The Q&A Archives: When To Plant

Question: When is the best time to plant onions (from onion sets), garlic, lettuce & spinach in Central Oklahoma? <br>Last year, our onions were quite tasty, but few got much larger than golf balls. Our potatoes were much the same, very good, but small. We usedraised beds filled with sandy soil and organic material (mostly horse manure), watered with buried soaker hoses and fertilized regularly with Miracle-Gro. What might have gone wrong?

Answer: Onions are shallow rooted and need moisture near the surface, so your sandy-composty soil should suit their needs. While onions are growing they need to be kept moist and free of weeds - sounds like you have that covered with the raised bed and soaker hoses. How much Miracle-Gro were you applying? Onions need only be side dressed every now and then, less than that if your soil is very rich (and yours probably is with all of that organic material). Fertilizing "regularly" may have resulted in too much nitrogen which means you get all top and not much bulb. Also, is the horse manure you are using composted (rotted)? If not, it could be too "hot", that is too high in nitrogen. Soil for growing potatoes should not be too rich. It shouldbe well drained and aerated. Once again, beware of fresh manure as a fertilizer. You would probably be better off with bone meal, well rotted compost, or superphosphate and potassium (greensand is a good source). Let your potato foliage get 4-6" tall and then start hilling with a wide hoe, bringing soil almost to the top of the leaves from both sides of the row. Keep up this hilling routine until all plants are at least 1' tall and flowers start to appear. Water during dry spells but not after the foliage dies down. As with the onions, side dressings of fertilizer should not be necessary and could be a detriment to potato production. <br>As faras when to plant--you can plant onion sets, spinach, and lettuce a week or so before your area's average last frost date. (If you don't know your area's last frost date, contact a local gardener or your Cooperative Extension office.) Garlic should be planted in the fall for the best results.

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