled a portion of our land set aside for vegetables in anticipation of mid-February Onion planting. Monday was plant onion day! Since I plant by the moon, this was the best day for some time.

For several years we have been experimenting with growing Candy onions. Eva and I had attended a seminar in Oklahoma held by the Kerry Center for Sustainable Agriculture and learned that this particular onion is very sweet, easy to grow in our area and is easy to sell retail or wholesale in the Dallas Farmer's Market.

Our first crop was produced from seed we planted. Karl and I built a hoop house and spread out thousands of seeds as small as a grain of salt mid October. If you every wondered how the 1015 onion got its name it is because the seed is planted on October 15 or very near to that date. In February, we dug the small individual onion plants known as sets and placed them in our vegetable garden. Planting the seed saves money if you consider the hoop house an investment. I have a package of seed that has not been used. 5,000 seed costs a lot less than the pre-grown sets, but it is a lot of work with the results not known for months after planting.

We were blessed this year by the company of new friends that dropped by to talk about gardening. I felt a bit like Tom Sawyer getting his fence painted as they tolled by me planting the sets all morning. After lunch, I continued on by myself and before the day was over Eva joined me. About dark, I could hardly get up off the ground.

To plant the sets, I laid out my rows (245 feet long) with string. There are a total of 9 rows. There are three rows per five foot tilled bed. I plowed a fertilizer trench about 3-4 inches deep between each row of onions and evenly distributed 13 cups of a special onion fertilizer in each trench (1/2 cup per 10 feet). For planting, I built a device to put a row of holes in the row under the string the correct depth (1 inch) and 4 inches between plants. This speeded up the planting process and each onion set is perfectly in line and spaced correctly.

We planted about 6,600 individual plants!

Today, I will re-install our irrigation filtration system and lay T-tape along the fertilizer trenches so I can start to irrigate the plants. Onions need about 30 inches of water over 100 days and should never get dry.

Did you know that an onion has a ring for each leaf you grow. Therefore, you can determine how your onions are doing by watching the leaves.

If successful, maybe next fall we will experiment with planting garlic to go with our onion crop.

Our first Candy onions planted 2/22/07 and dug 6/18/07

The three varieties we planted this week are below complements of Dixondale Farms.


This yellow onion is the most consistent winner at county fairs across the country. If we had to recommend one onion for everyone to try, it would be this one. Some boast about producing 6" onions. Each year we hear more customers comment that they can't grow enough Candy to supply the folks at the local market. Stores surprisingly well for a sweet onion. Hybrid, stores approximately three months, matures in 100 days, globe-shaped, yellow.

Red Candy Apple

Red Candy Apple is a red intermediate day hybrid that is as sweet as candy—so sweet that you can eat it like an apple. Compared to the Stockton Red, the Red Candy Apple offers improved sizing, better interior color and an intense dark red skin with very mild taste. This red onion's color moves inside as the bulb matures and the interior produces beautiful red rings after curing. Remarkably uniform, this new development also features a high percentage of single centers in its solid, firm bulbs.

Red onions are generally more expensive for consumers than yellow or whites due to lower yields and pack-outs in processing. Other contributors to their popularity are that reds are beautiful and make food dishes beautiful. Because of their higher concentration of quercetins, red onions are also very healthy. Quercetin is a flavonoid—an antioxidant compound that helps delay or slow damage to cells and tissue of the body. Recent studies on its health effects suggest that quercetin may help fight diseases and disorders such as cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

Deep red, flattened globe shaped, sweet, hybrid, grows up to 4", stores approximately two months, 95 days to harvest.

Borettana Cippolini

This yellow onion is often referred to as a summer "mini" onion. It is very flat (1") which makes it nice for braiding or keeping in a small basket in the kitchen. Plant them as close as 2" apart to make cute, flat onions great for shish-ka-bobs or 4" apart for onions that will fill up your saucer or hamburger. This is a long-day variety that may produce too large of necks in short day areas. Makes a great specialty item when harvested and marketed with tops still attached. Open pollinated, stores approximately five months, matures 110 days, very flat, yellow.