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Onion (Allium cepa)   Edit Report inappropriate crop

I know quite a few allotment owners who don't bother with onions as they are so cheap in the shops. However, onions are such a vital part of so many dishes that it seems a pity not to be able to eat your own, especially since they store so well. Spring onions are a vital addition to salads for much of the year and sweet, caramelised shallots are a must in French-inspired cookery.

There are three main types of onion: bulb, spring and shallot, all of which can be found in white or red varieties, with the red varieties tending to have a milder flavour. Bulb onions are the mainstay, with Japanese varieties providing the most reliable late summer sowings for a mid-summer crop. Spring onions are simply immature onions, although some varieties have been bred not to form bulbs at all. Shallots are generally grown from sets, which multiply to form a clump of bulbs which are prized for their milder flavour.

I have always felt a bit funny about sets - turning a small onion into a big one doesn't seem enough of an achievement. However, sets have better disease resistance, are not troubled by onion fly and cope better with poor conditions. That said, while sets can make an ideal starting point for the novice grower, results from seed, especially if started off indoors at the beginning of the year, are generally very good.

Likes and dislikes
Soil
Stonyok
Lightprefer
Loamyprefer
Heavydislike
pH6.0 - 7.0
Manure
Previous cropok
Previous autumnprefer
Before plantingok
Position
Full sunprefer
Partial shadeok
Shadedislike
Exposure
Openok
Shelteredok

Sow indoors

sow indoors sow indoors

Sow 2cm deep in modules any time after New Year. Harden off in March.


plant plant

Between plants: 10cm
Between rows: 23cm

Transplant to a well-prepared bed into holes deep enough to allow roots to hang vertically but keeping bulb base no more than 2cm below the surface. Hoe carefully or weed by hand. If plants bolt (produce a flower stalk) remove it immediately - they will still be edible but shouldn't be stored.


harvest harvest

On a dry day, a week or two after the leaves have yellowed and fallen over, ease them gently from the soil with a fork. Place on a wire rack, sacking or in perforated trays, ensuring good air circulation. Dry them for two or three weeks, preferably outdoors if dry enough (they should not get wet), until the skins are brittle. Before transferring to nets (nylon tights will do) or making a traditional onion string, inspect them carefully and remove any where the foliage has not dried out down to the bulb (thick-necked) or which show signs of damage and use immediately. Store the remainder in a cool (but frost-free), well-lit, dry place.


Sets

plant plant

Between plants: 10cm
Between rows: 23cm

As with seed, soil should be either been prepared in advance to give it time to firm up or raked, trod over and raked again. Push into the soil until the tip of the bulb is just showing. If birds are a problem, snip off any dead foliage before planting (to give them less to pull on) and/or cover with netting. Push back any that are lifted by birds or frost. Water if necessary but stop when bulbs begin to ripen. Hoe carefully or weed by hand. If plants bolt (produce a flower stalk) remove it immediately - they will still be edible but shouldn't be stored.


harvest harvest

On a dry day, a week or two after the leaves have yellowed and fallen over, ease them gently from the soil with a fork. Place on a wire rack, sacking or in perforated trays, ensuring good air circulation. Dry them for two or three weeks, preferably outdoors if dry enough (they should not get wet), until the skins are brittle. Before transferring to nets (nylon tights will do) or making a traditional onion string, inspect them carefully and remove any where the foliage has not dried out down to the bulb (thick-necked) or which show signs of damage and use immediately. Store the remainder in a cool (but frost-free), well-lit, dry place.


Sow outdoors (autumn)

sow outdoors sow outdoors

Between plants: 10cm
Between rows: 23cm

Sow seed 1cm deep in drills in soil which has either been prepared in advance to give it time to firm up or raked, trod over and raked again. Thin in Spring, being careful to remove thinnings to avoid attracting onion fly. Water if necessary but stop when bulbs begin to ripen. Hoe carefully or weed by hand. If plants bolt (produce a flower stalk) remove it immediately - they will still be edible but shouldn't be stored


harvest harvest

On a dry day, a week or two after the leaves have yellowed and fallen over, ease them gently from the soil with a fork. Place on a wire rack, sacking or in perforated trays, ensuring good air circulation. Japanese varieties should be used immediately as they do not store well. For 'normal' varieties, dry them for two or three weeks, preferably outdoors if dry enough (they should not get wet), until the skins are brittle. Before transferring to nets (nylon tights will do) or making a traditional onion string, inspect them carefully and remove any where the foliage has not dried out down to the bulb (thick-necked) or which show signs of damage and use immediately. Store the remainder in a cool (but frost-free), well-lit, dry place.


Sow outdoors

sow outdoors sow outdoors

Between plants: 10cm
Between rows: 23cm

Sow seed 1cm deep in drills in soil which had either been prepared in advance to give it time to firm up or raked, trod over and raked again. Thin twice, being careful to remove thinnings to avoid attracting onion fly, once when seedlings have unfolded to 5cm and then again to their final spacing as the bulbs begin to develop. Water if necessary but stop when bulbs begin to ripen. Hoe carefully or weed by hand. If plants bolt (produce a flower stalk) remove it immediately - they will still be edible but shouldn't be stored.


harvest harvest

On a dry day, a week or two after the leaves have yellowed and fallen over, ease them gently from the soil with a fork. Place on a wire rack, sacking or in perforated trays, ensuring good air circulation. Dry them for two or three weeks, preferably outdoors if dry enough (they should not get wet), until the skins are brittle. Before transferring to nets (nylon tights will do) or making a traditional onion string, inspect them carefully and remove any where the foliage has not dried out down to the bulb (thick-necked) or which show signs of damage and use immediately. Store the remainder in a cool (but frost-free), well-lit, dry place.


Spring/salad onion

sow outdoors sow outdoors

Sow in drills, 1-2cm deep, fortnightly throughout the spring and summer, protecting early and late sowings under cloches. There is generally no need to thin.


harvest harvest

Lift when required when large enough to eat. Bulbs left in the ground will continue to grow until required, developing a stronger flavour.


Shallot

plant plant

Between plants: 15cm
Between rows: 30cm

Plants as onion sets, into a bed prepared earlier to give it time to firm up, or a bed which has been dug, raked, trodden, then raked again. Push gently into the soil so the tips are just showing. If birds are a problem in your area, trim off any dead foliage (to give them less to grab hold of) and/or cover with netting.


harvest harvest

As the leaves begin to yellow, gently draw the soil away from the bulbs to help them ripen. On a dry day, a week or two later, ease them gently from the soil with a fork. Place on a wire rack, sacking or in perforated trays, ensuring good air circulation. Dry them for two or three weeks, preferably outdoors if dry enough (they should not get wet), until the skins are brittle. Before transferring to nets (nylon tights will do) or making a traditional onion string, inspect them carefully and remove any which show signs of damage and use immediately. Store the remainder in a cool (but frost-free), well-lit, dry place.


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Onion Fly (onedot3 - 12:10 03/05/2013) Report inappropriate tip
Try growing onions with mint to confuse and deter onion fly
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