When you are cooking in the kitchen what is the first vegetable you tend to use? I will bet it’s an onion. They are so versatile and used in most dishes. Yet they are easy to grow yourself and if you do you could have a ready supply for the kitchen. What’s more they are free from pesticides and herbicides.
I usually start growing mine in Autumn and I tend to use the red onion ‘Radar’ or ‘Electric’ although you could use ‘Shakespeare’. There are so many varieties available from garden centres and on-line that you are spoilt for choice. If you start growing them in autumn you get larger plumper onions. Either way why not give it a go.
I plant mine at the same time as garlic as they seem to like similar growing conditions and have a similar growing period. I use ‘Solent White’ with reasonable success.
It is best to grow onion sets which are effectively baby onions and they tend to have fewer problems than growing from seed. Why not try both and see how you get on?
If you plant onions in spring then you will have to wait for the soil to warm up and as I have clay soil then I grow mine in a raised bed. For me I would have to plant out later on in April. Onions like free draining soil so that is the only way I can do it. Give your bed a weed and turn it over with a fork then leave for 2 weeks for the soil to firm up and use a general fertiliser like fish blood and bone which should do the trick.
When planting them out make sure that the onion tips are just above the soil level and firm in. Plant 4cms apart and in rows 30cms apart and that is more or less it. You may need to replant the odd one as birds can pull them out and I have a very active squirrel who moves them over for buried peanuts!
Once in, onions are generally left to their own devices. A general weed every so often and watering in dry conditions prevents bolting but I find they are pest and disease free. Once established I mulch in Spring with compost from the compost bin to keep in the moisture.
You can get onion fly and if you do you can put collars around your onions or put netting up at the side to keep them off. I find garlic or planting companion plants such as marigolds (tagetes), mint or basil will help. The strong aromas keep the fly away. There is onion rot or a rust but I haven’t suffered with this. Planting onions for no more than 3 years in the same spot should mean you too will never see these diseases.
As the onions have a long growing season you can inter plant with other vegetables, I plant up with beetroot, beans, carrots, radish and lettuce.
When it comes to harvesting the leaves will start to go yellow and that is the time to lift them and let the onions dry off on the soil surface for a few days before cleaning up and storing.
So go on give them a go and see what happens and let me know.