Friday, 7 August 2015

Onions galore

It's been a good year for onions. This could be due to the weather we've had, or it could be that I've finally learned how to grow them properly. Probably the former.

Early April and the onion sets are all
neatly laid out. They'll be netted just
until the roots take hold properly.
Back on 6th April I planted out two rows of Giant Stuttgarter onion sets, three rows of Red Barons and a row and a half of Sturon. A few shallots had already been in the ground since just before Christmas. I always buy onion sets as opposed to growing from seed. 350 onion sets cost me just £4, so at just over a penny an onion, why not take the easiest growing option?
The guinea fowl perform the final soil preparation, fine tilling.
















I used to grow my onions mixed in with carrots and beetroots in an effort at companion planting, but it wasn't very convenient and never seemed to work tremendously well. I'd always get onions, but nothing special. Last year I devoted a bed to just onions, but I made the mistake of not keeping it weeded. To be precise, I took out selective weeds but decided to let a few nasturtiums grow in amongst the onions. Well before I knew it the nasturtiums had smothered the onions and created a warm, damp microclimate under their canopy. The onions did not like it and many of them started to rot.
So this year not a weed was allowed. The onions thrived, despite the relatively cool and certainly very dry early summer. Some bolted in the dry conditions, about one in six. No matter as Sue will use these ones to make her delicious onion marmalade and chutneys.
The late July deluge seemed to help them swell further. Don next door always folds the tops over on his onions, all the same way like regimented soldiers. I wondered if I should do this, but the interweb says that is an old practice which can encourage rot to enter at the bend. So I left mine. Most of them fold themselves over anyway and once the majority have done this, another week or so for the bulbs to mature and then they need to come out of the ground.

Onions drying in the sun.
The basket contains the bolted ones,
ready to go into marmalade and chutneys.
Last week I decided it was time to uproot them and lay them out on the soil so that the sunshine and warm winds could really get to work on the drying process. They managed to get three days outside but showers forecast for yesterday afternoon found me moving them inside to the polytunnel, where I came up with an ingenious way of hanging them through the slats of my greenhouse staging.
Hopefully the onions will cure well
in the polytunnel.
They won't need long in there before they are ready to be strung or hung up in onion bags. I'll be keeping a close eye on them though, as I have so many that they are a little crowded on the racks. I'm pretty sure that there is enough air circulation in the polytunnel and that the warm air will cure them quickly.

Now here's a link to some proper advice about harvesting onions. It's American, but the principles are sound.

I'm off to find a way of ridding the house of the smell of onions when Sue starts making the marmalade.

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