Potato Onions
In Minibeds

Dateline: 14 April 2017

I think spring is pretty  much here and I've been working in my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden. Today I planted two beds with potato onions, as you can see in the picture above.

Those nine potato onion seed-bulbs weighed exactly 1 pound. They are part of last year's potato onion harvest. I saved the nicest bulbs for planting stock. It will be interesting to see how many pounds of onions I harvest from one pound of seed bulbs. 

Some people plant their potato onions in the fall, like garlic is planted in the fall. I may try that with a Minibed this fall. Speaking of garlic, here's a photo of some garlic I planted last fall in a minibed...

I have quite a bit more garlic planted on a raised bed elsewhere in my garden, but I wanted to get some in one of these Minibeds too. I'll see what kind of yield I get from 13 cloves in a Minibed-on-Plastic. As for the potato onions, 18 bulbs planted in two Minibeds is enough for this year. Potato onions are still a bit of a novelty for me. I will, as usual, grow quite a few storage onions using a larger bed elsewhere in my garden.

The beauty of these Minibeds is, of course, that they are so downright easy to plant and tend, as compared to any other gardening approach I've ever undertaken. The shredded leaf mulch I put in the beds last fall has protected the soil and provided food for the earthworms...

The earthworms are a good sign. I'm glad to see them. In the few Minibeds that I did not cover with leaves, the soil is harder and it's tough to find a worm. 

By the way, when I planted the potato onions in the two minibeds today, I did not cultivate the soil. I just parted the leaf mulch, dug the holes, and planted the bulbs. No till!!!

If you would like to learn more about potato onions, check out my Upland essays Potato Harvest 2016 and Potato Onions For Dinner.


  1. Hi Herrick, I was one of those who planted my 8 potato onions last fall in one of the old raised rows before I had decided to go the mini-bed on plastic route. The day I laid down the bunker cover, I pulled them up and stuck them in a tub with some dirt, err, soil, and a little water while I got the cover all anchored down. Measured out where all the beds would be, put one down, cut the plastic and replanted the 8 potato onions. Right now there are at least 5-6 onions bulging off each original ones!

    So this leads to this question, Should I pull them all up ,divide them and reset them again? Or will they be all confused like me and just lie there all summer as singles? Decisions, decisions!!

    Just planted six rows of 25' of various potatoes. Had two 10 year old granddaughters doing ALL the work! I sat there on a keg directing operations and they did it all! And a fine job it was.
    While they were here, they went in the House Green House and gave "haircuts" to all my tubs of lettuce and took it home for lunch. They get a big kick out of doing that. Think I have a couple of prospective gardeners there.

  2. Everett—
    I'm not sure how to answer your question. But if there are individual onion bulbs in a clump, I would divide and replant some of them asap.

    1. And congratulations on having granddaughters who are interested in gardening. That is something special.

  3. I just went and inspected the potato onions and they all have little bulb-lets hanging off the side, so tomorrow will see them separated from Mommy and out on their own! Thanks.

  4. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    So happy for you, Herrick, that your mini-beds are off to a great start!!! I have Yukon gold potatoes up; grown to a couple inches tall right now. A friend gave me a few sets of Kinnebec potatoes, also barely up. Never grown them before. Will tell you what they are like after harvest. I'm going to go back to your potato onion article and maybe try them next year. Beefsteaks are in the ground, also snow peas, 200 sets onions are well on their way, volunteer zucchini are up, and am germinating white, red, orange, and purple carrots. Why on the earth does it take carrot seed so long to germinate? After all, they are so tiny!

  5. Hi Herrick I remember you doing an experiment with overwintering onion plants a few years back. I would suggest trying the variety 'Bridger' from Johny's Selected seeds. I tried them a few years back and had great success with them. I sowed the seeds in August in a flat and planted them in the garden around labor day. They grew that fall and when frost came it took care of the weeds that had come up. (better than any herbicide) In late November or early December I covered the onions with wire hoops and row cover. That is how they spent the whole winter. As soon as the weather warmed in the spring they resumed growth. I harvested the onions in early June and had a nice crop of large onions which kept for the rest of the summer and into the fall. It might be worth looking into if you are still looking for an overwintering onion. I live in CT and I think this would work just fine where you are in NY.

  6. Potato onions are still a bit of a novelty for me.
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