Archive for the 'Alliums' Category

Onions, leeks, garlic, shallots

Grow it and save

OnionsWell, I’m back on the job. Got the onion sets in a few weeks ago, and they’re now starting to put on some growth.

After years of spending a fortune on my allotment, in the sure and certain knowledge that my veg was costing far more to grow than to buy (and whingeing about it – see here), I’m now beginning to think it may start to pay.

Why? For the same reason that refining oil from tar sands, expensively, is now attractive: the cost of food in the shops (and oil from Saudi Arabia) has soared. Growing your own suddenly looks much better value.

Given that food price increases are likely to continue (and not just in the USA), I reckon an allotment may soon be a money-saver.

Posted on 12th April 2014
Under: Alliums | 1 Comment »

Onions in, stress out

drying onionsI’ve got the relieved feeling that comes at this time of year when I’m gathering a harvest. After five months of non-stop rain, it’s a miracle that anything’s done well.

And some things have. These onions, for example. I wouldn’t have put any money on a good outcome in May. But they toughed out the shit weather and put on some solid growth.

Ditto the infamous sweetcorn. I would have sworn – and almost did – that it was going to be an outright failure. The cobs aren’t terribly sweet, it’s true. But I have lots of them and they’re a good size. Who’d-a-thunk it?

I’ve been growing veg for quite a while now, and I’ll freely admit to utter bafflement as to cause/effect/reason. Most of the time, it’s a fucking mystery.

But for me, I think that’s part of the attraction. Watching a tiny seed grow into something 100s of times the size is magical. The whole process is utterly mysterious and quasi-religious.

So when some things work and others don’t – and I haven’t a clue why – it’s a humbling reminder of how primitive, pre-literate mankind must have felt most of the time. Correction: All of the time.

In matters of life and death, that must have been terrifying. For me, in gardening, it’s a mystical experience in the 21st century.

Posted on 18th August 2012
Under: Alliums | 7 Comments »

Onion sets are away

onion setsI always find this effect vaguely amusing. As onion sets start to sprout, the outer skin often detaches itself and ends up sitting on the new shoot like a bishop’s mitre.

The onions are loving the deluge; this time last year I was frantically watering them – daily – to ensure they rooted. This year they’re drowning.

PS Many thanks to all for kind words in response to last post. I’ve pulled myself together and will try not to moan so much…

PPS Looks like a good year to test my theory about downy mildew on onions. I reckon cold, damp weather in early season is the cause. So 2012 should be a bumper mildew year.


Posted on 23rd April 2012
Under: Alliums | 6 Comments »

Strawberries are go!

Strawberry runnes They came in the post Friday pm (variety: Cambridge Favourite), so today I hoiked ’em in. God knows if I’ve done it right. Never even seen a bare-root strawberry before. I just buried the roots and left the crown above the soil, then gave them a good watering.

This will work… right?

Onion setsIn other news, the onion sets are now planted as well (click the thumbnail to enlarge). I had to water them in, incredibly. The ground is so dry – already – that clouds of dust fly up the moment you put a spade in.

God knows what it will be like come July. But obviously, being me, I fear the worst.

Posted on 1st April 2012
Under: Alliums, Fruit | 15 Comments »

Harvesting in the weeds

mixed allotment produceSo here’s a small selection of vegetables produced on the ‘unacceptably weedy’ Soilman allotment. And there’s a shit load more where they came from.

Weeds there may be, but I’m getting a bumper harvest. In fact, there’s usually a correlation between the amount of weed and the size of my harvest. In a good growing year, you get a lot of weed. Surprise!

I’m over the warning letter now. Have moved from irritation to resignation. If folks insist upon being cunts, there’s not much I can do about it.

huge onionInstead, I’m busy drying my monster onions and preparing for the big potato harvest tomorrow. It’s a month early because we’ve had a major attack of potato blight this year. My maincrop spuds lost the last of their foliage about a fortnight ago – so I’m not expecting a best-ever potato crop.

