Growing Guides

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Onions

Onion Transplants

Growing onions from transplants have the added benefit of being earlier to harvest, and the product will be more uniform in size and stand. Seed waste is mitigated with onion transplants and it can help reduce pressure from pests and disease.

On the downside transplanting onions is a larger cost investment and requires specialized equipment to do at larger scales.

What to Do When You Get Your Onion Sets or Transplants

As soon as onion sets arrive you will want to remove them from the boxing. They will need to be placed in a well-ventilated area free from sunlight, soil or moisture. You want to keep them away from soil and water until you are ready to plant the sets/transplants.

Soil Conditions

For the optimal results with your onion sets, you will want to make sure your soil pH is between 6.2 and 6.8. Limestone is your go-to if the soil has too much acidity but you’ll want to use something like peat moss if alkalinity is your problem.

Where to Grow Onion Sets or Transplants

Site conditions are very important to successfully growing onion sets. Onions require full sun and won’t tolerate partial shade. While onions need a steady supply of water, they don’t like to be damp either. Exposure to the sun will help dry them off and keep diseases from being a problem. Onions will have to be watered immediately after transplanting and will require 1” of water per week.

Growing Healthy Onions

Onion spacing is very important and what your desired end goal is, will determine your spacing requirements. If you’re growing to harvest green onions then you will want them to be closer, 2” apart. However, if your plan is to harvest full-sized onions than you want to spread them out to 4”. If you wish to have both then pull ever other onion to harvest green and leave space for the rest to mature.

As far as the spacing between rows 16” should give your onions plenty of room to grow. If you want to fertilize your onions, it’s ideal to dig a companion ditch next to your onion row 6” away. The fertilizer trench should be 4” by 4” so you can spread .5 cup of fertilizer for every 10 feet of trench. After you’ve applied the fertilizer you can backfill with 2” of soil.

While the onions are growing you will want to continue fertilizing them. A light and balanced fertilizer will be ideal, but you could apply some compost as well if you prefer. Every 2 to 3 weeks should provide enough nutrients for your young onion plants. You’ll want to apply any soil amendments to your trench alongside your plants.

Eventually, as the onion plants begin to form bulbs the soil will crack, at this time fertilizing should stop.

Weeds & Insects

You may be surprised to hear that onions aren’t any different than most vegetables, they don’t care for weeds as they are growing. You should stay on top of weeding and can even perform shallow cultivation to keep the weed pressure down.

The biggest insect issues that you typically see with onions is Onion Thrips, so if you begin to see silvery blotches on your onions, you will want to apply Neem Oil as directed. Part of the reason why weeding is so important is that Thrips will overwinter in the weeds.

When It’s Time to Harvest Onions

Eventually, the top of your onion plant will begin to turn a brownish-yellow. When your onions are ready to be harvested pick a dry early morning to do the pulling. The onions will need to be dried out before they are ready for storage or you will risk them rotting away. The sun can help you dry your onions out, if you lay the onions in two rows and allow the tops of one row over the other this will prevent the onions from being scalded. If the weather isn’t cooperating and you need to get your onions out of the ground, curing indoors is possible but takes longer. If curing indoors be sure to choose an area with good ventilation and air movement.

After your onions are cured the neck of the onion to the skin will be dry and the entire skin will have a consistent texture to it. When your onions are dried enough you can cut the bottom roots off and braid the tops together. If you prefer not to braid the tops, you can snip those off as well, but be sure to leave 2-3” of the top on to allow the stems to dry and cure completely.

How to Store Onions

When you store onions the best results will be had when they are kept at NEAR freezing temperatures. After temperature, the humidity will be your biggest concern. The ideal humidity for onion storage is 65-70% in a bag or container that will allow air movement. You’ll want to keep an eye on your onion supply as decaying onions will need to be removed from any storage and discarded for the health of the other onions.

How To Grow And Care For Pumpkins

How To Grow And Care For Pumpkins

There’s hardly a more rewarding plant to grow than pumpkins. Ranging in color from orange and pink to blue and green, there’s something so enchanting about autumn pumpkins for children and adults alike. 

