Grow Your Own Onions
Onion is virtually indispensable in the kitchen. Chopped finely and softened in olive oil or butter onion can be used as a base for curries, soups, stews and casseroles. Large onions are delicious baked whole or ringed, battered and deep-fried. Whole, small onions make an excellent addition to stews and the smallest onion of all, the spring onion, is an essential ingredient for summer salads.
How to Grow OnionsDifferent types of onion can flourish in the garden for most of the growing season and if carefully stored some varieties will be available during the winter months.
A sunny, open site with well-drained soil is suitable for growing onions. Dig the site well during the autumn prior to spring sowing or planting incorporating plenty of well-rotted compost or
manure into the soil.
Onions do not like an acid soil but adding lime can help.
Before sowing or planting out choose a dry day and rake the onion bed over. Tread the soil down well and then rake again so that the soil is fine and level.
Sow onion seeds in mid-winter (indoors or in a heated greenhouse) or in the prepared bed in early spring.
When the seedlings have come out of the “crook stage” and have straightened up, they should be thinned out. Thin again later to two inches apart. Do not bruise discarded seedlings and dispose of them carefully so as not to attract onion fly.
Seedlings which have been brought on indoors should be planted out two inches apart with nine inches between the rows. Make sure the onion roots go straight down the prepared hole and then plant the bulb half an inch below the surface. Firm in well.
Sow spring onions in rows four inches apart. They should not need thinning. They can be sown in succession providing a crop for six months or more.
Keep the onion bed weed-free by careful hoeing and hand-weeding. Water the onions only during dry spells and remove any flower heads that appear.
If your soil is wet and heavy buying onion sets might be a better option than sowing seeds. Sets come as tiny onions ready to plant out. Cut off any damaged foliage and set the onions in the soil tow inches apart so the bases are just below the soil.
Pests and DieseasesHere are some of the most common pests and diseases that can affect onions:
Symptoms: Drooping leaves. The young plants are killed by maggots burrowing into the onion bulbs.
Prevention: Do not leave thinnings or damaged leaves on the ground. Destroy them. Firm the soil around the onions.
Solution: Lift onions and burn them.
Symptoms: Very dark green, drooping leaves.
Prevention: Make sure that all manure used is very well rotted.
Solution: Water with a tomato food.
Symptoms: Leaves become covered in a grey mould and the plants die back. Onion bulbs become soft and will not store.
Prevention: Watch out for it in cool, damp weather especially if your soil is poorly drained.
Solution: Make sure the onion bed is an open position and that the soil is well drained.