Archive for the 'Alliums' Category

Onions, leeks, garlic, shallots

Of onions and volcanoes

Onion setsWretched climate. It’s astonishing how it can be so warm (18C yesterday), yet everything look so lifeless. I planted these onion sets three weeks ago; they’re making very slow and feeble growth.

Might have to get used to it, though, if the Icelandic volcano keeps erupting. Being me, I’m ghoulishly attracted to the doomiest predictions – that Eyjafjallajoekull will erupt for years, that north European air traffic will be semi-permanently disrupted, that trade will be decimated etc etc.

From a gardener’s point of a view, a year without a summer would clearly be tedious. But uncharacteristically, I see silver linings everywhere. To wit:

  • Silence. I live not a million miles from Heathrow airport, and to be liberated from the 24/7 whine of jet engines is blissful
  • No tourists. OK, so hotels and attractions will suffer – for which my sympathies. But the rest of us get a break from snap-happy, shuffling, sweating, gormless holidaymakers in London (I would set aside a special sort of Hell for those filthy, dreadlocked backpackers who insist upon using the London Underground during rush hour)
  • A boost for shipping and trains – civilised forms of transport both. Plus it will be delightful seeing companies doing more conference-calling and video link-ups etc to avoid flying. In my own experience, most corporate air travel is strictly unnecessary – more about a company-funded jolly hundreds of miles from the spouse than for any essential business purpose

Posted on 18th April 2010
Under: Alliums | 12 Comments »

New Soilman: Real work for the weekend

Right, it’s all change. No more non-gardening, non-blogging and non-doing.

This weekend, a multitude of jobs WILL get done:

  • Planting raspberries (maybe even staking them and rigging wiring for support)
  • Planting First Early potatoes
  • Planting onion sets
  • Digging up remaining Jerusalem artichokes and replanting a new row
  • Digging over roots bed
  • Weeding
  • Hoeing
  • Saving the planet and getting the girl

All in a day’s work for New Soilman (it’s like New Labour: full of promises and relaunches, but always the same old bollocks).

Posted on 19th March 2010
Under: Alliums, Fruit, Potatoes | 14 Comments »

Of lousy leeks

Crap leeksI’m still bitter about my shitty leeks. Like an Ethiopian airliner, they just failed to take off (can’t believe I typed that. I’m going straight to hell).

Here’s the enigma: I grow leeks for three straight years and they’re brilliant. Fat, healthy, perfect. Then they’re a washout for two years; a total disaster.

And I’ve done everything the same. No variation, no eccentricities.

The old boys at the plot mutter darkly about leek moth, but none of mine have any peculiar colourings, or other symptoms. They just haven’t grown.

I turn these things over in my mind during the long, dark nights. Never any answers, just more questions.

And so the winter passes.

Posted on 26th January 2010
Under: Alliums | 13 Comments »

Onions, douze points. Garlic, nul points

Onions drying after harvestProbably my best ever crop of onions. They’re nearly all big and sound; only had to eat two in a hurry (they had a bit of mildew and wouldn’t store).

The garlic, on the other hand, has been my worst ever crop. A total rust disaster.

Tiny garlic bulbsThese are the biggest bulbs I could harvest – only a dozen from two 15ft rows. I’m a bit gutted, but it’s hardly a surprise. The garlic has been getting more and more badly affected by rust every year.

So, albeit with a heavy heart, I’m making a Big Decision: I’m giving up on garlic. I’m a big believer in the WC Fields axiom: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give up. No point making a damn fool of yourself.”

Posted on 6th August 2009
Under: Alliums | 12 Comments »

Soilman: Knows his onions. Er, mostly

Drying onions“That Soilman, he knows his onions.”

Unfortunately I didn’t overhear this, and in the wider sense it IS bollocks. If you want proof, consider my shitty leeks. Failures? You bet.

But insofar as we’re talking about onions, I do pride myself on having the knack of growing good ones. My ‘secret’: Lots of humus, not too much nitrogen and not too much water (ie don’t water them too much, even in hot weather. They like a bit of drought).