While growing pumpkins from seed might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Pumpkins are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Whether you’re looking for a pie pumpkin or the perfect pumpkin to accentuate your fall decor, read on to learn how to grow (and pick) the perfect pumpkin. 

When to Plant Pumpkins

Pumpkins are warm-season crops that do not tolerate frost. These heat lovers prefer fertile soil that has reached at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait to plant your pumpkins until all danger of the last frost has passed. In temperate climates, pumpkins can generally go outside from mid-May to early June. If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, your pumpkins may benefit from being started indoors. 

Start pumpkin seeds indoors two to three weeks before the last spring frost. Sow the seeds in two-inch or four-inch pots to give the seedlings room to grow without becoming rootbound. Plant one or two seeds in each pot, and water regularly. Pumpkin seedlings can be transplanted outside another two to three weeks after the last average frost date in your area.  

How to Plant Pumpkins

Pumpkins need abundant space, so consider their placement in your garden carefully. Some gardeners succeed in trellising pumpkins vertically, while others grow pumpkins in pots.

To grow pumpkins vertically, string Hortonova netting between a few T-posts, securing with plastic zip-ties. Plant the pumpkin starts or direct sow pumpkin seeds about a foot apart. Encourage the vines to grow up the trellis by tying them up when needed. Support large fruits by tying a rag (or more netting) underneath them to create a basket. 

Perhaps the best place to grow pumpkins is around the border of your garden since you’ll still be able to run irrigation and weed young starts regularly. When the plants start vining, encourage them to send their vines outside the border of your garden. 

Pumpkins are heavy feeders, so be sure to amend your soil with compost and a balanced fertilizer before you plant. Pumpkins prefer a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 6.8, and you may need to perform a soil test if you suspect your soil might be too alkaline. Amend with organic matter or soil sulfur if necessary. 

To direct sow pumpkin seeds, build a series of mounds three to five feet apart, depending on the projected size of your mature pumpkins. Plant three to four pumpkin seeds in each mound, burying the seeds an inch deep. Water the mounds thoroughly, and keep an eye on them over the next couple of weeks. Mounding the soil improves drainage and warms the soil, which helps pumpkins thrive. Mound the largest pumpkin varieties around five feet apart. 

Choosing Pumpkin Varieties to Grow

Pumpkin Variety Types

There are a variety of pumpkin seeds available, so how do you know which ones to get? First, decide what purpose your pumpkins are going to serve. Will you use your pumpkins for cooking and carving, or are they meant to be decorative? 

Pumpkins come in a range of colors and sizes. There are pie pumpkins like Long Island Cheese and classic orange carvers like the thick-handled Secretariat F1. Miniature white pumpkins like Baby Boo pair nicely with the smoky Blue Doll F1. There are even textured pumpkins like Warty Goblin F1 that are sure to set the perfect vibe at Halloween. 

Short-day pumpkins, like Early Abundance F1, mature in 100 days or less–making these cultivars perfect for colder regions with a shorter growing season. Some pumpkin seeds are even treated against certain diseases like powdery mildewIndian Doll F1 being one. 

Organic varieties like Winter Luxury Pie are plants grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or other manufactured chemicals during harvesting and processing. 

With such a wealth of heirloom and hybrid varieties available, there’s bound to be the perfect pumpkin (or two, or three) for the whole family to enjoy.

How to Care for Pumpkin Plants

Once your seedlings are established, pumpkins are relatively easy to care for. It’s very likely that your pumpkin plants will do too well. Pumpkins do require regular watering–about an inch of rain a week. 

If you live in an area that tends to have heatwaves and drought, you may want to consider installing an irrigation system for your pumpkins. If your growing zone receives regular rainfall in the summer, then you may not need to irrigate the pumpkin patch at all. 

If pumpkin foliage starts to develop a white powder, start treating for powdery mildew immediately. Fight powdery mildew by making your own fungicide: mix one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon castile soap with one gallon of water. Mix thoroughly and apply the spray to affected pumpkin foliage weekly.

Stylet Oil is also helpful in controlling fungal issues. It is essentially a food grade mineral oil, is effective and affordable and doesn't require any type of spray license. 

