( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ONIONS—Medicinal Effects Against Worms in Children and Colds in the Chest.—A mother writes to Hanes (Eng.) Advevtiser upon these matters (which, also in my own judgment, maybe relied upon) as follows: " Twice a week invariably—and it was generally when we had cold meat minced—I gave the children a dinner which was hailed with delight and looked forward to; this was a dish of boiled onions. The little things know not that they were taking the best of medicine for expelling what most children suffer from—worms. Mine were kept free with this remedy alone. Not only boiled -onions for dinner, but chives also they were encouraged to eat with their bread and butter, and for this purpose they had tufts of chives in their gardens. It was a medical man who taught me to eat boiled onions as a specific (positive cure) for a cold in the chest. He did not know at the time, until I told him, that they were good for anything else." The editor adds: "A case is now under our own observation in which a rheumatic patient, an extreme sufferer, finds great relief from eating onions freely, either cooked or raw. He insists that it is by no means a fancy, and he says so after having persistently tried Turkish baths, galvanism, and nearly all the potions and plasters that are advertised as certain alleviates or cures."
Remarks.—For the author's opinion, and that of others, as to the value of onions as an alterative, see Medical Department upon them as an alterative.
Onion Culture—The Newest Way.—The following item was recently published in the Evening Post, of Toledo, and I give it a place that my readers may judge for themselves whether they will continue to drill their rows only about a foot apart and cultivate wholly by hand or drill at least two feet apart and use the horse hoes or cultivator, which will, of course, require more land to raise a certain amount of bushels. This must, or ought to, be governed by the amount of land one has, and also more particularly upon the amount of help which one has to aid in the hand part of the culture; for the thinning out the plants, as well as pulling the weeds within an inch or two of the row, must, in all cases, be done by hand. The writer says: " Onions will thrive in any soil, with proper fertilizers and good cultivation, yet they produce more profitably on old onion land, annually fertilized. Drilling in the seed and cultivating with horse power is a great improvement upon the old method. The rows should be far enough apart to cultivate with a horse hoe. This takes more land but pays best, where not very large onions are desired. Thinning onions so that only 1 is left to 3 or 4 inches of ground is being abandoned by onion culturists, as medium-sized bulbs demand better prices in most city markets. Everything which can promote rapid growth is essential in onion culture. It is better to sow the seed too thick than too thin. A drill set to drop 2 or 3 seeds to each inch of a row answers the purpose best."
Remarks,—Unless my ground was very rich and had been previously cultivated with onions, to have the weeds " well in hand," I should certainly prefer tot to have more than one seed to an inch at the very most.
3. Onions, How Many Can be Raised to the Acre.-This question being often asked, should be judiciously answered, lest some person may be led into the business too extensively for his knowledge of how it must be done, as the Ohio Farmer speaks of, from a report that D. M. Ferry, of Detroit, Mich., grew 600 bushels of onions on an acre, and for which he was offered $2.50 a bushel, or $1,500 from an acre; and this, says the Farmer, led a farmer who heard of it, and knew no more of onion growing than he did of Sanskrit, to plant 5 acres of common corn land in onions, the next season, the seed costing him $100. He didn't grow a bushel of marketable onions. Had he studied up the subject and planted the first season 1/8 or1/4 of an acre, he might now be a successful onion grower, whereas he indulges in profanity at the smell of an onion.
Remarks.—But over 700 bushels have been raised to the acre, on a field of 7 acres, as the Congregationalist, of Boston, shows by the following in answer to an inquiry of a correspondent, who asked: How many onions can be raised to the acre ? " To which the editor makes this statement: " In answer to the above, we give a letter received recently from Deer Island, Boston Harbor, where one of the public institutions of Boston is located. ` In reply to yours of this date, I would say that in the year 1869, we raised, on 7 acres of land, 5,000 bushels of onions, good measure. I selected and had measured off 1/2 an acre of land where the crop was the best, and measured from this 1/2 acre 488 bushels of onions. The onions grew very large. I sent 1 bushel to the fair that averaged 1 pound each.' "
Remarks.-But now, it is not to be understood that this was done on poorly prepared soil, but rather soil adapted to them (a sandy loam is considered best), and previously, no doubt, cultivated to onions, having been well manured and well worked.
4. Onions, How to Avoid Scullions.—Notwithstanding some people think that scullions will be scullions, the following from " D," of Fenton, Mich, through the Post and Tribune, of Detroit, in answer to a query of L. C. Zarbell, on avoiding scullions, says: ' I will tell him what an old gardener says, and that is to draw the earth away gradually from the bulbs until they are quite uncovered and only the fibrous roots are in the earth, and you will never have scullions, but very large, sound onions. The seed should be sown very early to have the benefit of the coolness and moisture of early spring."
5. Onion Raising, Value of Wood Ashes as a Manure for.—A writer in one of the agricultural papers upon this subject says: Farmers who ,are so fortunate as to have an open fire-place, should place, as an offset to the cost of the wood, the value of the ashes produced. For onions there is no fertalizer equal to wood ashes, as they require a great deal of potash. Market gardeners and others who make a specialty of growing onions will understand that to succeed with the crop they need larger supplies of potash than they will ordinarily receive from barn-yard manures.
