Grow onions and spring onions from seed, for large harvests of high quality

by: Charles Dowding

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this is about growing onions and salad onions in fact sometimes called spring onions you grow them in exactly the same way well not quite exactly but so similar that we can cover it all in one film and I'll point out the differences as we go along in this case I'm filling a tray with some homemade compost that I put through a very rough sieve you could also use any multi-purpose compost it doesn't have to be specifically seed compost the main thing is that there's some drainage capabilities the worst thing for seeds is compost that lies wet and soggy I'm pushing it in because that means I can get a decent amount of compost when compost is light and fluffy it's better to firm it in before sewing or pricking out and that way you've got a nice firm medium which won't all fall apart when you push it out at the planting time so the seeds I see some home safe seed actually which makes it a bit different not so perfect looking little clusters but a lot of nice seeds there I filled a tray with compost you want reasonable size cells four centimeters just over an inch so that there's a decent amount of compost there onion seedlings are surprisingly hungry even though they look quite thin and meager so I'm being not exactly precise here but I'm aiming for six eight even seeds per cell and it can be that you could go even more if you want spring onions you could do up to ten seeds per cell and you'll be planting these out as a clump not thinning them out and well you've got your bunch of spring onions in that case but even if it's bulb onions they are very happy growing together being planted together as a clump and what it means is you get say four or five medium onions little block instead of if you thin them down to one you would get one big one and on the whole it works out more efficient you seem to get more onions and you certainly get a bigger crop compared to the amount of compost you've used and the amount of space needed in a greenhouse for example so this is February lake winter and it's about as early as you want to sow onions in the first half of the year you could have sowed these one can sow them in late August right at the end of summer it's a plant arity and early autumn or so them direct in late summer early autumn and that way they stand the winter of small plants and I do that every year actually for spring is there are some out in the garden now which are looking really well they've had quite a bit of frost on them and cold weather but onions are very tolerant of that you don't need to worry about cold on onions is really you do want to get them going early because what happens then is they have more time to grow their to some extent anyway they're triggered by daylight so onion bulb formation begins around the time that days start is shortened which means that if you can get your onions in the ground in good time you have more chance of getting a decent sized bulb because they would have put on quite a bit of leafing and root general plant growth before the energy goes into making bulbs and on that note just one quick word on sets you can also grow in is from sets as opposed to seeds and the sets do not want to go in early because they are already a slightly grown small onion and if you plant them too early it triggers that small onion into thinking it's been through a winter and then it will flower rather than making a bulb so sets do not plant them before the spring equinox that's my advice where a seeds you can sow even in late winter as we are here and having solar trays I'm giving a light gentle water from above with a fine rose on the can this compost was quite moist so I'm not watering a lot sometimes you might need to order a bit more and then let them drain and put them wherever you want to let them grow basically in this case it's winter so I'm bringing them indoors to the house where they're warmer for planting our onions are hardy plants they resist some Frost cold weather and you can pop them in early spring its 30th of March today so this is a good average time to plant them and I'm making holes for the modules which I sowed them into four or five weeks ago and they're multi sown as we saw at different times so here we have four five six onions in a clump and I'm putting them in quite deep this is a variety of normal barb onion yellow onions you could plant them when they're bigger than this on the whole I find that plants do really well when they go in quite small because that gives them more chance of establishing quickly with less root disturbance and you can see how quick it is if you make a little hole pop it in I'm also leaning on the bed a bit as I'm sure you've noticed and all I'm doing really is pushing the compost dance that doesn't matter and that now is a row of onions is eight plants times average five probably 40 onions potentially there which are going to be then fleeced over to grow on for harvest in the summer the onion family has huge versatility and look at these onions here which I sowed in late August last year this is now April so they're coming up eight months old am i multi serve them in a clump six to eight even some of them had ten seeds actually so a lot of onions they're already taken out one of the two big ones for most of these clumps and this is what I'm doing thinning out as I harvest so twisting out the largest one there or two and then to get them ready for table all you need to do is peel off the outer sheath like that and you have a lovely spring onion and the reason these look a bit yellow and grotty is because they have been here all winter so these are just be standing here without any protection whatsoever no fleece or mash or cloche they have frost and hail and lots of rain and wind and yeah you know they're now really growing strongly and giving lots of lovely food so that is one option you have so them in late summer in this case August

here we are ten weeks later and these are the clumps of onion seed that I sowed in February planted in March so it's now 14 weeks since they were sown ten weeks since they were planted here they've had some fleece over to help them through the cold weather of late March and April when it was quite frosty they don't mind being frozen but keeping cold winds off speeds their early growth so that's how I'm already there a good sized onion suitable very suitable for harvesting a spring on it now if if I want to keep these all to grow into bulb onions which they will do it's a bulb onion varieties stir on and I'll let all these grow I'll have nine in this case this nine here quite small onions rather than say four or five medium size or if there's only one or two really big so your choice entirely so what you can do at this stage is gently pull and twist cajole some of these onions out of the clump to thin them out and that gives a harvest of a spring onion even though this is a bulb onion variety because at this stage of growth spring onions basically it's it's an immature onion which hasn't yet build up so it's more stem than bulb and you can see I can just peel off the little sheath of old leaf there and that's nice spring is and I'm going to actually go through and do all of these in the next week or ten days we're going to have pieces of spring onions because I want to get all of these clumps which are four balboni's down to four or five and then we'll see them late July probably in about another two months how they've swelled up in their final stage of growth making bolt

now it's middle of July and it's onion harvest time five months after they were sown these multi stone blocks of onions are ready to come out how do you judge when to harvest an onion do you see how the tops are all gone flat I did help them a bit they've gone down more than half two thirds and for me that's the sign that harvest is approaching there's always a few that tend to stand up and and it's good to push those ones over so that they it softens the neck sometimes otherwise they couldn't develop it a long stem in a neck that doesn't drive very well so I pushed the remaining ones down so they're all down now the neck of each onion is bent over at right angles and even in the last few days actually I've noticed the bulbs swelling a bit it's a very joyful sight so when you can see that not only is there a good sized onion there but but they're starting to color up as well the tops are still green so it's not a question of waiting for the tops to go yellow and you can see have four or five onions in a clump quite close based even where we've taken some spring honey's out back in May we're giving a hell of a harvest if it's going to be fascinating to dry these off a bit and then weigh them to see what there is so in terms of drying what I'm going to do is put them in a crate with in such a way that you wouldn't have it so that there's some air around the leaves this crate is now going to go undercover on a pallet in my compost bay it could go in a greenhouse it could go in a garage on a table that's all good or if your climate is quite reliably dry you could put it your crates of onions or even just loose onions on on the soil if you just leave them like this to dry in the Sun so it's up to you how you do but they do want to have a period of drying with air around the the pot the stalks which are still green so that they cure and dry and then they will store well through the winter even until the spring last year we harvested onions like this in the middle of July and I got the nice and dry over about a month and then with the dry tops punch them hang them up in the house and we were still using them in the following 8 course so from harvesting now that you've got a nine month period of usage for that onion what a great vegetable to grow it's fun to grow lovely to harvest and they store you've got sweet food over a long period

More from this creator:
Onions from seed have less disease problems than onions from sets. I show a simple multisow method to start them undercover, and the high yield of bulbs - 12kg/26.4lb from 8 modules. Plus a harvest of 1.3kg/2.8lb spring onions. Also see how to grow early spring onions, from a sowing in late summer. Filmed and edited by Edward Dowding February to July 2017 in my no dig garden at Homeacres. More info in my books and website, such as this page on multisowing lots of different veg

and my twice monthly blog such as first sowings in

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