How to Harvest and Store Pumpkins

How To Harvest Pumpkins

Harvesting pumpkins is a fun task that the whole family can be involved in! Cooking pumpkins are ready to harvest when the pumpkin skin has reached its mature color–unripe pumpkins won’t ripen as they cure.

When pumpkin vines start to die back and foliage begins to yellow, it’s a good indicator that pumpkins are ready to harvest. Alternatively, check the fruit’s hardness–if you can’t easily scar the pumpkin with your fingernail, it’s mature enough to harvest. 

When harvesting pumpkins for cooking, don’t abide by the “bigger is better” philosophy–smaller fruits generally taste better than overgrown ones. Pumpkins weighing between four and eight pounds are the perfect size to eat. Bonus points if the pumpkin has smooth, dull skin–this signals that the fruit has higher sugar content. 

If you’re more interested in harvesting a pumpkin for carving, you can generally pick your pumpkin based on personal preference, but there are a few tips to keep in mind. You’ll thank yourself for selecting a pumpkin with a flat bottom and at least one smooth side for carving. You can also tap pumpkins–just like you would a watermelon–and look for the pumpkin that sounds somewhat hollow. 

Leave about four to six inches of the vine on the pumpkin for a “handle.” But when handling pumpkins, try not to pick the fruit up with the stem–some stems break off easily. Instead, use both hands to lift and carry your pumpkin. 

Pumpkins, like winter squashonions, and garlic, need to cure before being stored. Curing, like drying, is a process that extends the shelf life of these vegetables by evaporating excess moisture that would cause the food to spoil. With squash and pumpkins, the curing process concentrates natural sugars to make the fruit taste that much sweeter. 

Many gardeners allow pumpkins to cure in the field–simply cut the pumpkins from the vines and leave them alone. You may also opt to slide a piece of cardboard under each fruit to help protect against the pumpkins rotting in the field. 

If you’re worried about animals or the weather, you may as well bring your pumpkins undercover to cure. Pumpkins need at least two weeks of direct sun to cure properly, so store them in your greenhouse or on the porch–wherever you have room.

There you have it–a brief guidebook to growing pumpkins. No matter where you are in your gardening journey and whether or not you have acres of land, you too can grow your own pumpkins from seed. Give this treasured North American native a chance this season, and see if your fall family traditions don’t become even more sacred.     

Guide To Growing Super Sweet Corn

The general public has developed an enthusiastic taste for supersweet corns. This demand is the result of their extended shelf life and more consistent eating quality from season to season. If growers of supersweet corns observe and follow these general suggestions, they should have as much success as with other corns. Once you understand the reasons for these special considerations, it all makes common sense. Harris Seeds hopes that it will help you become more successful in growing supersweet corns.

Consumer Acceptance

Because of the use of supersweet varieties by grower-shippers, the almost constant year-round supply of sweet corn and improvements in kernel tenderness, consumers have become thoroughly exposed to and accepting of supersweet sweet corn. Therefore, when the sweet corn season in the Northeast and Midwest rolls around, customers look for the same eating quality at local roadside stands and farmers’ markets. Growing supersweet corn varieties requires paying a little more attention to seedbed preparation, soil moisture and soil temperature but it’s not as difficult as some make it out to be. Below we suggest some helpful growing tips.

Harris Tradition

Harris has maintained a long tradition of offering superior sweet corns for Eastern and Midwestern growing conditions. Corn growers have known that they could depend on Harris varieties to perform well for them. The tradition continues as research is conducted in the United States in the summer and Chile in winter to speed the work along. New hybrids are tested for their reaction to several sweet corn diseases each year to insure intermediate resistance or resistance. The most promising experimentals are grown in trials throughout the country to test their adaptability before they are named and offered for sale. Throughout the breeding and testing period, constant attention remains on the most desirable characteristics featured in Harris' sweet corns; seed vigor in the cold soils, disease resistance levels, dark green flag leaves, husk and ear appearance and eating quality.

