Guide to Growing Onions
Guide to Growing Onions
Onions – Allium cepa
These require a long season of growth andpreparation should start in the autumn or early in the New Year particularly for exhibition purposes. A first sowing can be made in late summer or early autumn choosing a sheltered border. If it is not in good condition add a dressing of well decayed manure. Move the soil deeply tread it over to make it firm and raking it to remove any lumps.
Draw out drills 30 to 38cm apart and up to 2cm deep and in these sow the seed evenly. Lightly cover it with line soil and then give a light treading over the drills and rake level.
If cloches are employed these will be very useful in giving protection during severe weather. Where a heated greenhouse is available, seed can be sown in winter using boxes of fine nicely moist , lightly pressed down. Gradually harden off the for planting outdoors in early spring. Outdoor sowings in really fertile soil should be made in spring. Thin the seedlings well making sure to re-firm the soil.
Some growers leave the drills open until the seed begins to germinate. This enables the seed cases to be thrown off easily. As soon as the seedlings are developing well, and have made three or four leaves, they can be pricked out. This is done after they are hardened off.
The bed should then be trodden over again to make it firm, all stones, lumps, rubbish, etc., being removed. It is best to use a trowel so that the roots can go straight down. The base of the seedlings should be about 2cm below the surface. Onions vary greatly in size, colour, shape and keeping qualities. Where specially large onions are required for exhibition, space the seedlings about 25 to 30 cm apart.
Varieties. Ailsa Craig, Bedfordshire Champion, Flagon, James’ Keeping, Prizetaker, Reliance, (syn. Big Boy or Okay), Up-to-Date, Premier, Rousham Park Hero and White Spanish. For pickling use The Queen, Silver-Skinned Pickling or Barletta Barla, the latter being early maturing. The best variety for spring or salad onions is White Lisbon which should be sown thickly in spring or autumn.
Onion sets have been used during recent years and are useful where it is difficult to raise onions from seed. Planting is done in spring in shallow drills 30 cm apart and 2 cm deep. There are now several varieties available the best known being Stuttgarter Giant. Stuttgarter Reisen is another widely grown sort, but probably the best of all is Sturon, which is considered to be superior to other sorts. The rounded bulbs have an amber coloured skin and they grow to a very large size, the flavour being excellent.
The keeping quality of onions is largely influenced by the proper ripening and correct harvesting and drying of the bulbs. The foliage usually begins to yellow in summer and soon falls to the ground. At that time all watering and feeding should stop. Where the leaves do not topple naturally, they should be gently pulled down towards the soil.
Once the foliage is quite dead, lift the onions and lay them out to dry in a sunny position providing cover at night time. Alternatively, dry them gradually on the greenhouse staging or under cloches. Once the bulbs are really dry, remove the dead roots and dry skin and store in trays or if you can, rope them in the old fashioned way.
Onions, Japanese Bunching
This is a plant which retains its foliage throughout the winter. The leaves are excellent for flavouring, while their silvery white stems or scallions are valuable in salads. It is easily raised from seed.
The potato or underground onion is grown chiefly in Ireland and is of value where it is difficult to produce good onions from seeds. They like well-drained soil and an open but unexposed position. Plant in spring placing them 20 to 23 cm apart, with 30 cm between the rows.
Cover the bulbs with 2 cm of soil and during growth they will gradually work their way upwards. Towards the end of summer scrape the soil from the bulbs to encourage the ripening process. Before storing they must be thoroughly dried off or they will not keep well.
The tree or Egyptian onion is of Canadian origin, and useful where onion fly is troublesome. It grows about 120 m high and, in addition to the bulbs it forms in the ground, clusters of onions develop at the top of the stem. Valuable for pickling and flavouring, they are rather hot. Sets or bulbs can be planted in spring or autumn, placing them 25 to 30cm apart and 5cm deep. Leave them undisturbed for five years or so.
The Welsh onion is not Welsh at all but comes from Siberia! Very hardy, it does not form real bulbs but produces many white-based scallions or chibolds. These are used as spring onions. Sometimes known as Japanese, they like a well drained position.
Plants can be raised from seed sown in spring. Thin out the seedlings in the ordinary way, spacing them 6cm deep and 23 to 30cm apart. Dig up the entire plants and separate the stems for use.
Autumn Triumph, globe-shaped, flattened, large bulbs. Excellent keeper.
Giant Zittau, medium-sized, semi-flat bulbs, brown skinned. Keeps well.
Red Tripoli, has red outer skin and is sometimes sold as Red Italian. The bulbs are flattish and long.
Reliance, semi-globular bulbs. Excellent keeper and heavy cropper. Spring Sowing A.I., semi-globular bulbs, mild in flavour. Good keeper.
Bedfordshire Champion, globe-shaped bulbs of good size. Light brown skin, firm and excellent flavour.
James’s Keeping, medium size, firm flesh, reddish-brown skin shading to salmon-pink.
Up To Date, heavy cropper and good keeper. Uniform globular bulbs of good quality and weight. For Exhibition
Crossling’s Selected, the largest onion grown. Seed comes from Scotland.
Premier, a flattish, large bulb of pale straw colour. Very large and heavy. Buy a good strain.
Selected Ailsa Craig, pear-shaped large bulbs; dull, pale colour. As for Premier, strain is very important.
Pickling onions can be sown in poor soil. In April rake the soil level, sow the seed broadcast and rake again. Allow the bulbs to grow naturally, carrying out any handthat may be necessary. Do not thin. When the tops start to turn yellow-fork up the baby bulbs and leave them on the ground to ripen.
The two best varieties are Barletta, which produces early small white bulbs, and Paris Silver Skin, which produces early flat white bulbs.