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Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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1st- $50.00 Gift Cert to the SFG Store

2nd- $40.00 Gift Cert to the SFG Store

3rd- $30.00 Gift Cert to the SFG Store

An in-depth essay/article on a given veggie picked by the contest writer. The essay/article to include basic research with references and to include varieties and their pros and cons, disease and insect control specific to that veggie. The veggies could be picked from the following list or one selected by the writer. Asparagus, Bean, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Beets, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrot, Celery, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Salad Greens, Out of the Ordinary for a SFG, Melons, Okra, Onion, Peas, Peppers, Radish, Squash, Chard, Tomatoes and/or anything else that tickles the fancy of the writer. If more than one writer picks the same veggie that should not be a problem and could enhance the contest.

Entries will be voted on by the forum members.

Voting will begin February 25th and continue until Feb 28th. The winners will be announced on March 1st.

All entries are subject to be used in the SFG newsletter, recognition will be given to the author but no monetary payment will be made for use. If you enter an essay/article it is subject to be used by the foundation.

OKAY EVERYONE!!!!! Good luck to everyone!!!


Last edited by middlemamma on 2/25/2011, 1:21 am; edited 4 times in total

Female Posts : 2264
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Location : Idaho Panhandle

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Post 1/29/2011, 12:31 pm  quiltbea

SFG Essay Cabbage 2011

Cabbages are a member of the Brassica family and very healthy for you. I was not a lover of cabbage except in cole slaw, but I’m learning to like it after growing my own.

One cup of shredded cabbage contains 90% of the RDA for Vit K and 50% for Vit C. Its also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, Vit B6 and folate and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, Vit A, tryptophan, protein and magnesium according to nutritiondata.self.com and has no saturated fats or cholesterol worries according to great-workout.com.

Being a brand new veggie Square Foot gardener, I started with store-bought Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage seedlings in spring 2009. My new 12" raised Square Foot beds were filled with garden loam to which I added bags of composted manure plus peat moss, and amendments such as limestone, greensand, blood meal, and alfalfa meal.

I transplanted all 6 purchased seedlings in the same raised bed adjoining one another. They grew large, indeed. In June they were already beginning to crowd one another.
Pic 6/17/09 Large Jersey Wakefield cabbages outgrowing their space.

I knew this large variety would benefit from more room, but I was committed for the season. I made more room by harvesting a couple smaller than intended so the others could grow bigger. A home-grown cabbage, without insecticides, is a wonderful thing. The taste if better than store-bought.

The 2nd year I changed tactics. I’d read Bob Thomson’s book, The New Victory Garden and he treats brassicas a little differently so I thought I’d try his method but I would also choose a mini variety. Cabbage seed is viable for 4-5 years if preserved in a baggy or jar in your crisper drawer of the fridge with a teaspoon of dry milk wrapped in a couple of layers of tissue and stapled shut (to keep the seeds dry). Even a small grower like myself, who will use less than a dozen seeds a year, can safely keep the leftovers.

This time I was ready to start my own seeds indoors with lights and space in the furnace room. I chose the mini-cabbage Super Red 80 and sowed seeds 12 weeks before my last frost-free date. At 5 weeks before that frost-free date, I was ready to plant my cabbage seedlings, after hardening them off outside for several days.
5-09-10 I've planted my 8 Super Red 80 cabbage seedlings.

Again, I planted them adjoining each other but in the bottom of each hole I put a handful of limestone to prevent club root, per Bob Thomson‘s instructions. Cabbage seedlings can be planted in the garden when they have 3-5 leaves, but less than 7, slightly deeper than in the pot, buried up to the bottom of the upper leaves.

I read they don’t like to grow near pole beans, strawberries nor tomatoes. Cabbages prefer to grow near bush beans, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, the onion family, potatoes and spinach. I find that different growing experts sometimes have different experiences with their crops so this is something an SFGer can experiment with since their gardens are on such a smaller scale.

