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Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions

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Post  countrynaturals on 2/4/2020, 10:03 am

@OhioGardener wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:These puppies grew beautifully all winter long. I pinched off one leaf for Hubby to try as chives, and he loved it. Now my question is how much can I take without harming the plants?

If you cut just the out leaves when the plants are 5" or 6" high, you can harvest 1/3rd of them for continuous harvest - they will quickly grow new inner leaves to replace the ones you harvested.
Thanks, OG. The plants are already over 6" high, and Hubby loves them for chives, so even if they don't turn out to be sweet onions, the chives angle makes this one a winner already. happy turtle(Nice start to my 2020 garden.  I love you )
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Post  countrynaturals on 2/5/2020, 1:34 pm

Migosh! These puppies are a foot tall already. So, does each branch make another bulb? If that's the case, my crop has already doubled. I have 8 distinct branches on my 4 little plants. happy turtle
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Post  countrynaturals on 2/5/2020, 3:25 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:Migosh! These puppies are a foot tall already. So, does each branch make another bulb? If that's the case, my crop has already doubled. I have 8 distinct branches on my 4 little plants. happy turtle
Here's a pic:
Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions - Page 3 Potato13
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Post  OhioGardener on 2/5/2020, 4:19 pm

There are 2 bulbs on that onion. Each set of leaves comes out of a sparate bulb.

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Post  countrynaturals on 2/5/2020, 5:10 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:There are 2 bulbs on that onion. Each set of leaves comes out of a sparate bulb.
That's what I thought. These puppies are amazing! I only planted them 2 months ago, today. They grew likes weeds through a dark, dreary winter. Now they're so big I'm harvesting the tops and the bottoms have all divided already. winner
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Post  OhioGardener on 2/5/2020, 5:18 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:
@OhioGardener wrote:There are 2 bulbs on that onion. Each set of leaves comes out of a sparate bulb.
That's what I thought. These puppies are amazing! I only planted them 2 months ago, today. They grew likes weeds through a dark, dreary winter. Now they're so big I'm harvesting the tops and the bottoms have all divided already. winner

Yep, that's the way they are - plant in the fall/early winter, and harvest in June/July. And, they provide a lot of onions....   Very Happy

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Post  countrynaturals on 2/5/2020, 8:06 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:Yep, that's the way they are - plant in the fall/early winter, and harvest in June/July. And, they provide a lot of onions....   Very Happy
Will they survive our brutal summers or should I just harvest in June/July and plant something else in their spot until Sep/Oct? Or . . . could I plant some little ones in the house for chives during the hot weather? thinking
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Post  countrynaturals on 3/22/2020, 6:38 pm

My babies are all grown up and getting ready to bloom! What does that mean? idk
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Post  mollyhespra on 3/22/2020, 8:04 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:My babies are all grown up and getting ready to bloom! What does that mean? idk
Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions - Page 3 Potoni10
It means you're going to be a momma!   Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions - Page 3 3170584802

All kidding aside, save those seeds!  Stop cutting the leaves so your bulbs will store enough energy AND make you some nice seeds!

I've grown potato onions since this topic was young, but I've got to run, so I'll post more layer. 

Cheers, momma!   I love you
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Post  mollyhespra on 4/11/2020, 2:52 pm

Wow.  It's been 3 weeks since I said I'd post more.  Yikes.

I hope to make up for it by being available to answer questions but now I can't remember what I was going to say.

So here's my story: I originally bought some "Green Mountain Multipliers" from Kelly. I found out about him in a link someone posted early in this thread.  I don't know if he's still in business.

My humble 6? potato onions multiplied each year until I had quite the bounty in summer 2016: hundreds of bulbs.  I had planned to actually start being able to eat some vs. just eat the ones that had broken dormancy and plant everything that was left...and then DH had his accident and I wasn't home to cook and I wasn't available when planting time came to re-plant the bulbs, so I lost about 75% of my stock because they sprouted and withered.  I was able to salvage the bulbs that seemed least withered at some point late in the summer 2017 by just sticking them in the ground and letting them overwinter there.  And there they've been.  

Any of you who have been following my "cheerleading" thread know what kind of mess my garden was in.  I thought I'd lost the whole lot of them but when I was cleaning last summer, I found some bulbs that had somehow survived our intense winters, probably just because the dead weed carcasses provided for some protection.  So I re-planted those and figured that without the weeds protecting them they would probably not make it.

This is what I discovered this week:

Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions - Page 3 20200410

The smallest bulbs that were totally buried actually had had time to multiply last year and are alive and have already put out roots!  

I did find one cluster that was totally rotten and another that was only half-buried that I don't think is going to make it.  It also happened to be the largest bulbs that made up this cluster, so I don't know if bulb size is a factor in overwintering in our zone 3-4 (microclimate) garden, but I suspect it has more to do with protection from the elements.

All in all, after dividing them carefully, I found 14 small pearl-onion sized bulbs, which I've already replanted.

YAY!!!  

BUT.

The problem now is that I'm not sure they're all "green mountain multiplier".  I have a fuzzy memory of burying some plain old sprouting yellow onions at some point between the summer of 2017 and 2019.  I won't know if the ones I found are actually the original GMM or a generic yellow onion that has chosen to clone itself, as all onions will do if left to their own devices.

I won't know until I harvest them probably.  The GMM have a distinct shape and greenish tinge to the skin.  They taste fairly strong, which makes sense for a keeper onion.

But regardless of what variety I end up with, what I really have now is a naturally selected onion that can survive Fall planting and overwintering in my very harsh climate (and which hopefully tastes good).  What I don't have any more is any assurance that they will be good keepers, since they've overwintered in the garden.

