Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ready, Set, Onion!

Dayo has the greatest knack of settling down into places providing both security and good views.

He is checking out if I will harvest something interesting, like pork, fish, or milk.

The garden guides my activity.  It says it's time to harvest the last of the winter crops to make room for warm-weather varieties.

Garden-fresh Brussels sprouts have a delectable nutty, slightly sweet taste

Solid honey or carrots? 

Leeks ready to be thoroughly washed

The last of the mâche (superb fresh greens all through winter)

Home-grown onions are wonderful.  Though proper carmelizing of onions is essential for a really good French Onion soup, home-grown onions take it to another level.  The main types are regular (Allium Cepa) and potato/multiplier onions (Allium Cepa var. aggregatum, that is, perennial onions once used in home gardens and fast becoming popular again).  Onions can be grown via seeds, transplants, and sets.  Seeds need more time from sowing to harvest, while transplants and sets take less time. However, there are usually many more intriguing varieties available as seeds. 

For regular onions, I prefer to use sets which are just tiny immature onions.  If planted thickly, some can be harvested as scallions/green onions before reaching maturity, allowing more space for the rest to mature fully.  Onions planted in early spring will be ready for harvest by July.

Block bed containing around 250 Stuttgart onion sets

With my trusty rake, I make short furrows down the whole bed, placing the sets around four inches apart (for harvesting some immature onions as scallions, place closer together) and about one inch deep.  If a bit more depth is required for some of the huskier ones, deepen the furrow with a finger tip and gently place the set, taking care not to press down, as the basal plate can get damaged.  I discard any soft, damaged, rotten sets.  

With the back of the rake I first cover the rows with soil, then tamp down the bed, and finally water well.   If the birds consistently pull out the baby onions by their tops, I cover the bed with horticultural fleece.  So far,  just one set was yanked out (and dutifully replanted). There is no need for labelling as the entire bed is filled with onions.

Onions putting out green growth about a week later

The rather bossy lettuce seedlings are telling me to transplant them now.  Off I go! 


General information on soil preparation for sowing
Leek and Potato soup recipe (cleaning instructions for leeks included)
Fertilising young onion plants


  1. My family and I are big onion fans and talked about creating a planting bed to grow them. Will have my husband read this. As always, wonderful photos, Michelle. I especially like the shot of your adorable cat.


  2. Thanks, Lahn. Dayo is a joy every day and such an excellent garden companion.