Try to rotate your crops so that you do not plant in a square where a brassica has grown the prior year, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages or cauliflower. All brassicas deplete the same nutrients from the soil so its best to rotate that square to something else next year.

If you stagger your transplants at 2-week intervals, you can get a longer harvest. Seedlings should be shaded for 2 days before being exposed to direct sunlight. You can do that with cheesecloth or light row cover. In fact, all newly-planted seedlings can benefit from no direct sunlight those first couple of days.

Cabbages like cool temperatures, but lots of sunshine.
At 3 weeks, side dress your plants with compost. Hand pull any weeds to avoid damaging the shallow roots of the plants and then mulch heavily to prevent weed growth and keep the soil moist, yet cool.
Water well at planting time and continue until the plant starts to mature, then cut back on the water. Do not let the soil dry out around the roots, or the plants will slow down.
When it nears maturity, if a cabbage head starts to crack, its caused by fast growth. Plunge a spade into the soil on ONE SIDE ONLY to chop roots or twist the head a half turn and pull to slightly dislodge the roots and slow down its growth.
If leaves start to yellow, add a nitrogen boost with compost tea.

When I noticed some insects on my cabbages, I immediately covered the plot of eight heads with light-weight row cover and left it there. Rain and sunshine penetrates the row cover just fine but my cabbages were no longer threatened by cabbage flies.
Pic of 6/28/10 Row cover set aside to check health of plants.

When I harvested the last 3 of them in October, they were nicely within the perimeters of their square foot and heading up into lovely red balls. And best of all, no club root. All roots were healthy and strong at harvest.
To harvest, carefully cut it from the stalk an inch above the soil, leaving lower leaves intact to possibly re-grow another small, tasty head.
Pic of 10/2/10 My last 3 at end of season.

Here’s a cooking tip: Do NOT over cook cabbage. Just put a half to three quarter inch of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the water to hold the color and reduce odor. Add the sliced cabbage and cook only a few minutes (3-5) until tender. The longer you cook, the more odor it disperses. Never overcook cabbage.

This year for 2011, once again, I will start my own seedlings indoors and at transplant time, add a handful of limestone to the bottom of their outdoor planting hole and keep that row cover handy.
I understand you can start mid-season crops directly outdoors. They can take a mild frost at the end of their days. I might try that this year.
For Square Foot Gardening, I can highly recommend the mini-varieties of cabbage. They are large enough for a family meal, yet small enough not to crowd out each other or their neighbor crops.

After the harvest, pull up the root and discard in the trash as it may contain club root. Do not put in your compost pile. You can add any chopped leaves back in the bed, add compost, a little lime and plant a cover crop if you desire in preparation for next spring’s different crops.
To store cabbage, you can hang the plant with their roots still attached, upside down in a garage or other cool place or you can wrap the heads tightly in newspaper to keep a few weeks.

Try growing your own cabbage. Its easy and it healthy.

Last edited by quiltbea on 1/29/2011, 12:33 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)

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Old Hippie

Post 1/30/2011, 12:53 am  Old Hippie

Wow! What awesome entries, all of you. Miinva, don't be embarrassed about your entry. It was lovely and I quite enjoyed the whimsical nature of it. This is going to be quite difficult to judge. So much great information. Loved Ward's naming of the squash!! LOL!

The contest is a great idea. Was that your idea, Jenny? I am glad you have extended the deadline for entries. I may have time to get something together too.


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Post 1/31/2011, 9:02 pm  FarmerValerie

