I have only moderately tried to grow onions in the past. And when I say “onions”, I mean BULB onions not green onions (those aren’t too tricky). I tried red onions once because I had heard how onions were the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie of the vegetable world (i.e. Set It and Forget It). But much like any Ronco product, I was ultimately disappointed with lack of performance.
So back in February I wrote how my wife’s friend gave us 5 Texas Supersweet Onion sets for my garden, which I promptly planted because I was desperate to get started gardening as we came out of our Southern California winter.
Well, they actually grew very well! The tops were getting long and were healthy, thus I was encouraged that this would be my year to succeed with onions. This was not to be (at least not yet).
All looked fine and I watched them each send up a flower stalk, which I /thought/ was good. FYI, this is not good. It turns out onions go to seed every OTHER year. So this year they would have just produced a nice bulb for me to eat BUT….. And here is where the BUT comes in. Because I planted them in the garden so early (late January) they went through the typical schizoid weather patterns that typify the transition from winter to spring in southern California: cold-warm-cold-hot-cold hot… Well, do that to them in a way “tricked” them into thinking they had gone through two years’ worth of time (winter-summer-winter-summer) and they went to seed like they are supposed to. Now, going to seed isn’t a huge deal, you can still use the onions, they just aren’t as big as the typical onion for whatever variety you are growing and once they bolt everyone recommends just going ahead and pulling them. So I did. I went out there with my towel and loosened up the soil around each plant and pulled them out. I must say I was pleasantly surprised as each one had grown a decent-sized bulb.
So now the rules say to let them dry and cure in the garage for two weeks, letting the tops dry up and such. This is what they are doing currently and I suspect, come the close of the Memorial Day weekend, there will be fewer onions than that with which I started. So now I know. I picked up some yellow onion sets at the Fullerton College plant sale in early March and set those out in mid to late-March and they are bolt-free and doing very well. I hope they will grow well and break my bad onion misfortune streak.