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In this issue...
  • Onion of the Month
  • From Our Friends
  • Around the Farm
  • From Jeanie's Kitchen
  • Q & A: Keep Your Bulbs Covered
  • Fun Onion Facts
  • Send Us Your Product Reviews!
  • About Dixondale Farms

  • Affiliations
    MGA
    Plastic Mulch for Weed Control June 2008

    Bruce & Wife Dear Fellow Gardener,

    Many gardeners and homeowners place wood chips, paper or other shredded materials around their plants in order to reduce weeds and enhance moisture retention in the soil. Another alternative is plastic mulch. It's been available for many years, and is becoming increasingly common in vegetable gardens. You can easily purchase sheets of plastic mulch at any agricultural supply store.

    Advantages. One benefit of dark plastic mulches (that is, those that are black, brown and green) is that they keep light from reaching the surface of the soil, thus preventing weeds from germinating. They work best in warm climates. In cooler climes, use clear plastic mulch 1.5-2 mils thick and impregnated with UV inhibitors, to prevent premature breakdown of the material.

    Plastic mulch will go a long way toward controlling weeds in the onion bed, but weeding will still be required between beds and for weeds that come up in the holes where the onions are growing. You can always use equipment to make this job easier, but be sure the plastic isn't snagged or ripped.

    When Transplanting. The size of the hole in the mulch plastic should be about the size of the transplant. Don't plant the onion more than an inch deep, since that could inhibit its bulbing ability. If the plastic constrains the onion during bulbing, you'll need to pull the plastic back from the onion. This most commonly occurs when the onion is planted too deep.

    You'll need to create a seal (and keep the plastic from blowing away in the wind) by burying both sides of the plastic along the sides of the onion bed. You can lay down the plastic by hand, but for larger gardens, you can also use specialty machines. Either burn or punch holes into the plastic mulch and transplant directly into them.

    Irrigating Your Crop. When you use plastic mulch, it's a good idea to avoid overhead irrigation, since water can't easily get under the beds. If you prefer to use this method anyway, punch some extra holes in the plastic to allow water infiltration. Otherwise, use drip tape, so you can provide enough water for proper development.

    Include at least one drip tape for each mulched row, and with wider rows, use two under the plastic. You can get drip tape with a variety of emitter spacings, generally 4-12 inches, though the tape with the closer spacing tends to be best for onions (which should be spaced 4-6 inches apart). If you plan to peg down the plastic, be sure you don't puncture the drip tape as you peg.

    Thoroughly water the transplants immediately after transplanting, but be aware that a common problem associated with growing under plastic is over-irrigation. An onion generally has up to 200 individual roots that can extend horizontally 18-30 inches in the upper one to two feet of soil; this means it has a large catchment area for water. Keep an eye out for foliage with an unhealthy, yellowish tint, which is a sure sign of over-irrigated onions.

    We hope this guide to using plastic mulch with your onion beds has proved useful. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to let us know at customerservice@dixondalefarms.com.

    Happy gardening,

    signature
    Bruce "Onionman" Frasier

    large onion Onion of the Month
    Tearless Onions

    Tearing up is the most common complaint from people cutting onions. But relief may soon be in sight: Dr. Colin Eady, a New Zealand plant geneticist, has been experimenting with the application of a unique "gene silencing" system, and has now been able to shut down the genes in onions that cause tearing. At the same time, he's managed to enhance the compounds responsible for traits such as taste, flavor and health. We're hopeful this new tearless variety will soon be on the market!


    wiener group shot From Our Friends

    Devout Dixondale Farms customers in Illinois came together one crisp autumn day a few years back to have "a fun-sharing event." Those in attendance discussed their experiences of planting, growing, harvesting and storing onions and leeks. They also enjoyed the delicious-looking dishes prepared for the luncheon, among them Yellow Squash Au Gratin with Onions, Fresh Salad with Joyce's Sweet Onion Dressing, Homemade Onion Dill Rolls, Tomato Onion Salad with Orange Lavender Horseradish Dressing, Roasted Onion Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous with Walnuts, Quiche a la Ailsa Craig, and Potato Leek Soup.

    Thanks to Bud Weiner for organizing this gathering, and for sending us the pictures to share with everyone. We regret that we were unable to attend, but we were honored to be the reason for the rendezvous. We hope you've made this an annual event, Bud!

    We love hearing from our customers. Send us your favorite "onion photo" and we'll try to include it in a future newsletter, our next catalog or our upcoming online Photo Album. Click here for details on how to submit your photos.


    cantaloupe Around the Farm
    From Onion Plants to Cantaloupes

    Ever wonder what else Dixondale Farms produces? Starting this month, we'll be producing the largest cantaloupe crop in Texas. Shipping under the Starlite brand, we sell directly to large grocery chains, with Kroger being our biggest customer. Some days we ship over 200 tons of cantaloupes fresh from the field. There's no rest for the weary, but we will still have people in the office dedicated to taking care of our onion plant customers. Bruce may be a little harder to get a hold of, but please feel free to call with any questions, and one of our knowledgeable staff will take care of you. Except for onion plants, we'll continue to sell everything in the catalog year round, including fertilizers, harvest aids, and growing aids.


    From Jeanie's Kitchen
    Fried Onion Rings

    • 3 large onions
    • Cold water
    • 1 cup of flour
    • 1 teaspoon of salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 2/3 cup of milk
    • 1 tablespoon of oil
    • Oil for deep frying

    Peel the onions and cut them into half-inch slices, then separate them into rings before refrigerating them in a container of cold water for half an hour. Once they've cooled, drain the rings well and, if necessary, pat them dry with a cloth; the batter won't stick to wet onion rings.

    Then mix together the flour, salt, eggs, milk and the tablespoon of oil, and beat the batter mixture until it's smooth. Batter the onion rings thickly before deep-frying them in the hot oil at about 375 degrees F, until they're golden brown on each side; this should take 4-5 minutes. Drain the onion rings on paper towels. Makes about 4 servings.


    Q & A: Keep Your Bulbs Covered

    Q. Now that my onion plant stalks are about 1-1½ inches around, I assume they'll start bulbing soon. Should the bulbs be covered up with dirt or mulch, or left exposed?

    A. Good question. The onions are about to bulb, so you'll want cover them to keep them from getting sunburned if you don't have enough shade from the foliage. In commercial operations, this would be too expensive, so any such coverage is seldom done. The key is to remove the mulch or dirt right before harvest, so the onions can dry down and cure properly. Otherwise, they may stay too wet.


    Fun Onion Facts

    Before New York City was called the Big Apple, it was the Big Onion, because you could always peel off another layer and find something new.


    Send Us Your Product Reviews!

    In addition to sending us photos of your onions, we encourage you to give us feedback on our products via the Product Review options on the Web site. You'll find a "write your own review" link on every product page. Don't be shy -- we need your opinions!


    About Dixondale Farms

    As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the US, Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site by clicking here.

    Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. If you have either questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Time at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at customerservice@dixondalefarms.com.

    phone: 877-367-1015