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Old April 22, 2018   #1
GoDawgs
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Default Curing and Fat Neck Onions?

I'm in my second season of growing bulbing onions although I've grow from seed and raised a ton of scallions for ages. So I'm still developing "best practices" through lots of reading and trial and error but I need some advice from real people. You guys are definitely REAL and there are folks here that seem to really know your stuff. Lots of experience.

I started my first ever onions from seed August '16. One was a short day "Red Creole" and one was an intermediate day 'Australian Brown'. They were both set out two months later in October which is when we plant onions in this part of Georgia. As I've posted elsewhere here, the Creoles bolted due to unsettled weather but the Browns didn't. This is what the Australian Browns looked like on June 10 '17 when I pulled them. They stayed in the sun for 2-3 days and then were put on screens under an open air pole shed where most of them went bad except for those we quickly ate.





Question:
Looking at the greens, did I pull them too early to cure correctly?

Question: After reading some posts here in the Alliums forum and other places online, I gather that onions with "fat" necks don't cure well. Is that correct? While there are references to fat onion necks online I still can't find an explanation for what causes it. If it's a bad thing, I want to make sure it doesn't happen. Neither variety, bolted or not, cured worth a darn and a bunch went to the compost pile. Fat neck, skinny neck, it didn't matter.

Any help with this will be greatly appreciated because I'd love to have this crop that's now in the ground be successfully cured and saved!
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Old April 23, 2018   #2
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The neck just before the bulb should be soft and kinda tapered when you pick them at optimum time.
But I've seen people pick them almost completely green and they still cured fine, so just put them somewhere with air circulation until they start to dry out and then cut them and cure them some more. That's how we normally did it. We didn't have such big onions however.
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Old April 23, 2018   #3
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You dont want to pull then till the tops die back, they are still getting bigger.
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Old April 23, 2018   #4
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Did you knock the tops over several days before pulling them?

Onions that are prone to spoiling have fat necks. The fat necks are due to twin bulbs.

Where your fat necked onions twins?

Then there's onion maggots. Onion maggots will spoil your harvested onions too.
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Old April 23, 2018   #5
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Just for reference I have pulled onions and let them lay in the yard in the shade till that fall and even through the winter without them going bad.

Don't ask me how but they did.

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Old April 23, 2018   #6
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From Dixondale Onion Farm:

Minimizing potential losses from onion storage rot is a priority when it comes to harvest time. Cultural lifting practices, minimizing loss from bulb-to-bulb transmission, and methods to reduce losses are the three main objectives.

Lifting of the onions should be done as close to harvest as possible. Lifting the onions before the foliage has fallen over exposes a more sensitive bulb to sun burning or color discoloration of the bulb. Providing some sun protection by covering the onions with the foliage of adjacent plants reduces the sun scorch damage significantly. Uncovered onions suffer up to 50 percent more sun scorch damage. Any mechanical lifting should focus on maximizing this overlapping of foliage. Temperatures above 90˚F tend to increase the damage to the bulbs.

After the bulbs are lifted and the tops are clipped, the major disease that affects the bulbs is Botrytis neck rot. This fungus causes decay in the bulbs by delaying the natural drying process that occurs after the bulbs are lifted from the soil. Proper drying of the bulbs after lifting for 10 to 14 days will decrease the vulnerability of the bulbs to this disease. Leaving the foliage on the bulbs for this period is critical to minimizing loss in storage. This does not mean that the bulbs have to be kept out in the elements during this drying period. If conditions are warm and dry, then curing in the field is preferred. When rain or sun burning of the bulbs is possible during field drying, it is better to bring the bulbs in and dry them in storage by providing air movement.

Transmission of Botrytis from diseased bulbs to healthy bulbs occurs during storage. Rough handling of the bulbs causes injury to their outer protective wrapper scales and exposes the fleshy scales. Improper clipping of the foliage can cause damage to the bulbs, which also drastically increases the spread of neck rot.

Certain varieties are less susceptible to Botrytis neck rot. Harder bulbs are much less likely to be affected by this disease; they tend to have less water content in the cell structure and therefore have a less favorable environmental condition for the spread of the disease.

In summary, to extend the shelf life of your crop, you should:

Cover your onions after lifting
Cure them for 10-14 days before clipping the tops
Be careful not to drop or damage the onions in storage
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Old April 23, 2018   #7
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Thanks to all for your helpful responses! I wish this site had a "thank you" button.

I did not knock the tops over several days before pulling the onions but I will this year. And I will wait until the tops die back a lot more.

There were few if any twins.

Worth, that's interesting about just leaving them in the yard in the shade to cure! I'll try that with a couple.

