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Garden Help Desk: Try these remedies to address small onions

By Usu Extension - | Apr 24, 2021
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Good soil preparation, a good planting schedule, good plant nutrition and even watering are needed for growing big, beautiful onions.

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Once onion tops begin to tip over, they're nearly ready to harvest and it's time to stop watering.

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Brilliant fall color is one of the favorite characteristics of Japanese maples.

Question: Most of my onions last year were small. They only had two or three layers. What should I do to get better onions this year?

Answer: Good soil preparation, planting at the right time and good plant nutrition will give you better onions this year.

Onions do best in loose, well-drained soil. Start with a soil test if you haven’t had one in a few years. Then, incorporate about an inch of organic matter into the soil where you’ll be planting your onions, along with any other amendments that your soil test results recommend.

Each layer of an onion is the base of a leaf. If you want more layers and bigger onions, you’ll need more leaves, which requires time and good plant nutrition. It’s too late now to start your onions from seed, but if you plant onion sets or transplants in the next week or so there will still be time during cool spring weather for your onions to develop plenty of leaves. Those leaves will begin to form bulb layers when our long, hot summer days arrive.

Good nutrition also will help with leaf growth. Keep your planting weeded, especially during the first part of the season so that there isn’t competition for nutrients. Provide some additional nitrogen in mid-May and again in late June. Don’t fertilize again after that.

Onions aren’t very deeply rooted. Water consistently to avoid drought stress, but don’t keep the soil wet, either. A layer of mulch — straw, compost, grass clippings, etc. — will help with that. Stop watering when the tops begin to tip over. Better storage life.

Question: What specific variety of Japanese Maple would do well in Northwest Utah County? We want a Japanese Maple that would grow to a height of 20 to 40 feet. Is there a variety that would meet these conditions?

Answer: Japanese maples are popular trees, prized for their autumn color and attractive branching. I really can’t recommend just one specific cultivar because Japanese maples are a large group and there are many that could do well in Utah County. I can give you a few things to consider, though, as you look at your choices.

Our climate extremes can be a little too much for Japanese maples — hot and dry with intense sun in the summer, and extreme cold with dry winds in the winter. Japanese maples are better suited to milder, more humid climates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful with a Japanese maple.

Choose a location with some protection from the afternoon sun and where the tree can be watered separately from the lawn. Your tree will need a deep weekly soak but won’t do well with frequent watering.

Cultivars with deeply dissected leaves are more prone to leaf scorch in the summer, so you might have fewer problems and a better-looking tree if you avoid those cultivars. There are still many cultivars to choose from; Bloodgood is one example of the leaf form that does better here.

Prepare the soil in that part of the landscape by getting a soil test. You’ll find information about getting home soil tests at www.usual.usu.edu. It’s important that you backfill your planting hole with the same soil you took out of it. Don’t mix compost, peatmoss, potting mix or anything else into the soil before you put it back into the hole when planting. If you need to do anything special for your soil, it’s important that you do that over a wide area in the planting location instead of just at the planting hole.

Good drainage is also important and is sometimes a problem in your area, so also dig a hole nearby about 3 feet deep, fill it with water and make sure water drains away within 24 hours. If there is a drainage problem, that isn’t a good location for a tree.

You’ll need to water deeply about twice a week after planting. Your watering should go beyond the root ball area. Once the tree is established, it should always be watered deeply, but only once a week during the summer and less often in the spring and fall.

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