February 10, 2014

Points East: Starting a garden in winter



Shuckey beans and greens served with a pone of hot corn bread, a good sweet onion, and a tall glass of buttermilk is as good as eating gets in February as far as I’m concerned.    

Speaking of onions, I am proud to announce I started gardening in January again this year.  I found both Walla Walla and Texas Sweetie seed on the Internet and ordered them several weeks ago.  Neither keep very well for any length of time once they are mature, but you can eat them like apples and both do very well and grow to  very large sizes in our climate.  So called Vidalia Onions will also grow here, but they are not nearly as sweet as the aforementioned varieties because we have too much sulfur in our soil. 

The Georgia State Legislature passed a law called The Vidalia Act of 1986 declaring the name Vidalia could not be applied to any onion, commercially grown outside a 13-county area of Georgia that has a peculiar, low-sulfur, soil base.  The truth of the matter is Vidalia onions are actually a common and readily available variety of plants and seeds called Granex. You can get them any place that sells seed, sets or plants, but unless you are willing to go to considerable time and effort neutralizing your garden soil, they will not be very sweet in most locations.  And even if you do grow them, they won’t keep in storage.

Walla Wallas and Texas Sweeties taste to me like they’ve been grown in sugar and both grow three or four times larger here than Granex.  Trouble is, plants and sets are very hard to find unless you grow your own and that is oh so simple and easy to do.

I simply take an old plant tray/flat, fill it with good potting soil, sow the onion seeds on top of it and barely cover them with more soil or sand and keep them dampened/lightly-watered. I am fortunate to have a side room off our kitchen with lots of windows that I can use as a greenhouse when I catch Loretta with her back turned.

When the plants are about 5 inches tall, I shear them back to about three inches and put them in the garden.  Last year, the going price for onion plants was around $3 for a bunch of 50.  I can grow well over 500 for less than two bucks and then brag that I started gardening in January.   

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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