All about Onions
It is true, you can sow some varieties of onion in the summer and in early autumn too. You need to choose the right onions – hardier varieties & those specifically for overwintering do best. And then there are the Spring Onions that are also very happy to be sown in the summer, don’t be bamboozled by their name as they will be perfectly happy sown at this time of the year!
Give onions what they want and they will be happy…onions love fertile soil, well drained but not too dry. You can help give them the right conditions by creating an onion hummock (not to be confused with hammock that is an entirely different creation!). It is easy to do: cover your onion bed with about 4cm garden compost (also left over seed and potting compost from the spring but not manure), and fork this in. Around the bed dig a shallow channel and add that soil to your hummock as well and it will end up higher then when you started. This raised the soil level will help with drainage over the winter. Onions, particularly Spring Onions, are not keen on acid conditions so check with a pH kit if you are unsure and add lime if needed. Onions also like an open spot and hate weeds that will compete with them but that’s a job for the spring!
Sow in trays or modules or direct sow at no more than 10mm deep. I do prefer to start seeds in modules – 3-5 seeds in each and then I can plant them out together. As they grow they will push each other apart. I find sowing 1 seed in a module means the soil falls apart when you try to plant them so I have been trying a new method and it seems to work: I have lined each module around the sides only with a tube of newspaper (one or two layers only) so when I want to transplant I can pull out and plant the paper which holds the compost around the young roots and doesn’t disturb them. This is much less work then starting in trays and pricking out and then transplanting. For spring onions just stick to 5 seeds in each module as they don’t need the space for bulbs to swell up. Try both methods for yourself and see which works best for you (and let me know how you and your onions get on). Your onions need to be about 15cm tall by mid-October to do well over the winter, if they are not quite there then pop open ended cloches to give a bit of shelter whilst they settle.
You can even sow some spring onions through September and October too – great for stir fries as the weather cools down: good choices for this late crop are Eiffel, Entita, Tipika and Winter Hardy White Lisbon
Just as the moment your onion sown in spring will be approaching harvest. It is important to dry them before storage. We use a frame whish is best described as resembling a coffee table except the shelf is made of wire to spread the onions on and the top is a clear plastic sheet (ours is corrugated for strength) to keep the rain off. Home made and a bit rough and ready it does the trick and in the spring we use it to keep salad trays off the ground so they are not ready made snail grazing with the plastic top working like a cold frame. Now most will not have room for a dedicated drying rack, instead spread-out newspaper somewhere light, dry and airy and gently turn your onions over as they are drying on that. They need about 10 days for the skins to become papery. Use any that are bruised or damaged first.
And whilst your onions are drying in the sun … find a shady spot to sit and enjoy your garden, or perhaps swing in a hammock whilst all your other veggies are busy growing.