Remarks.-I am unable to see why ashes from a stove are not better than from an open fire-place, as above named, as those from a stove are certainly more thoroughly burned, and hence must be stronger and better. Although wood ashes are undoubtedly an excellent manure for onions, yet well rotted stable manure must be the principal dependence, except with those who have plenty of hog manure, which has long been considered the best, but chiefly, no doubt, because it is more free from weed, and grass seeds, than stable manure; yet where much corn and corn meal are fed to hogs, their manure is more than ordinarily rich. The following is a summing up of the whole matter of raising onions.
6. An Acre in Onions.—under this head recently, the Chicago Times gave such minute instructions upon the whole question of onion raising, I will close the subject by giving it entire; as I deem the subject to be of such importance as to justify all that has been said, and that this item will add to it; for there is not a doubt but what onions are the most healthful vegetable grown, being a valuable alterative, as well as nourishing, and also an article for which there will always be a reasonable demand in the cities. The Times says:
"Few farmers seem to realize the fact that as much money maybe obtained from an acre of land in onions as from a 40 acre farm devoted to the usual crops, At present prime onions are worth 81.00 per barrel by the car-load, and 250 barrels may be, and not unfrequently are produced from an acre of land. Let no one, however, expect to realize $1,000 from an acre in onions who does not pay the best attention to the crop. To begin with, land naturally adapted to producing the crop should be selected: Experiments made in the eastern states, where large quantities of onions are raised for the southern market, show that there is no better soil for onions than that of a reclaimed bog, Equivalent to our western marshes, which have been drained and well cultivated. Of course the Iand must be well drained and the surface soil decomposed by exposure to the action of the atmosphere. Most of our black prairie soils are suitable to the production of onions if they are rightly treated. The turf must become entirely rotted and mixed with the earth below. Land that has been in pasture for several years is easily prepared for a crop of onions, as the turf is comparatively thin, while the soil is quite free from weeds. That portion of a pasture on which cattle and sheep lie at night may be converted into an onion-patch to excellent advantage.
"A field for onions should be very nearly level. If there are elevations in it, the soil on them will be likely to wash away, carrying off the seed before it germinates, or leaving part of the onions exposed to the sun. A piece of land intended for onions should be entirely free from the seeds of weeds in the start, and there should be a determination on the part of the grower to allow none to attain any considerable size. Absolutely clean culture Is essential to producing a paying crop. Neglect in this matter will cause a vast amount of work, which will not, after all, insure a good crop. A field of onions cannot be neglected on account of a demand for labor on other parts of a farm. Unless a farmer has help that can attend to his field of onions during the season of plowing corn, cutting grass and harvesting grains, it will be better not to attempt to raise the crop at all. The care of onions, however, calls for light work, which may be chiefly performed by old men, partial invalids, women and children. Persons who cannot perform heavy work on the farm may engage in onion-raising to excellent advantage.
" It is useless to undertake to raise a paying crop of onions on land that is not very highly manured. From 30 to 50 loads of manure should be applied to an acre of land designed for producing this crop. It should be well rotted and free from the seed of grass and weeds. Unleashed ashes form a valuable addition to composted stable manure. After a piece of land has been prepared for onions it is best to continue the crop for a series of years. As onions are gross feeders, it will, of course, be necessary to apply a coating of manure every season. The soil of an onion-field should be well pulverized and the manure thoroughly incorporated with it. After it is plowed and harrowed a roller should be employed for crushing the lumps.
Many growers employ a hand-rake for fining the soil before the seed is sown. About 4 lbs. of seed are required for an acre. -It should be the product of the previous season: [I would never use old seed.] The seed may be tested by counting out a certain number and placing them on some moist cotton laid in a saucer. If good; it will germinate in 3 or 4 days. The seed should be sown as early in the spring as it is possible to prepare the land. Growers wild aim to get the largest yield from a given amount of land allow only the space of a foot between the rows. There is a drill which plants two rows of onion seed at once. If sown by hand one seed should be dropped every inch. In order to mark the rows it is well to drop a radish seed every 5 or 6 inches [merely to point out the row so you can cultivate varieties]. The radishes will grow very rapidly, and will be large enough to pull before the onions attain sufficient size to be injured by their presence. If there is no market for radishes in the vicinity, cabbage plants may be raised in their place. When of sufficient size they may be pulled and transplanted.
"The cultivation of onions must be chiefly performed by means of hand tools. [See No. 2.] The shuffle hoe is the best implement for doing most of the work. It should be of the best quality, and great pains should be taken to keep it clean and sharp. After the plants are about four inches high they must be thinned so that each has a space of about three inches in which to grow. Some growers who seek to raise very large crops allow three onions to grow in the space of six inches. Of course, they crowd each other after they have become of nearly full size, but this thick setting is necessary to secure the maxi-mum yield. After they are thinned to the proper distance nothing is required by way of cultivation except to keep the soil light and free from weeds."
Remarks.—I hardly suppose it would " pay big " if every person in the land should engage in raising onions, or even to put out and properly cultivate "an acre ;" but of this there is no probable danger. But if those who do go into it from what has been here said upon the subject do not do it well, it will not be the fault of the author. [See, also, " Cucumbers, a Paying Crop."]