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 »

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 »

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 »

Planting the first earlies… at last

Planting first early potatoesI’ve waited for this for what feels like a year. I’ve been desperate to get the bloody potatoes in, but Life has conspired against me for weeks.

It was a lovely afternoon, but Nature is slow to bestir Herself this year. I saw my first daffodil on Wednesday (a pretty mangy specimen), but of Spring there is still barely a sign. No Forsythia, no Camellias, nothing. Have you seen any?

Folks keep saying a hot summer follows a cold winter. But the summer of 1963, following the ‘Great Freeze’ of 62/63, was apparently unremarkable… so I’m not holding my breath. This Global Warming thingamajig ain’t all it’s cracked up to be – in the UK, at any rate.

Posted on 21st March 2010
Under: Potatoes | 11 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 »