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Potato onions- the easy-to-grow “perennial” crop

 
Aimee Hall
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Cathy James, I have had poor luck trying to find those too. Here in Australia, I have had troubles finding many options at all.

I had planted 10 bulbs I managed to get my hands on and I thought I lost them all to the birds. Now it is fall, and I have some baby potato onions poking through. Do you guys think they will make it? I am worried.... and we had such a cool Spring/Summer I thought they were going to love it.... The strawberries sure did....


(See the onions poking up through the middle of the strawberries? I almost pulled them out thinking they were grass...)


https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/411350447216132127/827407679344476200/20210331_144418.jpg
(Here are a few more poking through the strawberries.)

Any suggestions are welcome. Every new climate seems to have a lot of nuances to pick up on, even with things one has been growing elsewhere for years! It is fascinating, and exciting most of he time, but a bit worry inducing when you do not want to lose expensive plants you managed to get your hands on. lol
 
Joe Grand
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I like the potato onion & the walking onion, as well as the nesting onion.
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Wow I’m interested in potato onions!  I have Egyptian walking onions which I love.  I have never heard of these. I haven’t been able to find more about them in Canada.  Any of the Canadians on Permies growing potato onions? I would love to trade first. Or buy if I don’t have what you want. I’ve emailed useful seeds in Australia don’t know if they can ship to Canada?  
Maybe someone can enlighten me?  US seems to be sold out!  
 
Joe Grand
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Mary,
Every year they sale out, garlic too.
You just have to keep checking, some will notify you when they get crops in for sale.

https://www.southernexposure.com/categories/perennial-onions/?perPage=50

https://filareefarm.com/
 
Sat Atma Khalsa
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Hello Faber from Belgium, in France on the site Hortiflor you can buy the bulbs of potato onion. Here is the link:
https://hortiflor.shop/potager-perpetuel/687-OIGNON_PATATE_BIO_QUANTITE_LIMITEE_ALLIUM_CEPA_VAR_AGGREGATUM.html
They still have them! That is the only place I have found in France.Maybe somebody else knows others? I had never heard of them. I have not bought them yet, they cost 10 euros. I do not know if that is for one bulb or more.
Good luck with this. LEt us know if you buy them and how they do for you.
In case you speak flamish, Hartelijke groet en succes met de aardappel uien!
Sat Atma
 
Sat Atma Khalsa
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Aaah, they are actually also sold by Biau Germe, a great place in the south of France, see this link https://www.biaugerme.com/potageres/legumes-racine/ail-oignons-echalions/fiches/oignon-perpetuel-bulbes
They will have them again next year from January 15th until March 30th.
All the best!
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Sat Atma Khalsa wrote:Hello Faber from Belgium, in France on the site Hortiflor you can buy the bulbs of potato onion. Here is the link:
https://hortiflor.shop/potager-perpetuel/687-OIGNON_PATATE_BIO_QUANTITE_LIMITEE_ALLIUM_CEPA_VAR_AGGREGATUM.html
They still have them! That is the only place I have found in France.Maybe somebody else knows others? I had never heard of them. I have not bought them yet, they cost 10 euros. I do not know if that is for one bulb or more.
Good luck with this. LEt us know if you buy them and how they do for you.
In case you speak flamish, Hartelijke groet en succes met de aardappel uien!
Sat Atma



Ja ik versta Flams, afkomstig mijn ouders zijn uit NL. Mijn eerst taal was Nederlands. Dank You voor het uit zoeken van die uien. Ik zal het vandaag opzoeken.
Hartelijk Groeten vanuit Canada!  
 
Kim Goodwin
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Cathy James wrote:"FullSkyFarm on Etsy sells bulbs and seeds from three varieties, including Green Mountain."

I have checked their offering periodically over a period of many months without ever seeing Green Mountain bulbs offered, only seeds. I would like to get some Green Mountain bulbs, which will be easy to start and breed true, rather than seeds, which are a pain to start and will be an F2 generation that doesn't breed true.

Have they stopped offering bulbs, or did they just have a year when supply didn't meet demand?

Does anyone know where I could get Green Mountain multiplier *bulbs*?  Or perhaps Dakota Red, or Dakota Gold?  I have been unable to find bulbs for sale for any of the varieties that Kelly Winterton created, despite a lot of looking online.



Potato onions are harvested and sold in the fall, and they sell out fast.  So try in September or October.  It's same for ordering special garlic varieties...
 
Kim Goodwin
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Aimee Hall wrote:Cathy James, I have had poor luck trying to find those too. Here in Australia, I have had troubles finding many options at all.

I had planted 10 bulbs I managed to get my hands on and I thought I lost them all to the birds. Now it is fall, and I have some baby potato onions poking through. Do you guys think they will make it? I am worried.... and we had such a cool Spring/Summer I thought they were going to love it.... The strawberries sure did....


(See the onions poking up through the middle of the strawberries? I almost pulled them out thinking they were grass...)


https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/411350447216132127/827407679344476200/20210331_144418.jpg
(Here are a few more poking through the strawberries.)