Cowpeas aka Southern Peas or Field Peas
According to Wikipedia: (Vigna unguiculata) is one of several species of the widely cultivated genus Vigna.
Cowpeas are believed to hail from Northern Africa, brought over on ships with those poor souls who were sold into slavery. I was born and raised in Central Illinois, where the land was “as flat as their voice” and went on just as long. Peas where I came from were the same color as those peas that the early Americans who turned their nose up at the cowpea preferred, green. Sometimes they were covered in a creamy sauce, sprinkled with pepper and served cold or, if I was lucky they were drenched in cheese, but most of the time they were as green as the English Countryside they originated from.
Cowpeas come in many different colors and sizes. Some of the more popular are; Purple Hull, Black Eye, Cream, & Zipper. Two sub categories are the Crowder, because they are crowded together, and the cream. My personal favorite is the Lady Cream Pea, or as my husband's grandmother, who rarely uttered an ugly word, called them, “Little Beeches”, because they were a beech to shell. My mother in law prefers the Zipper Cream, for the same reason I have my favorite, their size. Although the Zipper Cream are much easier to shell due to their much larger size, to me it's worth the effort to shell the smaller ones, nothing worth having comes without some effort put forth.
Coweas are legumes. A legume fruit is a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and opens along a seam along two sides, this carpel is also called a pod. Legumes are a plant that puts nitrogen back into the soil. George Washington Carver's first crop at Tuskegee Institute was Cowpeas, much to his students dismay. The next year they planted sweet potatoes, and had a huge crop. By the third year, the soil was ready for cotton, and they had a bumper crop. When growing crops that deplete the soil of nitrogen, such as corn or cotton, following these crops with a season of legumes is smart growing. They are also shade tolerant and can be planted with crops that deplete the nitrogen from the soil.
Legumes are also high in protein, and when served with grains or another southern tradition, cornbread, contain all the necessary amino acids needed for vegetarians, or low income families. Legumes are also good as a crop for animals, and their greens are edible as well.
Yet another reason these peas are so popular in the southern half of the US is because of how well they grow in poor soil, which I can personally attest to this, and are tolerant to heat. The soil in our yard is mostly clay, and we have had summers down here in NE TX were we had 100 days of 100 degree weather, yet these peas thrived. They will grow well in soil that is 85% sand, less than 0.2% organic matter, and low in phosphorus. Cowpeas do not like wet feet, and has few pests, the aphid and stink bug.
Cowpeas can be dried, which is how I have started to preserve most of mine, shelling them, letting them air dry, and then bagging or jarring them. Living in the country sometimes means power outages in the winter and the thought of losing all that hard work lead me to drying them instead of freezing them.
These peas also bring families together for the sake of tradition, old and new. Whether sitting on the porch in the evening shade catching an occasional breeze shelling peas and drinking the house wine of the south, iced tea, or around the dinner table with a pot of peas prepared with bits of bacon, or a ham bone and lots of your favorite seasonings, along with buttermilk cornbread and of course iced tea, either way is a sure fire recipe for memory making moments, bringing the generations together, JAN/FEB 2011 VEGGIE ESSAY/ARTICLE CONTEST - Page 2 Img_0015
which is the best crop of all.

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Post 1/31/2011, 10:55 pm  miinva

Yay! Cowpeas! I love Calico Crowders, they're delicious and beautiful Smile

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Post 2/1/2011, 4:18 pm  WardinWake

miinva wrote:Yay! Cowpeas! I love Calico Crowders, they're delicious and beautiful Smile

Howdy: We would grow several varieties of cowpeas in North Florida when I was growing up there. They included blackeyes, Zippers (my favorate) various Crowders and all did fine in the North Florida where the soil needs everything except - sand.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.

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Post 2/7/2011, 3:55 pm  middlemamma

There is still time to get in on the contest!!

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Post 2/7/2011, 6:17 pm  Megan

Hm.... I may have to take a stab at it. study

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Post 2/12/2011, 3:22 am  middlemamma


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Post 2/15/2011, 3:27 pm  middlemamma

10 days left to get your submission in!

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Post 2/15/2011, 5:57 pm  Megan


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Post 2/15/2011, 6:16 pm  boffer

Megan wrote:Rrrgh....

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Post 2/15/2011, 6:30 pm  Megan

Working on it! Smile Also bumping....

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Post 2/17/2011, 1:21 pm  Furbalsmom

middlemamma wrote:There is still time to get in on the contest!!

8 days left to enter the Veggie Essay/Article Contest.

