I finally managed to get my onion sets planted at the weekend. The soil is still quite wet underneath, but it’s dry on top and much more manageable. Perfect for the onions, though still a bit too cold for other root crops yet, I’ll hold fire on the carrots and beetroot for now.
My onion sets are bought by the handful from large sacks in our local store. It’s too much trouble to count them out in the shop, so I just throw into a paper bag what looks like a decent amount. Down on the plot, I counted out 96 yellow onions and 55 red onions. Phew, that’s a back-breaking lot to set out. I ended up with 5 rows and a few leftover red ones which I’ll plant in a small block elsewhere and harvest as spring onions (though they’re more like slightly fatter Welsh onions grown this way). Whatever, they taste lovely sliced raw into a salad and I think the red ones are better for it.
They don’t need watering in, and I have never bothered to feed onions, but you do need to keep a check on the weeds, as they don’t like any competition. Just be careful with the hoe, it’s very easy to accidentally behead them. The birds sometimes pull them out (there’s lot of theories why) so you can cover them with net if you like, but I don’t, I just push any de-seated ones back into their position, and they normally recover. Other than that, you can leave well alone until harvest time towards the end of summer. Once I’ve used up the spares for spring onions, I do occasionally pull a small onion throughout the summer and use it green, which just means – before it has dried out, and tops are still green. They taste fantastically fresh like this.
Once they’re harvested and thoroughly dried, they should keep pretty well all through the winter. I’ve only recently used up the last of last years crop. Some people argue that onions are so cheap to buy that it’s not worth growing them. I guess it depends on what your reasons for growing crops are, but for me it’s not about saving money, it’s about taste and nutrition, having vegetables at their peak of freshness, and growing what I like to use in the kitchen for my own satisfaction. I personally wouldn’t be without any of the allium crops on my plot. Onions, shallots, spring onions, garlic and leeks. We grow more of these every year.
The garlic is especially loved by us. I swear that eating lots of this over winter has held off many a cold and bug. It’s known to be antibacterial and antiviral, blood cleansing, reduces blood pressure, and lots of other good stuff. John and I would eat home made aioli made with double strength garlic with every meal given half a chance. And a whole head roasted in the oven until its gooey and sweet and nutty is … actually making my stomach rumble right now.
So the garlic bed has been weeded, sprinkled liberally with blood, fish and bonemeal and top dressed with some compost. I’m hoping the extra rain we’ve had over winter has done some good, and a generous dose of sunshine with a few showers, will keep it (and me) happy from now on.
John also dug in the green manure, which should now decompose back into the soil adding lots of nutrients along the way. I think potatoes will be going in here. And also cut the raspberry canes back, and planted shallot sets. It was a good day, a bit of warmth on our backs, with a bit of gentle breeze. I’d like the weather to just stay like this all year, that’d be lovely.