Spring is just around the corner and if you haven't been studying seed catalogs/seed packets you must not be a gardener. WARNING: Read the seed catalog descriptions with the same skepticism you would apply to political promises.
For example, vigorous means it will take over your property, taste like no other means it probably won't taste anything like you expect and, as like as not, melt in your mouth is a warning to expect soft fruit. Crack resistant sounds good, right? But it could just as well mean tough-skinned, which doesn't sound nearly so attractive.
Our seeds are already in hand, including onion and leek transplants from a family business in Texas, Dixondale Farms. I've ordered from these folks for years and the service and plants are always excellent — they even offer organic fertilizer and weed and feed options, important since onions are heavy feeders and not good competitors. This year I ordered a bundle of leeks, nominally 60 transplants. Out of that bundle, we planted 88 leeks and still have a bunch left over. They were similarly generous with the onions we ordered — plenty for all our beds and some left over for sharing with neighbors.
Which brings me to the point of this post, the YouTube video from the Dixondale Farms home page about how to select onions to thrive where you live. As with so many things in life, a little basic knowledge and planning are absolutely essential for success.
See, if you're an onion, priorities change dramatically when the number of sunny hours (day length) hits a genetically determined magic number. This magic number varies from variety to variety, of course. Anyone who wants to grown onions, as opposed to onion tops had better know both the day length for their locale and the magic number for the onions they intend to plant because, when that number rolls around, those skinny, green leaved plants will absolutely stop making leaves and start making bulbs. Doesn't matter if they have 3 leaves or 13 when their number comes up, those onions are shifting into bulb gear. There's no turning back at that point, even if they don't have enough leaves to turn out a decent bulb.
Plant a short day variety where the days get long early and it will start bulbing before it gets enough leaves to ever amount to anything. Plant a long day onion where the days never get long, it will be all leaves forevermore, no bulb. Get it right and life is good, get it wrong and you'll be left wondering why your crop is dismal.
The same thing can happen to a political or social movement if the timing isn't right. A longstanding advocacy program that attracts followers, but never quite closes the deal to turn that advocacy into policy change is much like a long day onion planted in south Florida. It's all top and no bulb, no matter how long you wait. Or the reverse can happen, if a movement jumps prematurely into a policy fight before their organization is ready and suffers a crushing loss — they needed more leaves in place before trying to bear fruit. Balance is critical, for both onions and activists. All the parts need to be in place when the magic number comes up.
What I find rewarding these days is that progressive groups seem to be getting this right more and more often. Progressive messages on economics (47%!!) and women's issues — especially reproductive rights — were big winners in the last election. After decades of politicians on the left being afraid to talk about abortion, it suddenly morphed into a losing issue for the right. I'm convinced that the right is also poised to discover their knee-jerk support of the NRA's agenda will become a losing proposition going forward, just like their anti-immigrant rhetoric has become.
We've finally grown a sufficient number of progressive leaves to start turning out policy changes — progressive bulbs, if you will. Let's make the most of this growing season!