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Post 2/21/2011, 12:45 am  ander217


Onions are a versatile member of the lily family that deserve a place in the garden. Closely related to leeks, chives, and garlic, onions are native to central Asia. They have been cultivated for over four thousand years, and ancient Egyptians recorded that their pharaohs took pride in the mildness of flavor of Egypt’s onions.['i] If Will Shakespeare had just finished a bowl of French onion soup made from his own supply of stored onions, that memorable line from Romeo and Juliet might have read, “A lily by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Types of Onions

There are over four hundred species in the genus Allium—including ornamentals and the wild onion (Allium cernuum)—but two edible species of bulb onions are commonly found in gardens. These species include common or seed-producing onions (Allium cepa, var. cepa); multiplier onions (Allium cepa, var. aggregatum), which include potato onions and shallots; and Egyptian or walking onions (Allium cepa, var. proliferum). Japanese bunching onions (Allium fistulosum), also called Welsh onions, are a separate species of onion commonly found in seed catalogs. There are instances of some crossing of A. fistulosum and A. cepa, but they are rare occurrences.[ii] Scallions and green onions are not separate species but are merely onions that are pulled before maturing.

Common or seed-producing onions may be started in the garden three ways: seeds, transplants, or sets. (Sets are immature dried bulbs that have been grown halfway then harvested and dried to use for the next season’s planting.) Sets and transplants are easier to use but are more expensive. According to The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, the preferred size for sets is a one-half-inch diameter bulb. Smaller ones lack in vigor, while larger ones quickly go to seed. White, yellow, or red onion varieties are available for planting in the garden, and they can range in shape from flat to round to cylindrical to torpedo-like. Round sets produce flat onions while elongated or tapered sets mature into round onions.[iii]

The cooking onions usually seen in grocery stores across the United States are the hardier American onions, usually grown in the North. Sweet slicing onions are sometimes referred to as European onions, which are thin skinned and do not keep well. Popular long-day onion varieties include Walla Walla, Ebenezer, Spanish types, Red Wethersfield, Ailsa Craig, Yellow Globe, and Buffalo. Popular short-day varieties include Crystal Wax, Grano, Granex (or Vidalia), Burgundy, Bermuda, and Red Creole.

Multiplier onions divide at the bulb into several new small bulblets or sets which can be pulled apart and replanted to grow into large onions. Growers plant all of their small sets to grow into large onions to use, but they should always save back a few large potato onions each year to plant which will divide into more small sets for the following year. Southern gardeners should plant potato onions in the fall, about three inches apart. Northern gardeners may plant in fall with mulch for protection, or they can delay their planting until early spring.[iv] Fall-planted onions grow much larger, but there is always a chance they may winterkill. Saving for spring planting may seem safer, but there is a chance some sets will be lost over the winter in storage. Some people solve the dilemma by planting some in fall and saving a few to plant in spring as well.

Some families have grown the same strain of potato onions for generations. Potato onions usually produce full-sized onion bulbs and have one of the highest productions per acre of any garden plant since one bulb can produce as many as twelve or more bulblets.

Egyptian or walking onions produce a flower stalk with a globe-shaped cluster of flowers called an umbel. Those flowers develop into small bulbs called bulbils which may produce more flower stalks and more bulbils. Eventually the stalks fall to the ground and the bulbils take root as new plants. This is how these onions have earned their nickname of “walking onions.” (Egyptian onions may also be propagated by dividing the bulbs at the base.) Because they are winter hardy and perennial, some people call Egyptian or walking onions “winter onions.” They can be dug in spring and summer as green onions, or the larger bulbils can be harvested and used as pearl onions.

Japanese bunching onions are believed to have originated from a wild species growing in Asia. They grow in clumps up to one foot in diameter and grow to about two feet tall. They do not make large bulbs but are grown mainly for their long stems and their green tops that are long and hollow. They are hardy and will overwinter in many areas. Propagation is by division of side shoots, or they can also be grown by seed. Popular varieties include Evergreen White, White Spear, Santa Claus (red), He-Shi-Ko, and Deep Purple.

