Gardeners are an optimistic and hopeful lot, as in “I’m hopeful the snow melts before June,” or “I’m optimistic spring really will come.”

We’re all feeling trapped behind snow walls that seem to be growing higher by the inch — or five — as February drags on. It’s been the longest shortest month ever.

So take a powder, settle back and daydream about spring and planting onions. Here are several newer, easy-to-grow varieties suggested by the National Garden Bureau.

The “Blush” onion is described as a “unique long-day storage onion with blush pink-tinted skins and light purple internal rings.” Blocky-globe shaped bulbs are mostly jumbo-sized with strong skins for long-term storage.

“Red Carpet” is a long-day variety. The onion is described as storing “extremely well with excellent color on the interior layers” when sliced. Expect about 115 days from transplant to harvest.

“Warrior” is a bunching onion that produces white stemmed green or fresh onions. The flavor is best described as “pungent.”

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Iowa gardens do best with long-day varieties that require 14 or more hours of daylight.

Cool, short days in early spring are beneficial for onion roots and foliage. Choose a sunny location with well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Onions also are big feeders. Iowa State University Extension recommends fertilizing with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer before tilling the soil. A month later, come back and sidedress plantings.

What to know about seeds: Germination can be iffy, plant growth is slow and plants can be plagued by weeds, says ISU Extension. Plant when soil can be worked in spring in rows 12 to 15 inches apart; cover seeds with ½ to ¾ inch of soil. Thin when seedlings to 2 to 3 inches apart at 2 to 4 inches tall. It takes the full season for mature onions.

What to know about sets: Plant as soon as soil can be worked. Sets are sold by color, not variety. Separate sets into two groups — smaller than a nickel and larger. Smaller sets are for storage or mature onions, planted 12 to 15 inches apart at 1 to 1 ½ inches deep. For dry onions, plant 2 to 3 inches apart. Large sets commonly bolt and don’t produce good dry bulbs. Use for green onions and plant closer together.

What to know about transplants: Plant as soon as ground can be worked. Select healthy transplants and plant 1 to 1 ½ inches deep in rows, 12 to 15 inches apart. For dry onions, plant 2 to 3 inches apart.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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