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Tackling the ‘Allium Gap’

Finding ways to grow onions and scallions in the winter

Can onions and scallions be successfully grown despite the frigid Northeast winters?

Jenny Linger, Vegetable Production Coordinator, and the vegetable team led with that question in planting four varieties of onions and scallions this past September. She explains that after being transplanted in October, they were covered in netting to prevent Allium Leaf Miner (pests that are highly destructive to plants in the Allium genus including onions, scallions, and chives) from colonizing the leaves. Just before lows hit hard frosts, beds were covered in a heavy Reemay and plastic. The goal is to further diversify the crop rotation, increase production, and hopefully, demonstrate a solution for what farmers call the ‘allium gap.’ 

“It’s that mid-spring period where storage onions begin to spoil and you’re still waiting on the field plantings of spring onions or green garlic,” Linger says of the allium gap. 

They’ll also add another fresh product for distribution to the emergency feeding system in Kingston and the region. 

A successful harvest depends on pest management (thus the netting) and Mother Nature — exactly how cold exactly will this winter be. “If it’s a deep cold winter and some tissue gets damaged it may not be as plentiful of a harvest,” she adds. 

That said, if the stars align, she anticipates first harvests with warm spells in mid-March to late April.

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