My current plan is to treat this bunch as I did my original few GMM bulbs and start letting them multiply (should have at least 50 by this fall).  I'll probably re-plant a few in the Fall and bring the rest inside to see how well they keep.

OH!  And in all the years that I've been growing them, they've only bloomed once.  Kelly stated in his blog that it's a rare thing and an opportunity to cultivate more varieties, which is why I was so excited when I saw your onion flowers, Suz @countrynaturals
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/11/2020, 7:29 pm

@Mollyhespra wrote:OH!  And in all the years that I've been growing them, they've only bloomed once.  Kelly stated in his blog that it's a rare thing and an opportunity to cultivate more varieties, which is why I was so excited when I saw your onion flowers, Suz @countrynaturals

WOW! That is exciting -- if they ever open. Those blossoms are still in the same shape they were 3 weeks ago, but the plants are now over 2' tall.
Friday Rookie Topic XIV: Potato Onions - Page 3 Potato14
I can't wait to pull seeds from these babies. bounce
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Post  mollyhespra on 4/11/2020, 8:07 pm

Yes, they'll take their time. Hopefully you'll have some pollinators once they do open.  Would you be willing to do a trade for some seeds once you get them?
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/11/2020, 9:39 pm

@mollyhespra wrote:Yes, they'll take their time. Hopefully you'll have some pollinators once they do open.  Would you be willing to do a trade for some seeds once you get them?
You betcha! I love you

What's gonna happen to my plants after they bloom? Business as usual or will they die? What effect will blooming have on the flavor?
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Post  mollyhespra on 4/11/2020, 9:56 pm

Awesome, thanks!!!

Flowering should have no effect on the flavor at all. That bulb that flowered might be slightly smaller but otherwise will still be good and edible.

As to lifespan, if memory serves, the whole plant will just start to whither when it gets colder. Wait. What zone are you in? It might be different where you are. How do you usually do with onions? Do they start to die on you or do you pluck them out of the ground when they look ready?

(Oh, and let me know what kind of seeds might interest you in return.)
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/11/2020, 11:20 pm

@mollyhespra wrote:Awesome, thanks!!!

Flowering should have no effect on the flavor at all.  That bulb that flowered might be slightly smaller but otherwise will still be good and edible.

Good! All 7 of them are flowering, btw. Wink


As to lifespan, if memory serves, the whole plant will just start to whither when it gets colder.  Wait.  What zone are you in?  

9b. Cold is not a problem. What about heat? We'll have 3 months of triple-digits coming way too soon. Sad

It might be different where you are.  How do you usually do with onions?  Do they start to die on you or do you pluck them out of the ground when they look ready?

I have about a 99% failure rate with onions. That's why I was so thrilled when these started to thrive. sunny I've only had 2 that made it to the "pluck" stage. One of those is still out there, almost ready. The other was about 3 years ago. It was small, but good.

(Oh, and let me know what kind of seeds might interest you in return.)


Any chance you have Candy Sweet Onion seeds? If not, I'll think of something else. What about tromboncino squash? I ordered all of my seeds in December, before the virus cleaned everyone out, so I have everything I need right now, unless you'd like to recommend something kewl?

How soon after the blossoms open, can I get the seeds? How many seeds can I get from each bloom?
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/19/2020, 9:46 am

My potato onion blossoms are finally starting to pop open. So, now I wait some more? I don't want to lose a single seed, but I have to wait until the blossom opens and dies? Then I gently cut the blooms and put them into a paper bag and store in a cool, dry place fore several more weeks? Is this correct? thinking
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Post  mollyhespra on 4/20/2020, 12:14 pm

Hi, Suz.

Don't stress too much about losing any seeds. Depending on what you've got for a potato onion to begin with, you might get seeds, bulbils or some combination of the two. The bulbils will be clones of the parent plant, but the seeds will be a random genetic assortment of any number of plants in the bulb's family tree.

And depending on your pollinator situation, not all the little flowers might get pollinated. I don't know of any way to hand-pollinate them, but it's all good. Nature has a way of figuring these things out.

When my potato onions bloomed, I just let the seeds ripen on the stalk. They turn black, so it will be fairly obvious when they're ready. I'm no onion-seed saving guru, but logic dictates that the seeds will be better quality if they're nurtured by the stalk for as long as possible, so don't cut it prematurely.

As to your previous questions, I have no idea what the lifespan of an onion is in your zone. I'd just keep an eye on them and see how "happy" they look. Post pictures as you think they're starting to look "unhappy" and I'm sure between all of us, we'll figure it out.

Cheers!
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/20/2020, 2:15 pm

@mollyhespra wrote:Hi, Suz.

Don't stress too much about losing any seeds.  Depending on what you've got for a potato onion to begin with, you might get seeds, bulbils or some combination of the two.  The bulbils will be clones of the parent plant, but the seeds will be a random genetic assortment of any number of plants in the bulb's family tree.

And depending on your pollinator situation, not all the little flowers might get pollinated. I don't know of any way to hand-pollinate them, but it's all good.  Nature has a way of figuring these things out.

When my potato onions bloomed, I just let the seeds ripen on the stalk. They turn black, so it will be fairly obvious when they're ready.  I'm no onion-seed saving guru, but logic dictates that the seeds will be better quality if they're nurtured by the stalk for as long as possible, so don't cut it prematurely.
Thanks, Molly. I Just Can't Wait! bounce
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Post  countrynaturals on 5/7/2020, 11:39 pm

Migosh! I have 2 new little stalks with tiny little onion blossoms on the ends. So, now I have 9 blossoms from 7 plants. I think they're starting their own little potato onion army. hyper
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/8/2020, 8:47 am

@countrynaturals wrote:Migosh! I have 2 new little stalks with tiny little onion blossoms on the ends. So, now I have 9 blossoms from 7 plants. I think they're starting their own little potato onion army. hyper

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