Salisbury, MD. Sunday's snowfall was "perfect" according to the Gardening Grannies, but did it qualify as The Onion Snow? This is important to know because, according to definition, The Onion Snow is the last snowfall of the season. This last snowfall can range from a light dusting to a couple of inches, but is generally gone by mid-day and leads into springtime.
The origin of the expression is most likely a Pennsylvania Dutch or at least a Pennsylvania thing. Granny Griffith, who lived in Southern Lancaster County for many years of her gardening life, thought it was a world-wide expression until she came back home to Delmarva and found herself explaining what it meant to every other person.
While the Gardening Grannies got their onions in on schedule this year (translation: within a couple days of St. Patrick's Day), the onions haven't peeked through the ground yet. The Onion Snow, with its dose of "poor man's fertilizer" and slow watering, should give the onions some good encouragement and, with a few days of warm weather, we should expect see them pushing a bit of green.
While Granny Griffith was out poking about her raised beds, she snapped a few pictures of the onion family that are already up and very healthy. Garlic, onions, chives and leeks are all Alliums and many of them can be grown year round on Delmarva.
Sweet onions and spring or bunching onions are planted in early spring, preferably around St. Patrick's day. Onion culture is not tricky as long as you provide them with fairly uniform moisture. Mulching helps considerably. If you let them dry out, the bulbs may split and/or they may stop growth and go to seed early. Onions are relatively pest-free and are harvested when the tops die back in mid-summer.
Garlic is planted in the fall on Delmarva. The Grannies mulch the plants well in the Fall and just leave them out over the winter. When they get around to their spring clean-up, the Grannies gently remove the tree leaves, pine cones and other tree trash that can collect around the garlic and replace it with finely shredded leaves. A light dose of organic fertilizer and you're set for the season. When the tops go to seed in mid-summer, break them over. Dig them after a few days and allow to dry further in a shaded, airy location. If you like, braid them and hang for decorative and easy use. They are best stored in a cool, dry place.
Egyptian Onions, or Wandering Onions, can live outdoors all year on Delmarva. In mid-summer, they produce small clusters of bulbs on the tops of the stems that are about the size of scallions. They have the distinctive onion flavor, but are actually quite mild. You can use the bulbs that form at both the top and the bottom of the plant just as you would an onion. Every couple of years, you can simply relocate the bed to a new spot by planting some of the bulbs that form on the top in early Fall.
Leeks, a staple in the kitchen of every cook of Welsh or Irish descent takes a long time to reach maturity. The Grannies like to plant their seeds in the Spring and keep them well-mulched over the summer. They pull some in the fall and let some winter over in the garden. Leeks can be pulled any time the ground isn't frozen and those harvested in the Spring, with more time to grow, are decidedly fatter than those harvested the previous fall. The Gardening Grannies insist that they are also tastier.
The Onion Snow or not, it's time to get started on that garden cleanup. So! Off your rockers and into your gardens on the very next warmish day.
Gardening Grannies, a group of avid and Master Gardeners, live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. They can be reached at email@example.com.