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Your guide to Chesaeake Country's freshest produce and more!

Want Onions for Spring?

There’s still time to plant short-day onions

Short-day onions generate their bulbs when daylight hours are less than 12. If you are going to plant onion plants this fall, make certain that you purchase only short-day varieties. Short-day varieties can be successfully transplanted as late as mid-December and still produce a normal crop.
    Many of us will be planting almost that late, as Dixon Dale onion farm, one of the nation’s largest producers of onion plants, did not have plants ready to ship until mid-November.
    To assure good bulb size, plant them in full sun. If your land slopes to the south, all the better. Soils are generally warmer on southern slopes because of greater exposure to the sun.
    Darker soil is better, too. To make your soil darker, amend it with a one-inch-thick layer of compost. The compost is best when only lightly incorporated into the upper two to three inches of existing soil. In addition to darkening the soil, the compost supplies important slow-release nutrients to the onions come spring when the soil warms.
    To conserve space, plant your onions at a four-by-four-inch spacing. I like planting my onions in a bed with a maximum width of two feet. Uniform spacing makes easier weeding with an onion hoe.
    Within a week after planting your onions, feed them with a liquid fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Since the soils are already cool, there are only limited amounts of nutrients available from the compost and the existing soil.
    By late April, you will be eating onions fresh from the garden. That’s about the same time that you’ll want to plant long-day onions.

Another Strike Against ­Commercial Mulch

Q    I’m using double-shredded hardwood mulch in some plant beds around the home and am finding brown-headed grubs under the mulch in the fall. The only area on the property treated for grubs is the lawn. Is the mulch attracting the grubs? If so, what commercially available mulching material would be better to use? I don’t find these grubs under the grass/leaf mulch I use in some plant beds.
    –Larry Woodburn, Calvert County

A    Grubs of both Japanese beetles and June beetles are attracted to thick layers of mulch, especially kinds that decompose rapidly such as double-shredded hardwood bark. Both Japanese beetles and June beetles like to lay their eggs in decomposing organic matter. That is another reason why I do not use mulch. The only mulches I am aware of that do not attract grubs are redwood bark, cedar mulch and cypress bark mulch.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.