Plant Winter Onions and Alliums in December

Kathryn Fontenot, Koske, Thomas J.  |  10/4/2004 4:24:29 AM

Storage onions and other allium crops are good candidates for Louisiana winter gardens. These plants require minimal care and can be stored for long periods of time after the late spring harvest. 

Bulbing onions now can be grown from either transplants or sets. Plant the sets or transplants in early December. If starting your own seed, sow bulbing onion seed in September into trays or cells to transplant into the garden in December.

The leek resembles the onion in its adaptability and cultural requirements. Instead of forming a bulb, it produces a thick, fleshy cylinder like a large green onion. Because the flavor is somewhat mild, many people use it as a substitute for green onions. The seeds are planted in September though December and require about 120 days to mature. If transplanted, however, leeks require only 80 to 90 days to mature.

For large, food quality bulbs, vigorous and continuous shoot growth is necessary. On soils of average fertility, work about 3 or 4 pounds of an 8-24-24 fertilizer or 8-8-8 fertilizer into the row a week or two before transplanting. Sidedress the row with about 1.5 pound of calcium nitrate per 100 feet of row monthly to maintain good top growth.

Shallot bulbs or sets, as well as garlic cloves, may be set in the soil after Thanksgiving. Fertility for all these alliums can be considered the same. Sidedress 100-foot rows with 1 pound calcium nitrate or 3/4 pound ammonium sulfate in high pH soils monthly to maintain strong growth.

Onion plants should be transplanted in December or January, spacing the plants about 4 inches apart in the row. A double row may be planted on a garden bed. Be sure to keep the plant beds free from weeds by hand-pulling or very shallow cultivation. Onions do not compete well against weeds.

Choosing a variety of onion is very important, because not all varieties were bred for Louisiana's "short day" conditions. Many onions failures can be traced back to buying transplants of questionable variety. The horticulturist says several popular and desirable varieties are available for Louisiana conditions. For red onions, the Red Creole and Creole C5 are popular selections. These are medium-small, pungent and store well. Red Burgundy, Red Grano, Tropicano and Red Granex produce a medium, mild bulb. 

For white onions, the Crystal Wax is popular. It is a medium-sized mild Bermuda type also used for bunching onions. White Granex hybrid, Contesa, Eclipse and Early Supreme are also very good.

Yellow onions offer the most choices. Granex 33 is the early hybrid grown in Vidalia. Granex 429 is medium-large and has a mild, sweet flavor. Texas Grano 1015Y produces a large, mild bulb that is very sweet under the right growing conditions. The Texas Grano 502 is well known for large, mild bulbs with fair storage potential.

Most pest problems will be able to be controlled with sprays of Malathion and Maneb or chlorothalonil. Be sure to follow the label advice.

For additional information about winter gardens, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. 

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