Any suggestions are welcome. Every new climate seems to have a lot of nuances to pick up on, even with things one has been growing elsewhere for years! It is fascinating, and exciting most of he time, but a bit worry inducing when you do not want to lose expensive plants you managed to get your hands on. lol




In my experience, onions like this can't handle a lot of competition and are better grown in their own space.  I suspect the strawberries are crowding them out.  I even tried growing my potato onions last year among squash, which I believe has less root mass than a groundcover of strawberries - and that stunted the potato onions, too.  It may not only be the root space, it may be a light issue.  I'm in the desert SW, and I'm finding that even in this intense sun region, onions still like full sun.

So if I were in your situation (which I was last year with the potato onions among squash) knowing what I know now - I would dig those guys up and either get them into their own bed or even just keep them in a big pot together to make sure you keep them alive for next year.

And I am SO curious what sort of birds eat onions in your area!  Please share!  That's fascinating, as I've never had a predator problem with onions except for this year, when rabbits got so desperate here in the desert that they ate some young onions and garlic.  I've had my share of garlic eaten by my dog, and also voles.  But onions were mostly left alone and fairly carefree where I've lived.

 
Sat Atma Khalsa
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Mary-Ellen Zands, thanks for your answer! How fun that ou can speak Dutch. I am a dutch native but I live in the south of France now.
Actually in Canada there is another source of onion potatoes. In french speaking Canada I found this:
https://www.ecoumene.com/produit/semences/potageres/oignon-patate-3-bulbes/

But I guess you have easy aces to the ones from the US as well.
Alle goeds voor jou en je familie!
Sat Atma
 
Myron Platte
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Where does one buy the Egyptian walking onions?
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Sat Atma Khalsa wrote:Mary-Ellen Zands, thanks for your answer! How fun that ou can speak Dutch. I am a dutch native but I live in the south of France now.
Actually in Canada there is another source of onion potatoes. In french speaking Canada I found this:
https://www.ecoumene.com/produit/semences/potageres/oignon-patate-3-bulbes/

But I guess you have easy aces to the ones from the US as well.
Alle goeds voor jou en je familie!
Sat Atma



Veel dichter bij om het 3 Uur hier vandaan te halen dans la belle province à côté de nous.  Ce n’est pas loin d’ici!  Et si ça pousse la çà va pousser ici!  
Hartelijk bedankt voor dat zoeken voor mij. Ik holde de hele morgen achter de koeien aan!  Nu hoef ik niet te zoeken!  
HG
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Myron Platte wrote:Where does one buy the Egyptian walking onions?

i have not seen them in the stores here. This is just something that is shared between gardeners!  It’s the first onion up in the spring. I’m digging them in the snow already!  They are very strong in flavour. Just what I like. I never cook with them.  Just eat raw!  I also eat the seed tops as mini onions. Delicious!  Makes your eyes water!  I’m sure you can find them in Russia.  I had a friend in the Ukraine. He said he grew up with them there too. So maybe it has another name?  Keep asking around. Especially in older farm gardens. The old folks remember the good stuff!  
 
Jane Mulberry
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Faber, thank you so much for those links! They will be very helpful when I set up my garden in Bulgaria. Unfortunately although I have many perennial vegetables in my garden in the UK now, I can't legally take any with me to the EU.
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Sat Atma Khalsa wrote:Mary-Ellen Zands, thanks for your answer! How fun that ou can speak Dutch. I am a dutch native but I live in the south of France now.
Actually in Canada there is another source of onion potatoes. In french speaking Canada I found this:
https://www.ecoumene.com/produit/semences/potageres/oignon-patate-3-bulbes/

But I guess you have easy aces to the ones from the US as well.
Alle goeds voor jou en je familie!
Sat Atma



Hallo Sat Atma, jammer zij zijn uitverkocht.  At least I have an address reasonably close by. In the same country. Getting it from the US would prove very difficult. The border is a problem. Especially for bulbs.
 
Aimee Hall
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I will do that, thank you Kim! The birds here are a bit crazy! There are so so so many and I thought there were a lot in Houston Texas with our clouds of starlings that could block the sun. But here in Australia, the birds are insanely adventurous. I am not certain who ate it but I most suspect the crows because they have been causing me issues. They are used to stealing food from the neighborhoods green waste bins, and seem to think everything in my garden is theirs. The magpies also have no fear and seem to prefer human food. I feel this is because they have adapted to city living where thrown away human food is a lot easier to get than their natural diets.

Also for any of my Aussie friends out there, here are a few links to places I have found to get potato onions here. I have not tried them all, as I just found some of them, but I am very excited to have found the links! Here, the time to buy potato onions is roughly February - September I believe:

The Lost Seed

Garden Express

The Diggers Club (This is where I got mine originally)

Green Patch Seeds (currently out of stock but I still wanted to share!)

Useful Seeds (This is the one I am most excited about!!! I don't have any money right now, but I am hoping to be able to start working on breeding my own lines adjusted to my Melbourne climate soon.)

