Onions, Garlic and Crawford Lettuce

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, October 16, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

Yesterday was October 15, which should be proclaimed a Texas holiday. It is the designated birthday of the Texas State Vegetable since 1997 which is the Texas sweet onion-the most famous of which is the 1015Y. Saying that October 15 is the birthday is a bit misleading – October 15 is when seed should be planted so the actual “birth” of the seedling occurs when sprouting begins. Since onions are such a big part of Mexican food, I thought we should name the holiday Octubre quince Y to go along with Cinco de Mayo (May 5), Diez y Seis de Septiembre (Sept. 16) and Dia de los Muertes.

It should also be recognized that there were other onion selections Texas A&M horticulture scientists named after October and even November planting dates. The 1015Y became the most popular because of its mild flavor and low pungency. The given name-date is a designation of when the seed are to be planted in South Texas. For information about growing onions from seed, see: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct04/1.htm

Seeding on these dates hopefully insures the reduction of bolting (flowering and/or seed head formation). Flowering of onions can be caused by several things, but usually the most prevalent reason is temperature fluctuation. Flowering can be controlled by planting the right variety at the right time. Use only transplants that are pencil-sized, or smaller, in diameter when planting in early spring. In the early fall, always plant seed, NEVER transplants unless the onions are intended for eating green and not the bulb. So transplants of true-to-name Texas 1015Y onions should not be available until late November or December at the earliest. For more information about planting onion transplants in early spring, see: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/012602/012602.htm

Garlic is just the opposite – DON’T plant garlic in the spring! Bulb formation in garlic occurs in response to the lengthening days of spring, and bulbing and maturity are considerably hastened if temperatures are high. In addition to these requirements, the dormant cloves (divisions of the large bulb) or young growing plants must be exposed to cold temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees F. for 1 or 2 months in order to initiate bulbing. Plants that are never exposed to temperatures below 65 degrees F. may fail to form bulbs. With fall plantings, the cold treatment is accomplished quite naturally throughout the winter, but a spring planting spells disaster. For more information about growing and using garlic, see: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct03/2.htm

What can you easily plant using seed now? My favorite greens crop is spinach planted using transplants in late October. I have described how to use these in flower beds at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct04/2.htm as well as just planting them in a vegetable garden at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/oct03/4.htm. Even though spinach is much more nutritious than lettuce, sometimes spinach is a slow grower and transplants are hard to find. The next best greens crop is Crawford lettuce. I mentioned the variety of lettuce named ‘Crawford’ because it had its beginning right here in San Antonio. At a monthly meeting in the early 80’s, San Antonio Men’s Garden Club Double Life Member, Marshall Crawford, stood up during a “Show-and-Tell” session with a lettuce plant he had just harvested from his garden, roots and all. Marshall said he had been growing this variety of lettuce for a number of years and he thought “it was a pretty good lettuce for the San Antonio area”. It was named after Marshall Crawford and is a reliably reseeding lettuce for this area.

For more information about the ‘Crawford’ lettuce as well as how to plant and grow it, see the fourth column entitled: Onions, Garlic and Crawford Lettuce, in the October listing at:
http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_columns.htm. If you want to try some for yourself, Crawford Lettuce seed will be available at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Fall Festival and Wildlife Plant Sale, (10750 Pleasanton Rd. on Saturday, Oct. 22 – 8am to 4pm), and at the Community Music Festival at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. The festival will have a variety of music, crafts, food, and children’s activities Saturday, October 22, 2005, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., at I-10 Crossroads Exit @ 410 to 7150 InterState Highway 10 West, 210-344-4695. For more information visit www.tx.audubon.org/mitchell.htm or http://www.firstuusanantonio.org /fallfest.htm. Order seed directly by sending a self-addressed envelope with a check for $2 made payable to Dee Emory to: Dee Emory, 2830 Bee Cave, San Antonio, Texas 78231

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to www.plantanswers.com and our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.

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