Gardening failures occur and so they aren’t enjoyable to take care of


Lee Miller
| What is growing

Gardening tips for healthy vegetables

Follow these 3 tips for a healthy vegetable garden.

Problem Solved, USA TODAY

Sometimes we pride ourselves on the good things that happen in our gardens while lamenting our gardening faux pas and failures. I’ve had a couple of failures this year.

I’ve been growing onions for years and last year I started my usual two varieties; a Spanish yellow onion ‘Utah’, a long day onion, and a red ‘Red Wing’, which is also a long day onion. Last winter, I had the most luscious looking bulbs growing. Winter’s lush and beautifully growing bulbs turned ugly this spring. They are all overgrown with seeds, which means they won’t bloom for harvest in early June. Onions are biennial and are supposed to produce seeds in the next year, not the current one.

I cut off the flower buds while they were forming, hoping it would entice them to put more energy into bulb formation. Unfortunately that didn’t work and when I dug them up in mid-June most of them went to the compost heap and only a few had culinary onions. Apparently I’m not the only one having this problem because one of the members of my gardening club had the same sad story and similar stories were posted in a gardening group on Facebook.

So what could be the problem? I started my seedlings in late August and the seedlings were just the right size when I planted them in a raised bed with a good dose of compost on November 1st, by the time most commercial seedlings are available. I planted them the correct 5-6 inches apart and kept the bed spotlessly weed free throughout the season.

Choosing the wrong seeds can be a problem. Onion types are categorized as short day, long day or intermediate day. When the day length reaches the trigger period, the leaves stop growing and bulb formation begins. Short-day onions form bulbs earlier in the season when there is 10-12 hours of daylight and are planted in the south – as in Southern California. Long-day bulbs start to glow when daylight is 14-16 hours.

The dividing line for the selection of the onion variety is roughly at the 38th parallel, the parallel of San Francisco, so the best choices here are usually the intermediate onion varieties or the long-day varieties. I think I got this right, so what other problems could the lack of bulbs be causing?

All onion varieties need cool weather to form tips and warm weather to form onions. According to the Gardening Know How website, these options exist. The temperature certainly affects the size and quality of the onion. Cooler temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit can delay tuber formation in some varieties.

In late spring, fluctuations between warm days and cool days can cause the plant to bloom or bloom. Flowering in onions results in a lighter onion with an increased risk of rot and a shorter shelf life. Last spring had many cool nights and changing daytime temperatures. Climate change seems to have caused above-average temperatures in the Central Valley from November to April. Perhaps the reason for the screwing lies in one of these temperature situations.

The other problem I had this summer was also with a biennial. My Italian parsley stole the leaf parts that are so useful for culinary purposes. I started parsley in the greenhouse in winter and it grew well. At our annual Garden Club plant sale in Linden, I had many to sell. I later transplanted it into containers in early spring, but it never developed much foliage and screwed into seeds in June. According to an internet site, the reason for the early start of this biennial may be hot weather, and we had a lot of that this spring.

The solution seems to be to plant more now, keep it shaded or even in a cooler place like the house where we can also stay cool and hope for better luck or buy replacements. They suggested pulling up the screwing plants as there is little cure once out, although removing flowers as soon as possible can help. I pulled out my plants and replanted the parsley – and I also bought two plants. Unfortunately, not all gardening work has a happy ending.

If you have a garden-related question, you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at (209) 953-6112. For more information, please visit our website: