Onions are the first crop to go out in the fields. Four boxes of bunches arrived via UPS, and I knew it was time to get busy. I loaded the manure spreader and quickly had a breakdown. So I unloaded it by hand. The other spreader flung three loads out before it messed up and I unloaded the last load by hand. I tiredly ran the chisel plow though the field at dusk.The next morning found me eagerly checking out the soil (it was too dark last night to tell). It looked good, dry enough to plant and it felt soft. We spread four bags of colloidal phosphate and a few buckets of wood ash and then I ran the rebreaker through it a few more times. Let’s plant onions!
We started with three rows of leeks. I made furrows 3 ½ feet apart. One person went a head and pulled the clumps of chickwood, dead nettle and other spring weeds out of the row. The next person dropped the small plants at six inch intervals. A third helper firmed the soil around each plant, and the next person gave them a cup of water. The last helper smoothed the dirt out around the new plants.
Yes, I had a lot of help today. A farm like ours invites folks to learn, and we were lucky when an unexpected car pulled up with four young people wanting to work in a garden. Please keep the rows straight.
Walla Walla Onions are the big Vidalia type we grow. They are sweet, mild, but don’t store very long. Three rows later we are getting them mixed up with the Corpa Onions, our storage variety. Oh well, I think I’ll be able to tell the difference when they mature.
I’m now sorting out the little ones. A bunch of onions is usually 75 bigger ones and 25 teeny plants. These latter ones get lost in a big field, so I’ll tuck them in closer to home where I can keep an eye on them. Down the rows we go, cleaning, dropping, planting, watering and smoothing.
By the end of the day 12 rows, each 300 feet long, are planted. I finish by running the cultivator through the field to fluff up the soil where we’d been walking. A thundershower that evening tucked them in even more.
A few days later the soil was dry enough to hoe, so we are back out there. The first cultivations are very important, the onion plants are small and the weeds are strong. Onions need to be kept weed-free. It takes three people most of the day to get them hoed out.
The train is rolling. Onions are like first gear. Soon, hundreds of tons of compost will fly, potatoes will go in and we’ll be flying down the track. The conductor says “climb on board,” and the coal man is shoveling it in the fire bor. Casey Jones, look out!