All academic, of course, when there’s downy mildew about; two years ago, my crop was all but destroyed by it.

Moral: Even when you know what you’re doing, you can still cock it right up.

Posted on 21st July 2009
Under: Alliums | 4 Comments »

Gherkins and Leeks

Salted gherkinsWell first the good news: I have more gherkins than I’ve ever had… ever. Tons of the buggers. More than 30 already, and they’re only just getting started. Wife is salting them furiously, but we still can’t keep up.

Now for bad news: I think I’m on course for a 100% crop failure.

It’s the leeks, the ones I put in so confidently a few weeks ago. Not only have they not grown, they’re now dying. Slowly.

Why? Haven’t a clue. It’s not anything obvious – I’ve checked all the major allium diseases. The buggers have just decided to cop it.

Which is depressing the hell out of me. Mostly because I know it’s my fault: if I’d been to the plot more often, I’d probably have caught it earlier – whatever it is – and been able to take remedial action.

But I couldn’t, because I have no time. It’s a refrain of my life. I do everything by schedule, snatching minutes here, seconds there.

Jeez, even in the khazi I’m usually crapping against the clock. Most of the time, I long to scream: “Just give me five minutes, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!”

Posted on 16th July 2009
Under: Alliums, Cucurbits | 12 Comments »

Leeks 2009: Can’t be worse than last year…

Leeks planted outHot today. First time I’ve been able to type that this year.

Things are coming very early because of the decent weather. The corn is chest high, my first and second early potatoes are all ready – gone over, actually – and there are cauliflowers splurging heads all over the place. Extraordinary.

I hope these leeks will do better than last year’s crop, which was shit. It rained so much the wretched things never really got started. If the sun keeps shining, these will be whoppers.

The weeds are turbo-charged at the moment. I was weeding for 90 mins this morning and achieved two tenths of bugger-all. Turn your back and they grow six inches in 10 mins.

Posted on 27th June 2009
Under: Alliums | 8 Comments »

Garlic rust: the early symptoms…

Onions and garlic

Onions have done well. This warm weather we’ve been having is making them grow super fast.

Unfortunately, the garlic (very kindly donated by Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots)  is showing early signs of garlic rust. See the yellowing leaf tips of the plants (on the right). Patrick’s a mine of information about rust, but he too says he’s seeing warning signs of the disease.

Can’t say it’s any great surprise – I get rust every year – but I never get used to the disappointment. Just once I’d love to raise a pure, clean crop of fat garlic bulbs untainted (and unstunted) by rust.


Posted on 31st May 2009
Under: Alliums, Peas and beans | 10 Comments »

Onion sets sending up shoots

Onion sets sproutingThe onion sets are sprouting nicely. Only three got pulled up by birds, which is a result; most years I can count on replanting 30% thanks to the magpies.

Less good news is that weeds are already rampant. I’ve decided that the World’s Worst Weed is definitely couch grass.

I know, I know: Marestail is ineradicable, but at least it’s fairly easy to control. Ditto brambles and nettles, which both hate determined cultivation.

Couch, on the other hand, is the Daddy of weeds. I hack it up, grub it up, pull it up and rip it out. I burn it, bury it, hoe it and bin it. Couch destruction figures in my dreams.

But there it always is, waiting for me every time I visit the allotment. On my plot, Couch is King.

What’s your most loathed weed?

Posted on 10th April 2009
Under: Alliums, Asparagus, Weeds | 11 Comments »

Planting onion sets for Spring!

How to plant onion sets

It’s here again: Spring. Official!

Well, not quite official… but March 8th is good enough for me.

Spring means planting onion sets and potatoes. So I made a start on the onions today by planting four rows. I bury them about 5″ apart, and deep enough so that only the very tip of the sets are just showing. Any shallower and the birds pull them up, meaning you have to do the whole wretched procedure all over again.

Still haven’t done anything about my new allotment extension. Neighbours report that the soil is seething with live bramble roots and is a bugger to dig. Which is comforting.

Posted on 8th March 2009
Under: Alliums, Spring | 13 Comments »