Mary's Veggie Garden

June 29, 2011

Harvesting Onions Early

Filed under: Gardening,Onions,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:09 pm

“Wow, look at those onions!”  The happy shout rang across the community gardens at Vassar Farm, as gardeners returned to their plots 6/24  after 2 days of rain.  It seemed like the onions doubled in size during our absence.  Onion bulb formation is triggered by day length. June 21 has the most daylight and now our daylight hours are getting shorter so the onions are starting to form bulbs. The rain got the process off to a fast start.

Southport White Globe onions 6/25.

A close inspection of the onions reveals the swelling bulb at the base of the leaves.  Some poking around uncovers a good-sized onion. Can these onions be harvested?

The usual directions for onion harvest are to wait until the necks dry and the leaves flop over. In Dutchess County, NY that happens in early August. For years I waited until August, even though I had to buy those horrid, sprouting store onions for cooking.

Recently I learned onions can be harvested for immediate eating at any time! Early in the season they are like scallions: green onions with no bulb.  Now they are forming bulbs, but haven’t yet formed a protective layer of skin.

Southport White Globe onions harvested 6/28.

These onions, harvested today (6/28) are practically full-sized – four ounces each. Almost the entire plant can be eaten, both the greens and the bulb.  The outer layers of the narrow neck are a bit tough and should be removed, but the inside of the neck is  tender. I trimmed away the roots and removed a partial layer of onion skin before taking the photo.

The lack of skin means these onions cannot be stored very long but that is OK, they will go into the chili tomorrow.

If you have several onions that have sized up, harvest the ones with the thickest necks first.  The thick necks don’t dry well so those onions will not store very long.

June 21, 2011

A Pole Bean Teepee

Filed under: Beans,Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:45 pm

Pole bean teepees 8/2007

I’ve been growing pole beans for three decades. I always use the same method to build the trellis, using materials found on my property. Thus I was very surprised when I built the trellis in a public garden and received all sorts of compliments, mostly along the lines of ‘how rustic’ and ‘how clever’.

Step-by-step: building a pole bean trellis:

1) Scout your property for suitable poles. Look for fairly straight saplings and branches, 1.25″ – 2″ bottom diameter. Both Norway maples and Ailanthus trees are invasive in N.Y. Their saplings grow in hedges and shrubbery and in the unkempt areas of my neighborhood.

When an old Norway maple is cut, the remaining stump rots away but when a young Norway maple is cut, the stump produces sprouts for years. I’ve harvested 3-4 poles from the stump below each year since 1998. The branches mature to the correct size in 3-4 years.

The several slender Norway maples growing along the property line are potential trellis poles.

Each year I harvest 3-4 poles from this Norway maple stump.

The Ailanthus saplings in the forsythia hedge will be harvested next winter.

Ailanthus stumps also produce a plethora of new branches plus the roots produce sprouts at a distance from the stump.  It only takes a couple years for the sprouts to reach trellis size.

Poles, trimmed and ready for installation.

2) Saw off the branches or saplings. The poles are easier to put into the ground when they are cut at an angle. Prune away side branches and leaf clusters. Put a note on your calendar to cut the poles next March or April, before the trees leaf out.

3) Trim the poles to 9′ long by cutting off the thin tops.

4) Find twine to tie the poles together at the top.  Or grab a pair of twill pants from the rag bag and tear the legs into long strips.

I construct four legged teepees. The bigger end of each pole is pushed about 1′ into the soil on the corner of a 4′ square. I gather the 4 poles together above the square’s center, crossing them about 6″ from the top. The poles are bound together where they cross.

Making a hole for the pole. Lift the bar out and drop the pole in.

It is important to build a sturdy structure. To get the poles deep into the ground make a deep, but narrow hole using a heavy iron pry bar thrust into the soil. Put your wooden pole into the hole immediately after removing the pry bar then fill the empty space around the pole.

The binding at the top of my pole bean teepee.

Bind the poles together securely at the top.

After placing all the poles of your teepee, gather the tops together and bind them securely. Wind the binding around individual poles and around the cluster. Tie the ends with a nice square knot.

Plant 6 seeds at the base of each pole. I place the seeds in an arc towards the inside of the teepee so when the sprout goes straight up, it intercepts the pole.

About the time the plants grow their climbing tendril, thin to the strongest 3 or 4 plants. In my garden the cutworms help with this task, often mowing down one or two sprouts.

A completed trellis.

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