PureHarvest, thank you for that great information. I'm copying it for my growing files.
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Old April 23, 2018   #8
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I have never intentionally knocked the tops over on onions. So long as the neck is firm and the leaves green, the onion is being nourished and growing. I wait until the necks are so weak that you can pinch them nearly flat before I pull them.
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Old April 23, 2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomNJ View Post
I have never intentionally knocked the tops over on onions. So long as the neck is firm and the leaves green, the onion is being nourished and growing. I wait until the necks are so weak that you can pinch them nearly flat before I pull them.
Agree. If frost threatens or are otherwise in a hurry, At least half of the tops should be dying back naturally, then bend the remainder over and allow them to finish dying back before picking if the intention is to store them. I think the onions in the photos are not mature and are still growing judging by the healthy green tops.
You are sure growing beautiful onions though.
KarenO

Last edited by KarenO; April 23, 2018 at 05:34 PM.
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Old April 23, 2018   #10
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Don't pay any attention to the wild videos on YouTube about breaking over tops and cutting tops off to make more energy go to the bulbs,.
It is hog wash and goes against logic.
Where are they going to get energy if their tops are broken or cut off?

In the heat of our southern states that time will come on its own in the summer.
If left in the ground they will sprout back up in the fall and grow all winter till they trigger in the spring and make seeds.
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Old April 23, 2018   #11
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Tops were knocked over to quicken the time to harvest. They need dry and warmth to cure. Up here in the frigid north of Maryland that day was July 25th. August is warm and dry. September is warm but often wet. October is cold and wet. I just do what my parents did and what they taught me. It’s what their parents before them did. And so on and so forth.

I did not get my info from a YouTube video I got my info right up here in my noggin...my father and uncle were arguing over the name of the Saint’s feast day while standing/weeding in our onion patch. My Dad said it was St. James. My Uncle said, no it’s St. Christopher. On and on they went arguing over who was right/wrong. Then after what seemed like eternity to my little kid self...my Dad said, wait a minute, these two Saints share the same feast day. Then the name calling started. Two brothers ribbing each other. It forever cemented in my head the exact time to knock the onions over in order for them to cure in time before the cold and wet weather started.

But you guys down in the fiery parts of the U.S. may not have to do what us further north have to do. Short day onions vs. long days. I just figured onions is onions. The day to harvest will be different for sure...I figure it’s so blasted hot down there that the onions would probably cook in the field if left there. Heck, I’d bury an egg next to the onions to see if I could cook myself some lunch.
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Old April 23, 2018   #12
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This is what I use to keep onions on. It's 1 x 12s and rabbit wire supported by two sawhorses. Air gets to it from all directions.
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Old April 24, 2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nattybo! View Post
Tops were knocked over to quicken the time to harvest. They need dry and warmth to cure. Up here in the frigid north of Maryland that day was July 25th. August is warm and dry. September is warm but often wet. October is cold and wet. I just do what my parents did and what they taught me. It’s what their parents before them did. And so on and so forth.

I did not get my info from a YouTube video I got my info right up here in my noggin...my father and uncle were arguing over the name of the Saint’s feast day while standing/weeding in our onion patch. My Dad said it was St. James. My Uncle said, no it’s St. Christopher. On and on they went arguing over who was right/wrong. Then after what seemed like eternity to my little kid self...my Dad said, wait a minute, these two Saints share the same feast day. Then the name calling started. Two brothers ribbing each other. It forever cemented in my head the exact time to knock the onions over in order for them to cure in time before the cold and wet weather started.

But you guys down in the fiery parts of the U.S. may not have to do what us further north have to do. Short day onions vs. long days. I just figured onions is onions. The day to harvest will be different for sure...I figure it’s so blasted hot down there that the onions would probably cook in the field if left there. Heck, I’d bury an egg next to the onions to see if I could cook myself some lunch.
Something is lost when people move longitudinally or from wet to dry areas.
I see it all the time.

The YouTube videos I saw where people were doing this where from the south one in Houston.
I think it is sometime in June or July here the onion tops croak and fall over I really cant remember.
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Old April 24, 2018   #14
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Tom and Karen, that means I really pulled them too early last year. Beginner’s error which I will avoid this year. These were the Red Creole drying a bit after pulling and before they were put on screens.



Worth, you’re right about the heat of summer doing a number on things!

Nattybo, the heat here is why we plant onions in the fall. I have previously tried planting in the spring but they just fried and although I love fried onions… not that way.

Salt, that’s a good set up. I used two big window screens that I bought for $1 each at a yard sale and set them on blocks on a table. I need to rethink that as the weight of the onions caused the screens to sag and I had to run bars under them to support them. That's garlic hanging up to cure in the background.



After reading all of your comments, I now know I need to let them dry in the garden a whole lot longer and also start eating them as they get ready. I also reduced the amount planted from 72' to 36' this year until I get a handle on this curing business. With no root cellar or basement (not a lot of basements in this part of Georgia!) and only a cool closet to store them, what was I thinking?
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Old April 24, 2018   #15
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Inexpensive green wire greenhouses that some use for seedlings (without the plastic cover) make great drying racks for onions or garlic. They can be used indoors or outside on a porch.

- Lisa
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