Friday, October 26, 2012

Planting Onions

Perennial bunching onions, plant once and you have onions for years after.

Green onions to the cook, scallions at the super market, Welsh onions in England, ciboule in France, or bunching onions in most books, they all refer to Allium fistulosum, a very distinctive member of the onion family. Bunching onions form perennial evergreen clumps up to 1 ft (0.3 m) in diameter and about 2 ft (0.6 m) tall. The leaves are hollow and tube-like, inflated their entire length. The bulbs are elongate and not much thicker than the stem. After a cold spell, bunching onions send up hollow stalks topped with little greenish flowers in round umbels (clusters with all the flower stems arising from the same point), that are 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) in diameter.
The bunching onion was developed in Asia from a wild relative, possibly Allium altaicum, which occurs in NW China and neighboring Kazakhstan. It was brought to Europe in the 17th century.
Bunching onions are fast growing and very easy to grow. They are the perfect vegetable for the young "seedling" gardener.
Light: Does best in full sun, but quite well in partial shade, too.
Moisture: Regular garden watering for best growth, especially in the summer, but bunching onions can tolerate drought.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. This is a perennial and one of the few vegetables that can be harvested all year long. Bunching onions are grown as annuals in colder climates.
Propagation: Bunching onions can be grown from seeds, but once you have them established, all you have to do is divide them to make more plants. When you need some green onions, use a trowel to loosen the soil around a clump, lift the clump, take out what you need, and put the rest back in the ground. If you want to start another clump, just reset one of the individual side shoots in its new location. Plant it deep, so more of the lower stem will be blanched. I've had the same clone of bunching onions in my vegetable garden now for more than 8 years. They've been moved around a lot, but they keep on producing!

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