I feel sort of bad, I just took my potato onions for granted when I was in Missouri, sort of like my beautiful beds of elephant garlic. They just did their job every year without being bothered by pests. Every year, I replanted the best and they kept getting better and better. I miss them SO much now. It breaks my heart to learn they were destroyed by the people renting my property. If anyone knows of other good sources of perennial vegetables in Australia, please let me know. I am always on the hunt tp expand my collection as funds allow.



 
Cindy Haskin
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Great thread. Potato onions are officially on my list of must haves for the new garden in a totally unfamiliar state!
 
Aimee Hall
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I have moved my potato onions, they are all relatively small though bigger than the initial 10 small bulbs I got from The Diggers Club. My thoughts are that they got enough energy stored up to make small bulbs before they were done in by the birds. Now, they are just starting the sprouting process I think. These are so much smaller and weaker, than my potato onions from before that I really hope they will do alright.
This was the biggest one, and it got a pot all of its very own. It has already split into four.



Then, these smaller two handfuls are going into a pot together because I am so pressed for planting space at the moment: (11 if I counted correctly)





and the final ones I put into my very last pot. I now have green onion seedlings I am uncertain where to put, but I am sure I will manage to tuck them in somewhere! lol



I really wish I were allowed to pull out the rest of the grass, so much space to plant in then.... well about 4 square meters.... but it is still more space than what I have now. LOL! I really hope they make it through, I will have about double the bulbs I started with which is a good start for when I get my farm.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Myron Platte wrote:Where does one buy the Egyptian walking onions?



Hi Myron,

Not knowing where you are located, I'm going to put sources I know of in the US.  First off - Ebay and Etsy have lots of people selling them.

Here are some seed companies that have them:

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - walking onions
Territorial Seed Co - walking onions
Thresh Seed - walking onions
Sow True Seed -walking onions
walking onions at Nichols Garden Nursery

Others that have them are One Green World (seasonally), Burpee's and Jung.

And if you want a HUGE amount of them, there is someone specializing: Egyptian Walking Onions - seems like the best deal for large quantities


That person is selling good sized (about the size of a penny) topsets as low as $0.25 each.  They are also selling some giant topsets in sizes I've never seen before.  They must have quite a patch.


 
Kim Goodwin
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To all people growing potato onions and wanting to expand their diversity...

The Experimental Farm Network has a project where they are looking for volunteers to grow out potato onions from seed and report their results.  The goal is to bring back more varieties of potato onions, and presumably make them available to commerce in the future.  Right now, this is still a crop at risk of being lost to abandoned backyards, like many have reported happened in the UK and AU and other regions.

Here's the link.  Potato Onion Diversification Project organized by the Experimental Farm Network

I'm not interested in joining more forums, so I'd love it if anyone who wants to continue participating in this thread and who joins that project...could you share an occasional update with us here in the years to come?  That would be so valuable.  Thank you ahead of time.

There is a lot left to know about potato onions.  Like, are they day-length sensitive?  I'm about to find that out myself.  I live far enough south that I'm in the short day length onion region.

Here's an article from Johnny's Seeds that explains onion day-length issues: Map and explaination for onion day length

And here is their map.  I've noticed some maps are a little different, but Johnny's is a really good resource for commercial growers, so I'm guessing their map is probably quite accurate.



One notable thing - spring grown short-day length onions will get bigger the earlier they are planted.  Will this happen with any of my seed-grown potato onions?  Or will they bulb at all, as my seed came form Kelly Winterton's in Utah (quite a bit further north).  The wonderful adventures of gardening.  The beauty of landraces like these onions is that they contain all the genetics needed to adapt to many places...
 
Nancy Reading
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Kim,

Thanks for the link to the experimental farm network.  I didn't register for the onion study, but spent far too much money on some fascinating seeds!  

....I did knock off the rice and the other annual grains though.
 
Cathy James
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"I feel sort of bad, I just took my potato onions for granted when I was in Missouri, sort of like my beautiful beds of elephant garlic. They just did their job every year without being bothered by pests. Every year, I replanted the best and they kept getting better and better. I miss them SO much now. It breaks my heart to learn they were destroyed by the people renting my property."

That's very sad. I am making an effort to share any perennials that work well in Vermont with my local gardening friends, in the hope that they will become well established in multiple locations here and will continue to survive even if they disappear from my current property at some future date.

Egyptian walking onions will absolutely grow wild, and are not far removed from weeds, so you could probably get them to be self-sustaining anywhere in a temperate climate that has sun and is not mowed. Potato onions are not quite as robust, but still seem to do very well, so this year I am expanding them from my improved garden soil into the native clay to see what happens. If they succeed in growing and multiplying in the clay, I will leave them alone a few years to hopefully develop a self-sustaining patch.

The US is a tough place for adapting plants to local conditions because Americans move so often, increasing the chance that varieties will be lost. But that's nothing new. "There is more traveling in the United STates than in any part of the world. Here, the whole poulation is in motion, whereas, in old countries, there are millions who have never been beyond the sound of the parish bell." (written in 1828)
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