Sets are valuable for many reasons. [[Onion]] Sets produce a large [[Onion]] ready for market four to six weeks earlier than can possibly be had by sowing seed
, and the product of the set is the same as that obtained by [[sowing seed]]. Sets produce good green Onions in half the time it takes to raise them from [[seed]]. One pound equals about one and one-quarter quarts. One quart will plant from 40 to 50 feet of drill according to size of sets.
<flickr limit=4>onion sets</flickr>
== Growing Onion
For the successful production of onion sets, the soil
should be heavily manured, this usually being done in northern latitudes in August or September. Ploughing is done there late in autumn, or in January or February, so as to have a good freeze for the ground before seed-
sowing. About the twentieth of March, say in latitude of southern Ohio, the ground is gone over with a one or a two-horse cultivator, and put in as fine tilth as possible. After a good harrowing, the soil is made even with a drag.
== Growing Onion Sets from Seed ==
Seed for the production of onion sets is generally raised by the onion-set growers themselves, by planting in the fall for that purpose bulbs
above the size of a walnut, which were produced by them in a previous crop of sets. See preceding chapter on onion seed.
Thirty-five to forty-five pounds of seed are usually sown to the acre, in rows three and a half inches or five inches wide, according to drill used, five inches' space being left between rows for cultivation with a wheel hoe. The crop must be cultivated and kept free from
weeds; it generally being gone over five or six times up to about 20th of June, when cultivation is discontinued, otherwise sets will be injured. Harvest takes place, according to latitude, from July 4th to August 1st.
== Harvesting Onion Sets ==
When the sets show signs of ripening, indicated by the tops getting soft, they are lifted by a wheel-hoe fitted with a lifter, which is a piece of steel six and a half to seven inches wide, made sharp at the bottom and bolted on. After a number of rows have
been lifted, the bulbs and tops intact are pulled and laid in small piles or windrows, five to six rows being made
into one pile at a time. The position in the windrow is upright, bulbs touching the ground, tops up; the bulbs
being thereby protected from sunburn. In this manner, in windrows, bulbs are left to mature and cure, exposed to the sun or rain, for two or three weeks after pulling.
In California it is the fashion, immediately after sets are lifted, while tops are somewhat green yet, to stack
the tops and bulbs, packed closely, in upright position (as in windrows), in shallow boxes, which are then
placed under shelter in a shed or a barn. In this manner, onion sets are preserved in that climate for six months
or longer, and are usually almost as fresh in appearance at the end of that time as they were at the beginning.
== Cleaning Onion Sets ==
To clean onion sets properly, the weather should be dry and warm. For the purpose, a quarter-inch meshed wire screen twelve to fourteen feet long, three feet in width, is generally used after the following manner.
Sets are gathered from the windrows after the dew is off in the morning, say about nine o'clock, and are
first placed on canvas or boards to dry off. This is to be done in the shade, so as to avoid sunburn; sets must
not be exposed to the direct rays of the sun. When they have become thoroughly dry, cleaning is in order.
This is performed by simply rubbing them back and forth on the screen until they are cleaned from tops,
roots and dirt, when they are pushed out of one end of it into bushel baskets.
== Storing Onion Sets ==
Onion sets are best preserved at a uniformly low, dry temperature, with absence of light; above everything, moisture and heating in bulk should be guarded against. To avoid gathering moisture and heating, they should not be packed over six inches in depth. If they become too warm they will start to growing. In the fall and spring the room in which they are stored, while it should be darkened, should have free circulation of air by opening the doors and windows, especially on warm, clear days; besides which, the sets should be stirred and turned over about twice a week.
Sets will bear a temperature down to 25 above zero without injury. But if they should chance to get frozen, do not handle or disturb them while in that condition; merely keep them covered as hereafter directed and let them remain till the frost has naturally
and gradually gone out of them. Always handle onion sets as you would apples, for even slight bruises will cause them to rot.
They may be stored in the barn or warehouse, spread out to the depth of five or six inches on a loose floor
where the air can pass up through them. On approach of extremely cold weather, say 10 or so above zero, the
floor, if loose, should be covered with tar-paper and the sets heaped upon it to a depth of about 18 inches,
and covered with grain bags, old carpet, tar-paper, hay or straw. The doors, windows and all crevices should
be closed, and kept so while the cold spell lasts.
Some of the larger growers store in crates. These crates are usually three feet wide by four feet long; the bottoms being made openly of plastering lath, the sides four inches in depth, with the end-pieces six inches high, which latter is to" permit circulation of air between
the crates when they are set on top of one another. In piling them, they are generally placed four to eight crates high. In case of cold weather, ten or so above zero, the crates are kept covered well with tar-paper to keep out the cold air.
Before shipment give a final cleaning by running through the fan-mill.
== Market of Onion Sets ==
For many years Pennsylvania held the lead in the Union for the production of onion sets. In those days, growers obtained on an average $4.00 a bushel for yellow and $5.00 for white; when there was a short crop, prices advanced to $8.00 and $10.00 and higher, per bushel. But prices have lowered exceedingly since the West has taken up production. It is to be remembered that there was scarcely a bushel of onion sets raised around Chicago thirty-five years ago, whereas to-day the production in its vicinity amounts to many
thousands of bushels annually. Great quantities are also now produced around other Western cities, notably
Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chillicothe, Ohio, the production in the neighborhood of the latter city
alone being about 50,000 bushels annually.
The demand is confined principally to the yellow variety, owing to its good keeping qualities; the proportion of production being two bushels of yellow to one of white.
In a favorable season a crop of onion sets will average from 150 to 200 bushels per acre, but there have been
exceptionally greater yields. Prices paid to growers have latterly ruled from eighty to ninety cents per
bushel for yellow and ninety cents to one dollar for white.
[[Category:Starting from Seed]]