Off and on I have been growing potato onions for about 10 years and really love them. After my last batch was stolen (community garden) I decided to get back and start growing them again. When searching on the web I found Kelly Winterton https://sites.google.com/site/kellysgarden/potato-onions who grew his from true seed.
I finally tracked down some true seeds from www.usefulseeds.com and have grown them out this season.
Normally potato onions are grown like garlic/shallots by planting a bulb in this way they are clonal stock. With seeds the genetic dice is rolled.
The season has been very cold this spring/summer and I started later in the season that I should have but we have relatively mild winters so I risked planting late.
There is another option in addition to bulb onion sets and seed.
Dixondale Farms http://www.dixondalefarms.com/category/onion_plants in Texas sells little onion plants in bundles of ~75. If you are buying 30 bundles, the price $83.00. They have long day short day and intermediate day onions, sweet,hot, long keeper storage onions, as well as red and white varieties of ciopolini.
I just looked, and unfortunately they don't have shallots or potato onions, but they might be of interest just for all the onion growing knowledge they share on their website. You can also sign up for their newsletter.
I had planted onions with my saffron last year. This year when the saffron came up, two surprise onion plants did also. Somehow I missed them when I was harvesting, so I'm hoping to get onion flowers and then seed to try growing this fall.
I'm not familiar with potato onions. What sets them apart from regular onions?
I started my regular onions from seed last year, in soil blocks, with 4 seeds per block. That way it is faster to plant them out. If you're planting 150 onions/potato onions, and you plant 4 seeds per block (or plug) you'll only have to plant out 37 instead of 150. My onions grew just fine all bunched together. I planted 300 onions, but only had to plant out 75 transplants. Just give them a little more space between transplants. Worked great! I'll be doing the same this year. I did the same with green onions, but put 10 seeds per block. They grow in a nice handy bunch for taking to market.
I've got around 20 in from last autumn, and it's interesting to see that the colours can already be picked out in the bulbs (as you pointed out with the red). It's a pity Kelly had so little luck with storability of the reds. Still worth a try though.
Karl, thank you so much for this post. Your source is Australia, of course, and I'm half a world away but. I shall follow up on other links give. Usefulseed.com has me in a drool, you are lucky to have them.
#jealous #drool. I'm so impressed! Well done- thank you for sharing this experiment. I'm growing out a few Green Mountain, I'itoi, seed Blum, and Copper Shallots from Steven Edholm, and Red Dutch and some perennial leeks from Kelly Winterton this year. Steven also sent me see OP potato onion seeds, and I planted a few this week, and will do the rest this Fall (Septemberish here). The seed Blum, some are splitting up nicely, some not so much, and some forming just one big bulb. It's fun to watch!
I haven't tried posting photos here... here goes. Most of my small collection is still in pots, but I hope to plant them out in the next month. I'm disabled, and it takes me a while to do things. The I'itoi are actually flowering, and 2 separate scapes from two separate plants have come up. They both come from plants that have divided nicely, so if they produce seed I'm hoping for good things. To be continued…
Time for an update on how things are progressing. I have now harvested 90% of the onions with only 20 refusing to die back. i will leave these for a later planting in a couple of months.
I'm trying not to make assumptions on how I think these breeders are going to behave in there second year and casting a broadest net possible.
As i planted late in the season and the days to maturity did vary I was a bit careful on selecting on yield alone as the very early individuals were usually smaller. my logic is with a full season this year that may improve.
some of the selections were made to keep the gene pool larger and on one single trait such as biggest yield over perfect shape.
One thing very hard to see in the pics is the trait of many bulbs dividing under the skin. i will cull for this more heavily next year.
Wow, Karl, those look great! I'm interested in the genetic variability you mention- does that mean that you intend to continue growing out seeds as much as the onions are capable of it, and growing more bulbs from these new seeds as years go by?
Totally, love my mum, keeping her words secret indeed! I'm quite grateful that the article you referenced had an abstract in English – otherwise I would have been in quite a pickle. That does sound very promising for shallots, and I really look forward to seeing how your application to potato onions works out. You may already have read these two sites, but just in case not...
I have made contact with a chap in oz growing Potato Onions from seed.....and he has sent me some of his seed to boot (still to arrive) Even more exciting he stated he has had pink ones with a spicy flavor so hopefully these genes are still in his seeds.
pics of his bulbs
Wait there's more! another contact, again is OZ has told me her P/O's flowered last year for the first time.
I have three sources i bought bulbs still in the post and should arrive soon.
Basically at 80-120 days old the plant is to be grown in a temperature range of 8-12 degrees Celsius for 30-60 days.
The bulbs can take 2 to 8 weeks to start shooting/growing.
The overlap in the chart is the ranges above IE uncertainty. Based on my climate mid Autumn would be the latest to plant. That said Terry stated he plants about 25 April (Australia) so that is close.....and they flowered!
Unfortunately shops don't sell them here until may-June so i'm behind the 8 ball as usual
The only thing a can influence is speeding up start of growth and maturity by warming them up at the start.
The two options are a cloche and seedlings heat mat (re-purposed water bed heater ).....fingers crossed
Terry's bulbs were the first to shoot after only 3 days! The white ones (reputed to be quick) were nearly neck and neck. The others have now started at day 5 and expect the rest to be all up in the next day or so.
Keep in mind the quickest I've seen in garden beds is two weeks and the supplier of the ones that took 5 days said expect them to shoot in 6-8 weeks.
Temperature range is about 20-25 c ....68-77 f
The cloches were modified to get most area for the few sheets i had. Just screwed to garden bed timber.