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Weekend Project . . . Scallion Factory Reaps a Green Harvest

December 19, 1987|BILL SIDNAM | Bill Sidnam, who lives in Orange County, tends an extensive vegetable plot

At the market, green onions sell for about 29 cents a bunch, with about six to a bunch. At a nursery, a one-pound bag of onion sets (a "set" is a small onion bulb) costs about $1 and contains nearly 200 sets and each set equals one green onion. So, for $1 you can grow almost $10 worth of green onions, and they, of course, will be fresher and tastier than the ones you buy in the store.

If you are looking for a good investment, this is it.

Green onions, also called scallions, are not difficult at all to grow, and by following a simple procedure, you can have a yearlong supply.

First, you'll need to buy a half whiskey barrel at your local nursery or garden center. Make certain there are at least four one-inch drainage holes in the bottom.

Buy some commercial potting-soil mix; you'll need about two cubic feet. You'll also need a time-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, to add to the potting soil.

Then, of course, you need the onion sets. There are three types to choose from: red, yellow and white. The white variety is the best for green-onion production.

Harvesting convenience is one of the advantages of growing onions in this manner, so locate the barrel outdoors, in a sunny area close to your kitchen door. If you plan to put it on a patio, you may want to add casters so that you can move it about with ease.

If you want the barrel on a lawn or in a dirt area, put four bricks underneath it to prevent it from touching the soil and to keep the bottom from rotting.

Place the potting soil in the barrel and, following label directions, mix in the time-release fertilizer. Once the mixture is thoroughly moistened, it is ready to receive the onion sets.

Divide the surface of the barrel into quarters. Into one section of soil, press 35 to 50 onion sets, one-inch deep and half an inch apart. Two weeks later, plant another section, and plant the two remaining sections at subsequent two-week intervals.

It takes only six to eight weeks to produce harvest-size green onions, so by the time you've planted your fourth section, the first will be ready to harvest.

To water, place a trickling garden hose into the barrel and leave it there for a few minutes, until you see water seeping from the drainage holes. Water twice a week during warm weather, once a week when it is cool.

After you harvest your first section, replant it with onion sets. Continue to plant and harvest every two weeks. Every six months, add more time-release fertilizer to the soil mixture.

That's all there is to it. There is no need for any cultivating, weeding or other tedious gardening chores. Your onion factory, growing in the gentle climate of Southern California, will provide you with an endless supply of scallions.

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