Still, I’m excited… because a preliminary dig in among the Golden Wonder mounds revealed some monsters. Looks like they’ve done OK, even with blight.

Posted on 20th August 2011
Under: Alliums, Cucurbits, Potatoes, Roots | 11 Comments »

All work, no play

onionsSummer time, and the living is shitty.

So much to do: I spent an hour (well, 54 minutes) after work last night harvesting these onions. They’re flawless and huge – one of my best ever crops – but time is always against me.

I love being at my plot on a warm evening. It’s one of my favourite places to be. But the pleasure is always diluted by the paranoid clock-watching.

I should just give up and get my eyeballs glued permanently to the face of my watch. Then if I have another arm grafted on to my torso, I may be better equipped for the modern world.

Posted on 2nd August 2011
Under: Alliums | 4 Comments »

How to dry and store onions for winter

onions dryingThe unpatented Soilman Onion Preservation Process, in  steps:

1. Pull up onions. Leaving the stems on, pile them in a heap under glass/plastic for about 10 days
2. When the stems have dried and shrunk, cut them off about three inches above the bulb proper
3. Leave onions for another month or so, until fully dry
4. Peel off the loosest papery skin and store in mesh bags, suspended from the ceiling in a cool, dark place

Works for me.

Posted on 22nd July 2011
Under: Alliums | 6 Comments »

How to plant onion sets

onion setsRight. For all of you folks wanting to know how to plant onion sets…. here it is. The ultimate, definitive ‘how to’.

(For those of you wondering what I’m on about, trust me: there are LOADS of people who want to know how to do this. How do I know? Because I get spectacular numbers coming to the site from a ‘how to plant onion sets’ search in Google).

It’s piss easy. In 3 steps:

  • Dig and rake over your onion bed for a smooth, level surface (I flatten my soil with a plank so I can place the sets perfectly)
  • To plant each set, make a small hole about a inch deep with a finger, put in the set and gently firm soil around it to leave only the top ‘tail’ sticking above soil surface. DO NOT PUSH SETS INTO HARD SOIL – it damages their tiny roots
  • Plant sets at least six inches (15cm) apart (preferably a little more) in rows a foot (30cm) apart

Er, that’s it. Honest – no mystery.

All you have to do now is weed the beds regularly and water in very dry weather (don’t water too often, though – onions tolerate and even prefer a bit of drought).

Posted on 6th April 2011
Under: Alliums | 4 Comments »

Smallest onions in the world

small onionsI cunningly shot these to look bigger than they are. Then I remembered my blog’s mission: ruthless honesty.

So here’s the truth: they’re bloody tiny. Some are barely bigger than the sets I planted back in March. For scale, the wires on the rack are about 4cm apart.

Oddly, though (especially odd given my usual gloomy outlook on these things), I’m strangely nonchalant about this. In fact, it barely registers on my give-a-fuck-o-meter.

Because I have genuinely given up on this season, psychologically speaking.

Posted on 31st July 2010
Under: Alliums | 15 Comments »

Downy mildew: NOT just for cool, wet seasons

Downy mildewDowny mildew is a bugger. “A disease of cool, damp seasons,” opines Dr Hessayon, my usual consultant on these matters.

Utter bollocks, sadly (though Hessayon’s rarely wrong). We’re having one of the hottest, driest summers ever – and I’ve still got mildew.

Last year we had one of the wettest summers ever, and I had the best onions I’ve ever grown. Row upon row of flawless whoppers… which stored perfectly. In fact, we’re still eating them.

My theory is that mildew is caused not by damp and cold in summer, but in early Spring. We had dream Spring weather last year, and I reaped the rewards.

Not so 2010, which is turning out to be pretty dire for vegetable growers – at least, round my way. I’ve never had such a lousy crop of almost everything.

How are you doing?

Posted on 7th July 2010
Under: Alliums, Diseases | 14 Comments »