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting

Onions need cool weather during early development, hot weather during bulbing, and low humidity during curing. If they get too dry during growth, the bulbs may split in two. Remember that every leaf of the onion plant makes a layer or ring on the bulb, so the larger the leaves, the larger the bulb.

Onions grown from seed take around 120 days to reach maturity. Seed is viable only for a year or two, so it’s best not to hold over onion seed for the next season. Experts differ on how deep gardeners should plant onion seed. Some say that one-fourth inch is sufficient, while others say that onion seeds should be planted one-half, three-fourths, or even one inch deep.[v]

Some people prefer to purchase transplants in the spring or start seed in the fall in cold frames and grow their own transplants. To ensure success of onion transplants, cover the lower part of transplants to a depth of about one to one and one-half inches.

If using sets, plant them stem up and cover no deeper than one-fourth inch, or just push them firmly into the soil leaving up to half of the set exposed. Those who garden by the moon claim that if one plants sets when the moon is waning (decreasing), they will remain firmly in place, but if one plants sets when the moon is waxing (increasing), the sets will often come up and roll away from their original planting site. If that happens, just pick the sets up and put back in place. They will quickly grow roots to anchor themselves in the soil.

Onions turn their energy into growing bulbs based on the hours of daylight they receive combined with the right temperature. Some varieties (called short-day onions) are triggered to begin bulbing after receiving as little as eleven to twelve hours of daylight per day and should be planted in southern regions which do not get as much sunlight as northern areas. Other varieties (long-day onions) will not bulb until they receive at least fifteen to sixteen hours of daylight and must be planted in northern areas. Still other varieties are in the middle range, requiring thirteen to fourteen hours of daylight.

The best advice is to plant the correct onions for your area as early as the ground can be worked in the spring so they can gain as much leaf growth as possible before conditions trigger bulb formation. Short-day onions planted in the north would be triggered to start bulbing before the tops grew large and the bulbs would be small. Long-day onions grown in the south would make green onions, but the summer heat would likely kill the tops before the days reached sufficient length for them to make large bulbs. Extreme southern areas do not receive enough sunlight to trigger bulbing at all for some long-day varieties.[vi]

Growers should pull and use onions that put up a flower stalk (bolting), as they will not keep well in storage. When a majority of onion tops have withered and turned brown, it is time to prepare for harvest. Some experts say to knock over any remaining tops that are standing, wait a few more days, and then pull them all. Others say standing tops should not be knocked over but should be allowed to remain standing until they wither on their own. Still others say it depends on the variety whether the remaining tops should be knocked over. Many growers prefer to allow theirs to dry naturally before pulling them, even if it means making two harvests.

Once growers pull or dig their onions, they should spread them out in a dry, airy spot in the shade or partial shade. Allow them to finish drying (about two or three weeks) and clip the tops off, leaving an inch or so of stem in place. Clean off dirt and any loose skins. Place in mesh bags or a ventilated container and keep in a cool, dry place. Best storage temperatures range from 35–50ºF (2–10ºC). If kept too warm, the onions will begin to put out green shoots, and too much humidity will cause roots to grow, either of which can cause the bulb to rot.[vii]

If growers wish to save onion seeds, there should be no other variety of onion within a mile of the onions to be saved so that the varieties don’t cross, and a minimum of twenty-five plants should be grown to ensure adequate genetic integrity through proper self-pollination. Please note that leeks are a separate species and will not cross with onions; however, shallots are a member of the species Allium cepa, var. aggregatum and can cross with other onions.[viii]

Pests and Diseases

Onions aren’t bothered by many pests. The onion maggot is deterred by plenty of organic humus,[ix] and yearly crop rotation also helps in controlling these pests that seem to be worse when there are a series of wet summers. Onion thrips— tiny insects which scrape the leaves and then drink the oozing sap—can be a problem, especially in hot, dry summers. Heavy infestations can usually be controlled by frequently spraying the plants with soapy water using insecticidal soap or a mixture of rotenone, sabadilla, and pyrethrin for extremely heavy infestations.[x]

