Onions: A Growing Guide

Onions are one of the most indispensable and flavorful ingredients you can cook with. Experiment with raw onions in salads, add them to breads, toss them in soups (you can’t go wrong with a French onion recipe), or use them in casseroles. Plus, onions are known for offering a range of health benefits—they can boost your immune system, regulate your blood sugar levels, and even help to keep your cholesterol under control.

Along with their medicinal properties and ability to bring more flavor to all types of food, they’re also fairly easy to grow, as they can be tucked into spare corners and along the edges of garden beds. If you’re curious about how to incorporate them into your own garden, here’s a helpful primer on how to grow onions:

Varieties of onions:

Onions come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The white, yellow, or red bulbs range in size from small pickling onions to large Spanish cultivars; they can be globe-, top-, or spindle-shaped.

Most types can be pulled young as green onions, but there’s also a perennial bunching type called Allium fistulosum that’s practically disease- and insect-proof and produces superior scallions.


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7 Ways to Grow Potatoes at Home

If you’ve been thinking about growing your own potatoes, now’s the time. But before you get started, you need to consider the right planting approach for your yard. A few years ago, I conducted a test: I grew German Butterball potatoes using seven different planting methods. Throughout the course of the growing season, the pros and cons of each became quite transparent.

Take a look at the different planting methods you can consider, including those that worked the best and which ones delivered less-than-stellar results.

Cheapest: Hilled Rows

Mitch Mandel

Dig straight, shallow trenches, 2 to 3 feet apart, in prepared soil. Plant seed potatoes 12 inches apart and cover with about 3 inches of soil. When the shoots reach 10 to 12 inches tall, use a hoe or shovel to scoop soil from between rows and mound it against the plants, burying the stems halfway. Repeat as needed through the growing season to keep the tubers covered.

Unlike container gardening, there’s nothing to buy or build and no soil to transport. This is a simple, inexpensive, and proven method that farmers have used for millennia. It’s practical for large-scale plantings, also.

However, the quality of the soil

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Reopening at San Antonio Botanical Garden, part 2

May 21, 2020

A wildflower meadow studded with Yucca rostrata in bloom — yes, please! Let’s continue with last week’s visit to San Antonio Botanic Garden and this path into the cactus and succulent garden.

More flowering yuccas!

And more, with shiny-leaved palm trees and a blue, blue sky.

And a space-age-looking glasshouse and columnar cacti.

Check out this inclined ramp of prickly pear, beringed with orange flower buds — love!

I don’t know what kind of cactus this is, but I like its shadowy, segmented form against the bright background of glasshouse, palms, and yuccas.

Even cacti appreciate filtered shade in a Texas summer.

Agave in a fading verge of wildflowers

Yucca rostrata in bloom with prickly pear and giant hesperaloe

Bees were thrumming in this violet salvia border.

An arbor-shaded path

Overlooking a grassy amphitheater, we discovered gigantic, cherry-red Adirondacks. Naturally we had to try them out.

Along the Texas Native Trail at the rear of the garden, we took the middle path around a large pond ringed by bald cypresses and sycamores.

A spraying fountain disturbed the illusion of naturalness.

Heading back to the main gardens, we stopped to enjoy the dappled shade of a willow overhanging

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San Antonio Botanical Garden reopening, part 1

May 19, 2020

After a month and a half self-isolating at home, I was craving a garden visit when I got the news that both the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and San Antonio Botanical Garden were opening back up at limited capacity. I immediately went online and secured tickets for the Wildflower Center (click for my recent visit) and SABG, which is honoring reciprocal memberships with other botanical gardens, so I got in for free. Yippee!

It’s only a 1-1/2-hour drive from my house in northwest Austin to San Antonio Botanical Garden, an easy drive that requires no stopping at a public restroom along the way — ha! So last week my Italian exchange student (yes, she’s still here for a couple more weeks) and I hit the road and headed south to the Alamo City for a little garden therapy.

SABG marks its 40th anniversary this month, and the gardens are looking lovely. And summery, with a red-hot color scheme near the entrance slightly tempered by blue salvia.

Cool-red firecracker fern with blue nolina (I think) and golden thryallis — shazam!

‘Bells of Fire’ esperanza hulks over Mickey Mouse-eared spineless prickly pear, firecracker fern, and ‘Brakelights’

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