Question: I want to grow bigger onions. I heard that if I cut back the green tops or step on them several times this summer, I will get bigger onions because strength will go to the bulb instead of the tops. Is this for real? Can I really get bigger onions this way?
This isn’t the way to get bigger, better onions. The onion bulb is made from the carbohydrates that are produced by those green tops — the leaves of the onion plant. If you cut back or crush the tops again and again during the season, you’ll be cutting back on the carbohydrates your onion plants could be using to build their bulbs. Each layer in an onion is actually the thickened base of a leaf, so you’ll need plenty of healthy leaves if you want a nice-sized onion.
For the best bulbs, there are a few things you’ll want to do for your onions this summer.
Onions aren’t very good competitors and require good weed control in the garden to do their best. Remove weeds while they are small to avoid damage to your onions’ shallow roots.
Drought stress will reduce the size, flavor and overall quality of your onions. Water regularly and deeply, but don’t keep the soil wet. Water should move about 12 inches down into the soil. You can reduce the frequency of watering and maintain your garden’s soil moisture by mulching your onions with a layer of straw, grass clippings or compost. Reduce or stop watering when the onion tops start to tip over in late summer.
Onions need room to grow. If your onions are less than 3-4 inches apart, you’ll need to start thinning them to give them more room to grow. You can use the plants you’ve pulled as green onions.
Giving your onions some nitrogen now, in mid-May and again in late June. Don’t fertilize again after that.
Next year, if you’ll check some variety descriptions for onions that tend to be larger, add organic matter to your garden soil before planting, plant early in the season, and space out your plants, you’ll be harvesting large onions bulbs to enjoy all winter long.
Q: I keep finding snails in my flowerbeds. What can I do to get rid of them without using poisons?
A: No one likes to find snails or slugs making a mess of their flowers, and there are effective snail baits, but there are some other things you can do to discourage them and enjoy your flowers.
Snails and slugs need three things to thrive- food, moisture, and protection from the sun. If they have all three their population can rise pretty quickly, but if you can eliminate one or two of the three, you see fewer snails in your flower beds. Your annuals and perennials provide the food and you wouldn’t want to get rid of them, so you’ll need to focus on reducing moisture and shelter in your plantings if you want to see fewer snails.
Look for ways to reduce moisture and humidity in your landscape. Water deeply, but infrequently to let the surfaces of your flowerbeds dry out a bit between waterings. With deep soaks most flowerbeds can go several days before they need to be watered again. Use drip irrigation if you can; this will reduce moisture on leaves, humidity in your plants and water on surrounding surfaces.
What about mulch? Well, that’s a judgement call. Mulch makes it easier to water less often but can also provide hiding places for snails and slugs. Drip irrigation can keep mulch drier than sprinkler irrigation.
Slugs and snails will shelter in just about any shaded, humid place; old leaves and plant debris, flowerpots, clutter, and anything else that sits on the soil, deck or patio. Keep old leaves trimmed off and cleaned up, prune out sagging branches on shrubs that touch the ground and keep your flowerbeds clean and clutter-free.
There’s one last simple, non-poison method of shrub control- hand picking. Take a small container with you when you’re tending your flowerbeds and collect slugs and snails when you see them. Handling slugs and snails isn’t fun, and maybe you’ll want to wear gloves, but every snail you catch equals hundreds of eggs that won’t be laid in your garden.