Research & Development

Discovery and development of new genes for eating quality in sweet corn are ongoing. The supersweet gene is the drastic mutation of field corn known by breeders as "shrunken" or shortened to "sh2". This recessive gene results in the production and retention of unusually high natural sugars and is commonly called "supersweet" or "extrasweet" corn in the trade. As you probably know, these varieties are very sweet and unusually crisp textured to eat. However, recent developments have yielded varieties with a much more tender texture. These varieties are known as augmented supersweets. The high sugars that are produced tend to accumulate in the kernels because the sh2 gene blocks their conversion to starch. The retention of sugars and the lack of starch continues and prevails in the dried seeds used for planting. It is this lack of starch that makes the seeds so light weight, wrinkled and shrunken. And it is the physical stresses of shrinking that lead to more cracks and splits in the seed coats of supersweets than with other corns.

So, although the sh2 gene provides a very nice kernel for people to eat, it also produces a rather difficult seed for the seedsmen and corn growers to deal with. For instance, cold water absorbed during germination damages cell membranes of supersweet types more than other corns. Their seed has less food reserve than others as well, thus storing less energy for germination, emergence, root and shoot growth. As mentioned earlier, the sh2 seed is brittle and prone to cracking and splitting. When the seed coat breaks, it allows nutrients to leak out, attracting and supporting the growth of microorganisms. Some of the organisms are pathogenic fungi that can cause disease by penetrating cracked coats of seeds still maturing on the seed field ears. Soil-bourne fungi will also be attracted to and grow rapidly in the leachate from planted seeds. If growing conditions for the planted seeds are not favorable, the result can be seed rot, damping-off, dieback, whip-like plants and plants that do not yield. To combat these organisms and for maximum seed protection, broad-spectrum seed treatment is recommended, combining several fungicides approved for this purpose. There is no single material available that will control the many pathogens to which supersweets are vulnerable.

The Solutions

Now with all that said (and because you now know the worst), it is still possible to have good yielding, near-perfect stands of supersweet corn. As your seedsmen, we will do everything possible to provide you with high-quality seed of strong, vigorous varieties. From breeding through trialing and testing; from growing through harvesting, drying and shelling; from cleaning and grading, treating and bagging, we will test and ship you our very best. The rest is up to you and the conditions you provide the seed you receive. Having the best seed quality and vigor cannot make up for poor environmental conditions at planting time. Providing the best possible conditions for germination, emergence and growth makes all the difference because the seed expends less energy to achieve success. Also, the uniformity of planting conditions is critical to consistent stand establishment. Therefore, the following points are most important to remember when growing supersweet corns:

1. Cross pollination between supersweets and all other genetic classes of corn will turn the kernels tough and starchy. This pollen effect works in both directions. Since all corn is wind pollinated, the supersweets should be isolated from all other non-sh2 corn (field, su, se, sb, sy, pop, ornamental etc.). "Isolation" can mean at least 250 ft. away from other corns, intervening natural wind barriers and/or 10-14 days maturity difference between varieties. There is no cross pollination effect between two supersweet varieties unless they have different colored kernels.

2. Most of them prefer soil temperatures of 60° F. or higher. Choose a cold tolerant variety for early planting or cover the planted seed with clear plastic to warm the soil.

3. Adequate soil moisture should be present at planting time. Irrigating with cold water causes seed cell damage as mentioned earlier.

4. A loose, well-drained seed bed promotes germination as long as it's not overworked and dry. Try to discourage soil compaction and crusting.

5. A balanced fertility rate of 2-1-1 (N-P-K) and pH of 6.5 is best for corn.

6. Plant supersweets on south-sloping fields that tend to be warmer.

7. Plant as shallow as moisture will allow (1-1.5" deep is best).

8. Lower planting speeds of 3-4 MPH produce better singulation of these light weight seeds.

9. Insecticides are more effective when applied at planting time to control wire-worms, seed corn maggot, army worm, cut worm, flea beetle, etc.

10. Birds are attracted to germinating supersweets. Legal bird abatement procedures should be used at this time.

11. Watch for mouse and rat damage at this time as well.

12. Keep handling and storage of supersweets to a minimum. Handle seed with care to avoid breakage and store it in a cool, dry spot.

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