The Q&A Archives: Garlic and Onions

Question: What is the best type soil for onions, garlic and roses? I have tried several times to grow onions and garlic. I do not get decent sized onions or garlic heads. My roses are long and spindly even though we mulched them Thanksgiving last year.

Answer: Onions can be grown from seed or sets or transplants, and garlic can be grown from cloves. Start onion seeds indoors about 8 weeks ahead or plant them outdoors in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Onions are usually seeded rather heavily and then thinned. Sets or transplants should be planted outdoors in early spring about two inches apart and one to two inches deep, and then eventually thinned to be about four inches apart (for larger bulbing type onions). You can eat the thinnings as green onions! Storage onions planted in late April should be ready in late summer -- average days to maturity is about 100 days.

Onions depend on day length to produce a bulb, so if you are growing a bulbing type onion you will need to select a variety suited to either medium or "widely adapted" day length rather than a short day variety better suited to the south.

Garlic should be planted in the fall. Separate the cloves from the bulb and plant them in soil amended with 2-3 inches of compost. Plant the individual cloves 6 inches apart and only deep enough to cover about 1/2 the clove. Water it well and mulch the bed with a 4-6 inch layer of chopped leaves, hay or straw.

In general, both garlic and onions need full sun and a well drained soil (not soggy) which has been well enriched with organic matter. They require about an inch of water a week and should be kept well weeded. The onion bulbs grow close to the soil surface so be careful not to damage them when weeding.

Roses always appreciate rich, deep, moist soil. If your plants are spindly, perhaps they're not getting the correct amount of sunshine (minimum 8 hours each day). If this is the case with your plants, prune them back and move them while they're dormant (February or March), placing them in compost enriched soil in a site that receives all day sunshine.

Hope the above helps!

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