Summer Solstice 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere is Tuesday, June 21st. In Seattle, we will enjoy daylight from 5:11 A.M. to 09:10 PM. Notice I said “daylight” and not “sunshine” (deep sigh). The Farmer’s Almanac did not get it right for our June this year since they predicted warm and sunny weather with 1” of precipitation. Every home gardener I know has been lamenting the state of their tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, so I thought it might be good to think about other crops that can be successful regardless of the weather in the Pacific Northwest.
Onions and Daylight
Thinking about the longest day of the year made me think about growing onions! Did you know that there are different varietals of onions for different parts of the country? Onions form bulbs respond to length of the day. Long-day onions need 14-15 hours of daylight to produce a bulb, short-day onions need 10 hours of daylight, and day-neutral onions are not dependent on specific daylight hours and will produce well in most regions.
If you try to plant short-day onions in Seattle, the bulbs will start forming early in the spring before the top of the plant has had time to grow large enough to support the bulb. If you try to grow long-day onions in an area where daylight doesn’t hit 14 hours, the plant will never form a bulb and you will end up with lots of “scallions”!
This is why we get Walla Walla onions here and our cousins in the South have their Vidalias!
Planning for next year’s Allium harvest
While this information might be interesting – it won’t do you much good this year, as onions needed to have been planted in the garden early in the Spring. Next year be sure to choose the right kind of onion for your growing zone to guarantee healthy green stems that are large enough to fuel those forming bulbs when the day light is right!
Another crop that gets harvested around Summer Solstice is garlic. Seed garlic gets planted before the winter solstice, grows slowly throughout the cool months and also starts to bulb up as the days get longer. Plant your garlic around Halloween and you should be harvesting near the Fourth of July. Talk about fireworks!
Both onions and garlic let you know they are ready to be picked. As the bulbs form underground, the stems or stalks start to die back. When about half the leaves have turned brown and started to droop, the crops should be ready to harvest. Both onions and garlic need a few weeks to “cure” or dry out in a well ventilated space so that the outer skins to become paper-like. This allows for longer storage time and preservation.
Get outside and enjoy the daylight!
So if the Fremont parade gets you thinking about the Summer Solstice – a little planning and planting later this year will have you harvesting a crop of kitchen staples next June!