In addition to pests, onions sometimes contract diseases, the most serious of which is onion neck-rot. Neck-rot can be caused by late nitrogen application, too much wet weather during harvest and curing stages, too little air circulation during the growing phase, too much rain causing downy mildew, or cutting off tops before onions have properly cured. It appears to affect mild-flavored onions more than strong-flavored ones.[xi]

['i] New Standard Encyclopedia[/i] (Chicago: Standard Education Society, Inc., 1968), O-96–O-97; Steven Smyser, ed., The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1978), 797.
[ii] Steve Christman, “Allium fistulosum,” Floridata.com, last modified September 13, 2003, accessed February 19, 2011, http://www.floridata.com/ref/a/alli_fis.cfm; “Onion – Allium sp.,” International Seed Saving Institute, accessed February 18, 2011, http://www.seedsave.org/issi/904/expert.html.
[iii] J.S. Vandemark, “Onions Are Finicky as to Growing, Curing; And Garlic May Not Be a Joy Either,” in Gardening for Food and Fun: The Yearbook of Agriculture 1977, United States Department of Agriculture (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1977), 153.
[iv] Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Catalog & Garden Guide, 2011 (Mineral, VA: SESE, 2011), 80.
[v] Ibid, 33.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Vandemark, 154.
[viii] Bryan Connolly, Organic Seed Production and Saving: The Wisdom of Plant Heritage, ed. C.R. Lawn(Athol, MA: Highland Press, 2004), 67-68.
[ix] Smyser, 798.
[x] Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Growing Instructions for Multiplier Onions (Mineral, VA: SESE, 2010).
[xi] Ibid.

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Post 2/21/2011, 8:36 am  FarmerValerie

GREAT JOB. About half way thru I was wishing I had read it before buying onion sets to set out yesterday, upon finishing it, I'm glad I did not and had already stuck most of them in the ground. All that wonderful information would have sent me on a massive rabbit hunt to find out just exactly what kind I had, and then I would have questioned my choice, and probably never got them out. You did a absolutely wonderful job, I'm just an information junkie, and sometimes I need to keep my mind clear or nothing gets done. I will print your post about onions out and absorb it over the hot months when I cannot get outside and also see if I need to make a better choice next year. I don't like onions (or they don't like me rather), in fact the ones I did not get in the ground are giving me a headache right now, and my eyes are slightly swollen. I read they help deter some pests, and I have 2 kids that like them, so in the ground they went.

You did an awesome job on this, it was well worth the wait, I am so glad you shared. As soon as I get more ink I will print it and put it in my binder, along with the other articles/essays posted here.

I had someone tell me the other day, after explaining the how and why of what we did that they never realized gardening/farming was a science, it's much more it's also an art.

"Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization" -Daniel Webster

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Post 2/22/2011, 8:49 am  ander217

Thanks for your kind words, Valerie. I have to say a big thank you to my daughter who helped me with the citations. It had been too many decades since school for me to remember the proper way to do them. (We didn't have to worry about how to cite online sources back then, either!)

I know what you mean about learning too much sometimes. Before the research I would never have given a second thought to the kind of varieties we planted, but I was stressing about the fact that some of ours were long-day and some were short-day varieties. I guess we're on the border here between the two so we can plant either, but neither will grow as large as in other areas.

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Post 2/22/2011, 9:05 am  FarmerValerie

As a Homeschool mom, I too have had to re-learn how to do all those quotes and citations, that is one area I wish I had paid a bit more attention too.

Give a big thanks to your daughter, I never knew 1 single plant (especially one that gives me such internal and external grief) could be so intricate and unique, and you barely scratched the surface on onions, let alone that plant family!!!

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Post 2/25/2011, 1:22 am  middlemamma

BUMP FOR VOTING! VOTING BEGINS NOW!!! (read: as soon as I get the poll up!)

Good luck to all our contestants! We had awesome entries!!

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