Onions: Green to Spanish
Easy to grow for big flavour
Onions are one of the most widely used and versatile vegetables.
They are quite easily grown in our home gardens and if we choose the correct varieties they will store well into the winter. There is a wide variety of these flavourful plants that we can grow.
Any Perennials? If you really want a little of that flavour very early in the spring then find a sunny corner and tuck in a clump of perennial chives. Buy one clump at the garden centre and plant it into some reasonably rich soil and you will have its spicy green shoots to enjoy for many years. Chives will not spread rapidly but the clump of bright green shoots will get larger each year and is actually quite attractive in the garden.
Early to Late Types! The quickest and smallest true Onions are, of course, the many bunching types. These are readily grown from seed and if you continue to plant new seeds every 2-3 weeks then you can have a continuous supply. They can be started indoors under lights as early as late February and then planted out as soon as the soil can be worked. This should give you Onions for your salads etc by mid spring. Some of the varieties that are used for bunching are actually Spanish types, (White Sweet Spanish,) that are just harvested at the green stage. Plant them close together and use the thinnings as Green Onions creating space between them to allow the later ones to form bulbs. These make eminent sense for home gardeners; two crops - one sowing!
Main Crop! You can spend more time choosing between the 20+ varieties listed in some catalogues then it takes to sow them. They all need a good rich soil and an adequate water supply to produce good sized bulbs but they are actually quite simple to grow. Start them early indoors, (February/March) and plant them in your garden as soon as the soil is workable. Their biggest problem is weeds. You can produce an amazing quantity from a very small space. Just transplant them about 2cm apart in rows about 5cm apart to create a block of Onion plants. They don’t produce any more weeds than any other crop but, at least once, you are going to have to get down on your knees and hand weed in between that mass of long thin leaves. Once is usually enough; then they will keep ahead of the few later weeds.
Specialty Types This is where growing your own is really worth the effort. One of the last vegetables to come out of my garden are the Leeks (picture left). They taste much better after a frost or two. Very long season crop but very easy. Start early indoors, (February/March,) transplant into organically rich soil with the other onions. Weed a little and ignore until October and then
enjoy that delicate flavour.
You can also grow true shallots in the same manner but they are harvested in late summer. I actually pick away at them as soon as they start to bulb up. Thinning them leaves room for the others to expand and adds their wonderful flavour to many of my summer recipes.
Planting Trick! Whether you grow your own from seed or buy a small flat of seedlings from the garden centre, give them a haircut before planting out. Turn the flat over and with scissors remove about half of the soft green growth then separate the seedlings and space them into a shallow trench, then backfill and water well. One of the easiest and most rewarding vegetables to have in your garden. You can tuck them into any unused space as long as they are not shaded by their neighbours.
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