Sunday, November 18, 2007

The onions are here!

One of the best aspects of working in a nursery is enjoying the seasons, in every sense. With each week something new is in bloom, different tasks need to be done. As the circle turns deeper into fall in come THE ONIONS. Im talking about the Stocktons. Years ago it was mainly the Stockton Reds. While those are still the most popular, we also sell thousands of Whites, Yellows, Walla Wallas and Italian Torpedos. All year long we take phone numbers for them, until we end up with a mile long list to call upon thier much anticipated arrival. We take numbers for bare root fruit tree, roses and hundreds of other plants everyday, but nothing is even close to the onion list. I was thinking perhaps we should set up a drive through kiosk for onion season?

So what is all the fuss?
I have to confess, Ive never grown them myself. If we can hurry up and get some fresh compost in our rasied bed before they are gone Im going to try them this year. Over the year I have heard many customers brag about thier onions and I also humbly ask them for their advice on growing the biggest, sweetet onions. Plant them in fertile, well tilled loam. This will require that amendments be added to our heavy clay to loosen it up and make it friable. Any area that is used to grow veggies should have some good compost added as often as possible at first, fall is a great time. Plant the onions close: 2-3 inches if you wish to harvest some when they are younger, leaving every other one to get big. Otherwise you can plant them 6-8 inches apart. For sweetness make sure the moisture is even. The soil doesnt want to stay soggy, but dont let them completly dry out either. Applying a layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture and keep the weeds from growing (very important).
In this area the onions will be ready to harvest from the end of May through June. Some like to break the onion tops over or tie them when they get tall, others dont. When about half of the tops fall over in late spring, the onions are near maturity and ready to harvest, although you can pull smaller ones at any time.

These onions are great slicers, but not as good for storage. Luckily they do store long enough for you to enter them in the fair! We have several customers come in with their children, who plant them just for that! A couple others plant them for thier grandchildren to help grow and also enter in local fairs. That is so cool!
The younger generation that is coming in now often did not grow up with gardening at home, or even at grandmas. Anything we can do to excite children about growing their own food is fantastic.

So onions: we have em for a couple more weeks. A bundle of a generous 50 is 3.00. The nursery ships as well. You can call at 707-642-4167 for details.


Persimmons are the epitome of fall. Right now I am enjoying the Fuyu. Smooth and mellow with a hint of cinnamon, crunchy and crisp and the color! Deep fall orange. I dont think they would taste as good if they ripened in say, July. The summer sun is too harsh for that hue. And if they ripened now but were pink or pale yellow? Nope. They are a perfect fruit for November, for our Thanksgiving tables.

With the persimmon we get lucky, not only are the fruit wonderful but the tree is also a beautiful addition to our yard or garden. While a bit larger than some of the other semi-dwarf fruit trees, it is still considered a small tree, 15 -20 feet. Can be prune some to keep lower, and very old trees may slowly grow larger. The trees have very pests or diseases and are fairly easy to grow. The attractive glossy leaves turn brilliant orange in fall, rivaling the prettiest Pistache for center stage.
We are planting three varieties in our yard this winter: Giant Fuyu, and the CoffeeCake or Nishimura Wase and Chocolate. The first two are the non-astringent type, which you eat while firm. The CoffeeCake (which ripens a few weeks earlier than Fuyu) does require a pollenizer to taste best. I have read some places you can pollenize with Fuyu, but it appears the majority recommend the Chocolate so we will have a astringent variety too. Note: wait until fruit are soft before you taste the acorn shaped, Hachiya types such as Chocolate. You have been warned!
At the nursery we have lot of persimmons in stock, several varieties. They run 48.00 (no tax!) in a 5 gallon can, most of those stand betwen 5 and 6 feet tall. In January we will have them bare root. They arent in containers then but they are a bit lower cost, usually somewhere around 30.00.

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