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Potato onion bulb size

Potato onion harvestI was thrilled to learn about multiplier onions a year ago, a category that includes both shallots and potato onions.  The latter is potentially a replacement for the pesky storage onion, a crop that most small gardeners grow from expensive sets that produce bulbs with a short storage life, or from seeds that are often difficult to germinate and are picky about soil.  Potato onions promise to replace both of those problematic storage onions with a type that is as simple to grow as garlic --- just save some bulbs every year to toss back in the soil and seed next year's crop.

Potato onion topsUnfortunately, the results of my first year of experimentation were not that great.  I ended up with a lot of little potato onions that were too small to consider eating, and just a few big onions.  Figuring that I might have planted them too late in the fall for optimal results, I turned around and put every single bulb back in the ground this September, but I wasn't all that confident that I'd get onions that were worth my while.
Potato onions in November
Eric Toensmeier clued me in to some information about potato onions that makes me much more confident of my results.  He wrote that if you plant small bulbs, they turn into one to two large bulbs by the next year, while if you plant big bulbs, each one instead turns into up to a dozen small bulbs.  The trick is to always plant a mixture of both large and small bulbs in your garden --- the former will produce seed bulbs for replanting while the latter will produce your eating onions for that year.  If he's right, we should have lots of big bulbs come spring and just a few small bulbs for replanting.  Assuming that Toensmeier knows what he's writing about, potato onions may be the salvation of our garden after all.

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This post is part of our Perennial Vegetables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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