MidWest Gardening forum: Onions in Kansas

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Sep 30, 2015 8:12 PM CST
I'm new here. I do a small garden each year and I'm always trying to improve on my yields. I follow Ruth Stout's no till/heavy mulch ideas and I'm very pleased. I haven't tilled my garden in a few years now and my yields are about as usual. I use a LOT of onions. I'd love to grow really sweet and really large ones. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I live in Kansas between Topeka and Emporia...I think that is zone 5.

Thanks for your time.
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
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Oct 1, 2015 11:56 AM CST
Hi dfw1942. Next year will be my first year planting a vegetable garden. I planted three tomato plants for the first time in my life this last summer. Hopefully someone will jump in here and give some tips. Several of the members got me started on a lasagna bed to improve my dirt. I am deliberately calling it dirt and not soil. I don't even have earthworms yet. Sighing! But I expect next year to be a different story!
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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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Oct 1, 2015 1:31 PM CST
Hi dfw1942 and Welcome! I tried an interesting onion this year called "Candy" onions. I like how they taste. They are quite nice and firm and are supposed to keep well. I guess I'll have to see how that goes. In the past I have raised "Walla Walla" onions and they were very big and sweet, but not good keepers. Vidalia onions are nice too, but don't do too well up in my area. You may know this already, but the onion is not a root, so they do well with extra nitrogen if you want bigger ones. Good luck and keep us informed.
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Name: Sally
Nichols, iowa (Zone 5a)
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Jan 17, 2016 5:22 PM CST
In the past I've mostly planted the Stuttgarters. I need a long keeper, but want to plant one of the sweeter like Candy or Walla Walla. I'm Zone 5a.

My great uncle always said an onion likes sun on their shoulders and if you want large onions, space them out so they have room to grow. Onions will naturally grow out of the ground, but you can pull the dirt away from them too. When you harvest, let the sun dry them for a few days and don't braid unless the tops are really dry.

I usually dry mine on old window screens, taking them in to the garage if a rain or heavy dew is expected. I also clean off the dirt and loose skins.
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Name: ZenMan
rural Kansas (Zone 5b)
Kansas 5b
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Jan 20, 2016 11:20 AM CST
Hi dfw1942,

As I understand it, the "secret" to the sweet Vidalia onions is their low-sulfur soil. If you already have a lot of sulfur in your soil, you can't do much about that. I broadcasted some pelletized gypsum on my garden, so that eliminates any possibility of low-sulfur soil for me. Gypsum is calcium sulfate.

If you plan to start your onions indoors from seed, about now would be a good time to plant them. They come up looking a bit like little grass plants, and grow rather slowly at first.

If you plan to grow them from sets, there is a company you can order them from that will deliver them to you at the right time for your location. They have a wide selection of varieties to choose from.

I will probably just wait for the Vidalia onions to show up in the supermarkets.

By any chance, does "dfw" stand for Dallas Fort Worth?
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Feb 11, 2016 7:43 PM CST
@Dwf1942 -- I'm a little late to your thread, but I grow lots of onions in my garden, and am in a more or less similar zone, so here are my recommendations:

Grow from seed or plants, not sets, to get nice big onions.

The really sweet onions, like Vidalia, Walla Walla, or white sweet Spanish, do not store well; so, buy them or grow them, and use them up quickly.

"Candy" is one of my favorite varieties -- it's "day neutral" and will grow in pretty much all areas of the country; otherwise, look for "long-day" types (Johnny's Selected Seeds has great info about where the different varieties will do well).

To get large onions, they need room to grow; so either space them out (around 6" apart) at planting time, or plan to thin them by using some as green onions.

I agree with ZenMan that this is about the time to start your seeds; I start mine around Feb. 15th, in 6-packs in flats, under fluorescent lights. I plant 5-6 seeds per cell, when the plants get about 6" tall I trim them back to about 4" (you'll have to do this 2 or 3 times), and then around the middle of April I take the plants out of the cells and move them to 3" pots with about 15 plants/pot. Then trim them back as needed, because when they get too tall they are a real mess. (you can use the trimmings like you would chives)

Onions should be grown in full sun, and, because they are so shallow rooted, you want to keep them weeded (and watered) so they don't have a lot of competition for water and nutrients. And they're ready to harvest whan about half of the tops have bent over (although I usually wait longer than that, until the tops have pretty much all died down). As Sally said, spread your onions out on screens or something, so they can dry well; then cut the tops and roots off, remove the loose skins, and store in mesh bags. (or, actually, I have had very good luck storing them in paper grocery sacks)

Happy gardening! I hope you have good luck with your onions, they are one of my favorite crops Smiling
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