This year’s growing begins in the onion basket. I found them sprouting in the basket on the fridge, curling up toward the kitchen ceiling, green and eager and fleshy.
As far as I understand it, these onions will not grow bulbs this year; they’ll grow flowers, which will bear seeds, which we’ll collect and grow next year. I wish I could remember what kind of onions they are. As long as they’re organic we’ve got a shot at getting viable seed off of them. (The non-organic ones are supposedly sprayed with some kind of inhibitor to keep them from sprouting. Sometimes they sprout anyway. But if they’re GMO, it’s probably illegal for you to grow them even if they do sprout, because Monsanto.)
So I got the wheelbarrow out and mixed up some soil to pot them in.
Here’s the mix I’m using this time. No promises about how good it is.
- Several shovels of dirt
- Ashes from the fire pit
- As many of last fall’s leaves as I could scrape up from around the cherry tree
- A big bowl of worm castings (and some worms)
1. The worm castings are for nitrogen, but too much of that and it will kill your plants (burn them, I guess). The one time I tried using the castings straight, as potting soil, germination was a sad, sad thing.
2. Ashes, they say, are great for plants.
3. The leaves are because last summer I read that you can use composted leaves as part of a recipe to make potting soil (the good kind! not the unscientific stuff I’m making here, but the sort of soil you can actually use to start seeds in). “Moulder.” Leaf mold. Good.
4. And the dirt is because, dirt. I’m starting to think our dirt isn’t that great. But it’s dirt.
So I got out a bunch of pots and put the onions in them. We’ve got a lot of pots. One of those things you don’t have to buy if you save.
Then I put the alien onion fingers in the garage, which is the most cheerily-lit room in the house. You see, back when they were building this place, some jerk decided to site it facing east, which wouldn’t have been a problem if that left us with any south-facing windows. All our living space — all of it, except for the narrow little kitchen — is on the north end. Imagine a big annoying wall blocking out the sun. Now imagine yourself living on the dark side of that wall. In the shadow. Forever.
Anyway, we’ve got this south-facing window on the stupid garage, so as long as it’s going to be hogging all the light, might as well put it to use. The workbench is under that window. The onions are on the workbench.
I grew plants in the same spot last year too. They did great at first, then mysteriously died, every one of them. Well, a few months ago I think I found out why: it’s because of some sort of dark magic called “damping off.” Apparently seeds need steady moisture and warmth to germinate, but once they sprout, you’ve got to make sure there’s enough air circulation to dry the surface of the soil between waterings. (You can also lower the soil temperature then, too. But the circulation is what keeps them from catching their death.)
So this time, I’ve got the fan blowing on low, not aimed directly at the plants but alongside, enough to draw a breeze across them; I thought they’d like that. This may protect them from the “damping organisms” as they’re called. I hear you can also stir the soil surface with a toothpick to kill said organisms. I have not stirred these onions. But they’re doing great so far.