Utah State University Extension provides informal education outreach to residents throughout the state. This question-and-answer column is designed to give you research-based information whether your gardening interest is producing fresh food, creating a landscape area or everything in between.
Question: My onions looked really good last week, but now some of them have flopped onto the ground. Is there anything I can do to fix this?
Answer: Onion tops normally fall over about three to four months after planting, when the bulbs are mature and ready to harvest. Of course, onions can be pulled and used at any time during the growing season, but if you want them to be mature and store well during the fall and winter, they should be left in the garden to mature and then air cured to develop a papery skin.
Once about half the tops fall over you can carefully lift the bulbs and leave the onions in the garden to dry for two or three weeks if the leaves will provide the bulbs with enough protection from the direct sun. If you need to, you can lay the onions to dry in a shady place where they will be protected from rain and other moisture.
If you don’t have time to lift your onions when the tops fall you can also simply leave them in the garden until it’s more convenient, but you must stop watering them. No matter which way you decide to harvest your onions, it’s important that you don’t trim off the tops until they are completely dry.
When the tops and roots are completely dry you can trim or break the tops away and store the onions in mesh bags or in shallow layers. You can also leave the dried tops intact to braid your onions together and hang them for storage. No matter how you decide to store your onions, they should be kept in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.
Question: Is it best to mulch or bag my lawn clippings? I’ve heard its best to mulch, but I really don’t want ugly clumps of grass on top of my lawn after I mow.
Answer: Mow it high and let it lie! You can save time, money, fertilizer, and space in your garbage bin by “grasscycling” your lawn clippings. Mow your lawn 3 inches high and let the lawn clippings stay on the lawn. Remember to mow weekly, and only when the lawn is dry, to avoid those unsightly clumps.
There are many benefits to grasscycling. Grasscycling reduces fertilizer requirements up to 25 percent as the clippings decompose and release nutrients into your soil. It also helps reduce water needs and it saves you time usually spent bagging and disposing of the clippings. A mulching mower or special mulching blades are helpful but not necessary if you mow frequently. Just make sure to keep your blade sharp.
Some people worry that recycling their clippings will increase the thatch layer in lawns, but this shouldn’t concern you. That is made from stems, crown and roots of the grass plants and lawn clippings decompose too quickly to contribute to thatch.
Question: I would like to plant a climbing vine in my yard to grow up a trellis. What vine would be a good option for our area?
There are several options for gentle climbing vines that enhance your yard without overtaking your house in the process. Clematis vines are beautiful bloomers that prefer full sun but benefit from protection in the heat of the day. They also need a cool, moist area for their roots.
The ornamental hops vine, “Summer Shandy,” has golden yellow foliage with an unaggressive growth habit. It grows 5-10 feet every year and should be cut to the ground in the fall. Wisteria is a woody vine with blue, lavender or white flowers that prefers shade and needs a strong support. For a fragrant vine that will welcome hummingbirds, consider one of the many cultivars of honeysuckle such as “Goldflame” and “Kintzley’s Ghost.” These fast growing vines are woody and prefer full sun. And, of course, there are many cultivars of classic climbing roses available. They prefer full sun and will need to be tied to their supporting trellis.
Climbing vines can provide color, fragrance, texture, and interesting vertical elements to your landscape design. They can soften buildings and block unwanted views. However, use caution when considering aggressive climbers that leave permanent “footprints” on walls or buildings.
English ivy, Boston ivy and Virginia Creeper may look charming, but their charm is easily diminished when you want to trim them back or remove them altogether.