For years we grew cabbage and other greens in our garden, but we always ended up with the same result. All of our cabbage and greens would be riddled with worm holes. It was always so disappointing to remove the outer leaves of a cabbage to find it full of holes, or pick a bunch of spinach, lettuce, or kale that looked like Swiss cheese. We set out to find an answer that didn’t include pesticides. After a lot of research we were no closer to an answer. Finally one day after reading about homesteaders from the 1800’s, we found the answer was onions. As it turns out many of the bugs that like greens, don’t like onions. We decided to try it, what did we have to lose? We planted onion sets in between our greens. It was also fortuitous that both greens and onions needed to be planted in cool weather.
In the above picture you can see how we planted in this case along side kale. After a month it became apparent, that the old timers really knew what they were doing. It’s hard to imagine how much of their knowledge has been lost, but we are happy to have been able to preserve this small piece of knowledge, and pass it down to our children who we hope will always plant onions with their greens. The onions didn’t totally eliminate the problem, but they were 90% effective, and we are willing to give up the 10% to keep pesticides out of our garden. This approach is not only better for us but also for our bees. It is hard to argue with the results.
We were so happy to have these amazing vegetables, and feel safe giving them to our family knowing that they are pesticide free.
After harvesting the greens there is an added bonus, beautiful onions. Onions are harvested in mid summer normally in our area. We wait for the onions to tell us when they are ready to be harvested. When onions are finished growing for the year, their tops will fall over.
After this happens we pull the onions and lay them out in the sun to cure. Curing onions properly allows us to have onions well into the winter. Different varieties keep better than others. In our experience yellow onions keep better than white or red.
After the dirt on the onions dries, and the tops wilt, we move them to a covered location to continue drying. We put them onto wire mesh to allow air to circulate around the whole onion. This keeps them from growing mold and rotting.
Once the onions have dried, and their skins are like paper, they can be stored in an onion bag. We like to hang ours to encourage air circulation. Any onions with and bruises or blemishes should not be stored, we take these onions and dice them. Once they are diced they can be frozen. Cutting up 30 or 40 onions can make you cry, so try swim goggles while dicing. The diced onions are great when you are pressed for time when cooking.
Growing food like anything else in life it takes time and experience to learn. Because of this we always seek the advice of people who have done it before. In this case we would be remiss if we didn’t thank those tough old homesteaders who plowed the ground before us and showed us the way. Sometimes in life and gardening you need to take a step back to move forward. In an age of quick fixes and a chemical for every problem, all we really needed to do was look back to how our forefathers did things to find a solution.