Question: The top part of all our onion bulbs are sticking up above the soil. Is it too late to cover them with more soil, or will that be bad for the onions?

Answer: This is one worry that you can cross off your list. It’s normal for the bulbs to show above the soil line as they enlarge. It’s best if you don’t add more soil over the tops of the bulbs.

Since we’re talking about onions, here’s a little refresher on some onion questions we’ve answered previously:

  1. The recommended time for “lifting” onions out of the soil to dry is when about 50-60% of the tops in your planting have fallen over. If you want to leave them on top of the soil in the garden while the tops dry out, you’ll want to make sure the leaves shade the bulbs to prevent sun burn that can cause soft decay on the outer layer of the bulb.
  2. You can bring your onions into a shaded area with good air circulation to dry out and then cut the tops off after they’ve completely dried. Make sure the onions are protected from rain and sprinkler water.
  3. You can leave your onions in the ground after the tops fall over if you need to, but you must stop watering the onions so that they don’t start to regrow. Then lift the onions and let them finish drying when you can.
  4. Store your onions in a cool, dark, dry area for best quality and longest storage life.

Stink bug alert!

We’ve had many questions about unusual damage on garden tomatoes in the past few weeks. The culprit for most of this damage is the stink bug.

Stink bugs have mouthparts that work like straws. They pierce the skin of fruits and suck up juices that their saliva has dissolved. On tomatoes, this causes the skin to be discolored and leaves a layer of tough, dry tissue under the skin. The inner portion of the tomato may look normal. Stink bugs will also damage fruits in home orchards and berry patches.

The most likely cause for this year’s huge numbers of stink bugs is the mild, wet winter and cool, wet spring we’ve had.

There are a few things you can try for stink bug control in your home garden:

Hand pick any stink bugs you see when out in the garden. It’s easiest to do this if you keep a small bucket of water with several drops of dishwashing liquid handy in the garden. The drops of soap will break the surface tension on the water so that the bugs will sink and drown instead of floating and escaping. Just drop any bugs you grab into the water.

Become a detective and search for stink bug eggs. They are small, round or barrel-shaped and laid in groups. Look on leaves and stems for the eggs and remove them if you find them.

You can use pyrethroid insecticides or carbaryl to help reduce the population of stink bugs. Read the label carefully to identify the number of days you must wait between spraying and harvesting.

If you’re worried about having to wait a long time between spraying and harvesting, you can use pyrethrin, which is organic. It should have a shorter preharvest interval than synthetic pyrethroids. These products are broad spectrum insecticides that will also kill beneficial insects, so use them carefully is you feel you need to use a chemical control.

Do a thorough fall cleanup in the garden to eliminate overwintering shelter for the bugs — no dead plants, weeds, clutter or debris left in the garden at the end of the season.