November 17, 2007

Plant of the Week

David Rodriguez

Onions 1015YThe optimal time to start onions by seed in this area is mid-October through November. However, if starting these little “stinkers” by small almost microscopic seed doesn’t excite you or you don’t have time and that skill level, then consider planting bunch transplants. This might be the easiest and simplest solution from the months of late November through January. Typically, onion seedlings which are small and rapidly growing often don’t survive when uniquely cold temperatures occur. This means that most onions are ideally grown from transplants.

Plant onion transplants as soon as possible to establish roots before optimum bulbing conditions occur. Individual transplants should be planted four inches apart and one-inch deep or until all roots are covered with the main crown being partially covered.

For best results and maximum sized onion bulbs, certain procedures should be followed. Fertilization of onion transplants is vital to their overall success. Past Texas A&M University research findings indicate that onion growth and yield can be greatly enhanced by banding phosphorus two-to-three inches below transplants at the initial planting stage. The nutrition from phosphorus acts as a type of starter solution which then potentially invigorates the growth and future development of the onion bulb.

Banding phosphorus in the form of super phosphate (0-20-0), 2-3 inches below the plant, involves making a trench or planting furrow four inches deep in the raised planting bed and distributing one-half cup (one-half pound) of super phosphate per ten linear feet of row, covering the phosphate with two inches of soil, and then proceeding in the planting of the transplants. Once established, young developing onion plants should receive additional amounts of supplement fertilizer, consisting of a high nitrogen 19-5-9 slow-release formulation side-dressed EVERY three weeks or one pound per 100 square feet (10′ X 10′) of planting area.

Remember that onions require up to 100-120 days to size up to a large bulb. So allocate the time and the space. Consider multiple plantings now and throughout the next two months, for not only large size onions, but smaller green salad onions. Typically, harvesting may last you till early June. Also, don’t plant onions where they may be shaded later by larger growing plants such as tomatoes or corn. Shading decreases growth rate and, subsequently, bulb size.

A quality transplant should always be used. Unfortunately, in the past, many of the onion plants sold were diseased with pink root fungus, misnamed and of poor quality. Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturists have identified a source of true-to-name, disease-free, field-grown transplants which are now available at your favorite local nursery.

Four Main Varieties Recommended to be Planted

1015Y the Texas A&M ‘Super Sweet’ Onion
The 1015Y got its name from the date that we are supposed to plant the seed (15th of October) in the Rio Grande Valley and Y for yellow. This is the most widely adaptable short day onion since it will grow from Mexico to Ohio. The bigger it gets, the sweeter it is, but it can store for at least two months if cured properly. It is an open pollinated variety that stores well for approximately two months, matures in 110 days and is a yellow globe-shaped.
This white hybrid was introduced in 2005 and it lived up to everyone’s expectations. It has replaced the white granex, which is no longer being produced. This onion is basically the white version of the 1015Y Texas Super Sweet. Contessa is a hybrid variety which stores approximately for two months. Bulb maturity is in 100 days forming a wonderful white globe-shape.

Yellow Granex
We can’t call this the Vidalia onion, since it is not grown in the Vidalia area, but this is one of the hybrid varieties that are approved to be planted in Vidalia, Georgia. Last year Dixondale Farms shipped over 50 million yellow granex onion transplants to the Vidalia growers. This cross between the 1015Y and the old Bermuda onions produces semi-flat onions with rounded shoulders. Unfortunately, what makes an onion sweet is the same as what makes an onion not store well: high water content. This variety won’t store for much more than one month, but it is as sweet as an apple. It is a hybrid variety that stores approximately for one month and matures in about 100 days.

Southern Belle Red
This open pollinated onion was developed to provide a sweet, red onion that will store well.

  1. Many people rave about the deep red rings throughout the onion. After harvest, this onion allows you to add flavor and color to any salad. Being an open pollinated variety, it stores approximately for two months and matures in about 110 days with an excellent fabulous red globe-shaped.

For more information and drawings on growing onions, please visit this link at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/easygardening/onions/onions.html or contact people at Dixondale Farms. Dixondale Farms is the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the United States. They offer a wide selection of top-quality, disease free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see their complete product line, request a catalog or for growing tips and cultural information, visit their fabulous site at: http://www.dixondalefarms.com/.

Whether you’re planting one bunch or thousands of acres, Dixondale Farms are committed to your success. If you have either questions or suggestions, Dixondale Farms would love to hear from you. Dixondale Farms may be reached anytime from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Central Time at 877-367-1015.

Looking for great onion recipes, especially for the Texas A&M ‘Super Sweet 1015Y’ onion; visit PLANTanswers.com at this link:

Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

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