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Don’t Cry – Grow an onion

At this point in the gardening year, for our area (Upstate New York), things have actually shut down. We’ve had night time temperatures of 16 degrees F. (which is a killing frost in ANYONE’S book), the soil temperatures are now in the low 40s and though we have been getting some daytime temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s (F), soil temperatures trumps all. The little cabbage family seedlings (gardening chores) are still chugging along (though they are not getting any larger, which is probably their way of hunkering down for the winter).

I’m starting to think that one of the reasons those seedlings are still alive is their location, which is in the path between two beds. The DH, when he cleaned out those beds, added compost and dug everything into two long humped up beds, so those seedlings are actually rather protected. But that is not the reason for this post.

Very few of us have heated greenhouses at our disposal, so the best we can really do between now and when we can get back out to start gardening again, is a sunny window sill. There are a few things that actually are grow-able under those circumstances. Leaf lettuces are one type of thing if you have been able to hold onto some of your seeds from the warmer gardening season. Another thing you can do is to save onions (or their cousins, shallots, garlic, and so on) that might have sprouted in the bag in your closet or drawer, and put that into a pot. What you are seeing in the photo at the top is a cluster of something which is referred to as ‘multiplier’ onions. When we got these from the nursery (I am almost sure I got them from Territorial Seed), we planted the onion sets just like regular onions. As you go along with multiplier onions, they will start to throw off more bulbs. These will form green leaves which you can use as green onions or you can let them all mature, and then split the bulbs up and replant the smaller ones for next year. Multiplier onions are winter hardy, so literally you can plant them right after you dig them up, at the same time you would plant garlic cloves.

In this case, though, when I dug up one cluster, it had already started to grow green shoots, so I figured this would be a good way to get some green onions over the winter and have something growing on the window sill. At the moment, that pot is out in our unheated greenhouse at the back of our house (this one actually has the short side facing south, so it is not exactly the most solar-effective unheated greenhouse going, but I can tell you that once the sun turns the corner in February, that sunroom will get warm enough for us to open the windows and door into the house and it is extremely pleasant) and I’ll be bringing it in fairly shortly for a stay on a sunny window sill in the diningroom.

So. Check your onion bag or the drawer in the fridge – if you have onions, shallots or garlic that have started to sprout, don’t throw them away. Pull out a pot (or even re-purpose something like a big yoghurt or cottage cheese container with a couple of holes punched in the bottom with a knife), put in some potting mix, put in the bulb, cover with more potting mix and put it in a sunny spot.

Instant winter garden!

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