Weeding onion and garlic patches

Weeding onions and garlic patches is something I tend to put off during the winter months.

When I grow onions or garlic over the winter months, I usually plant the bulbs around October/November and I usually forget about them until the weather starts to pick up in the spring. I then complain about how small my onions and garlic are when it comes to harvesting them. I know the reason why I complain – it’s because I couldn’t be bothered to weed my patches early on in their growth.

I’ve read that onions generally don’t like too much competition from other plants, so keeping the patches relatively weed free should help the bulbs access water, space and nutrients a lot easier. It also helps give the onions and garlic a head start when other weeds do start to grow.

So, a couple of weekends ago now – I said to myself that this year of growing winter onions and garlic is going to be different and that I’m going to make the effort to try and keep everything as weed free as possible.

The temperature was low but the sun was shining, and it wasn’t raining so for the first time in 2018 I got on my hands and knees and meticulously weeded through my onion garlic patches, which hadn’t had any TLC since I planted them. They’re gone through torrential downpours, frosts and dried out by prevailed winds – so I was glad that I could actually get there and carry out the first weed of 2018.

It’s really important to keep your patches weed free, but it’s a job that you either love or hate. I would say that I’m somewhere in the middle when it comes to weeding. I haven’t made up my mind on whether it’s something I enjoy doing or not. Weeding is a job that is really quite boring but needs to be done – but on the other hand you really do get a great sense of gratification and hard work when it’s been done.

It took me around two sessions at the allotment to do both patches, which felt like quite a long time. That said, I’ve paved the way now for the rest of their growing life in the fact that I can probably get away with hoeing in between the plants every so often to minimise future weed growth.

I’m also doubly happy that I weeded the onion and garlic when I did because the Beast from the East is currently covering the UK and other parts of Europe in a blanket of snow. I’m not too worried about snow covering my onion and garlic sets. Snow can act as insulator to hardy plants for hardy onions and garlic. I’d be more worried of thick frosts wiping out the green tops!

Let’s hope I get a decent crop of troy and red winter onions as well as germindour , cristo and thermidrome garlic 🙂 wish me luck.

Do you enjoy weeding at this time of year? Please do let me know! 

Planting winter onions

I have to say, I was a little bit annoyed at the onions I tried to grow during the summer. They ended up too small and I was left feeling like I needn’t had bothered. I suspect that the soil I grew my onions in was a little bit on the heavy side and probably a little too rich with clay. I’ve never grown winter onions before, but I hope my autumnal onion efforts will this time pay off.

Trying to find winter onions in my local garden center was a mission in itself – thankfully Court Farm in Tolworth/Worcester Park came up trumps.

I’ve decided to grow two types of winter onions, Troy which is a white onion and Red Winter, which as the name suggests is a red winter onion. This time I’m growing them in a completely different spot than before, in two areas that have been nourished with material from the compost heap and gets good amounts of sunlight.

I dug over the two beds and removed the weeds as best I could – raking out any impurities from the ground. I had around 50 sets of each, so I could afford to have around seven bulbs to a row.

I planted the bulbs about an inch into the ground and covered the tops so to try and deter birds and foxes from disturbing the bulbs – however, I visited the plot and noticed that a couple of the birds had picked out a couple of bulbs and dropped them (they must think they’re worms or good nest material). This autumn has been a fairly dry one, so I’ve been sure to water these bulbs at least once a week to assist germination.

In the middle of the summer the leaves will start to die down – which means they’ll be ready for harvesting. Onions are a great staple to grow at the allotment – if stored properly they’ll last for days and even weeks.

Drying out Garlic, Shallots and Onions

You may remember that about seven our eight months ago now I planted some red sun and golden gourmet shallots, Casablanca garlic and Sturon onions into the ground.

Soon after planting the red sun, gourmet garlic into the ground I had a terrible problem with birds and squirrels pulling out the bulbs.  As a result the bulbs were very difficult to establish, but once they had taken root they soon started to grow.

By the time I planted the onions, I came across a neat trick to deter the birds from picking out the bulbs, however I’m little bit disappointed with this years result, they’re not very big and they’ve failed to swell.  I suspect that I may have planted them at the wrong time of year and this has caused a stunt in growth. Lesson learned.

But now the time has come to pull them out of the ground. You can harvest your garlic bulbs, shallots and onions once the tops of the bulb have fallen over and started to brown.  If you can, pick your onions in the morning when the temperature is lower.

If you plan on storing your onions for long period of time, then drying them out is essential. It’s really easy to dry out onions, you just lay them out on a dry surface and place that has good ventilation, like a shed, or in a porch or windowsill.

It’s great going into the shed after the onions have dried out, the place is filled with that sweet onion aroma only drying onions can produce.

Onions can take a few weeks to dry out and the outer layer will become brown and crisp. After that you would want to store the bulbs in a wire cage, nylon bag or hessian sack to reduce the risk of condensation forming.

If where you plan to store your onions is too damp, then you’ll find that some of your bulbs will begin to rot.

Planting Onion Sets: Sturon

Spring is upon us and we’re still in the thick of sowing season – next up on the agenda is the onions. I’ve got a bag of 80 Sturon onion sets, allowing me to plant at least 8 rows of 10 in my little patch.

Sturon onions is a favourite among growers for its reliability. So much so, it’s achieved an RHS Award of Garden Merit because of its reliability. Sturon is the variety you’re most likely to find at your local garden centre.

They’re said to keep well when dried, and will probably go brilliantly in a bolognese.

Generally, when you’re planting onions, you want to avoid planting them in manured soil. Pick a spot that has lengthy sun exposure and good drainage. Plant bulbs about 2cm in the ground, around 10-15 apart, which rows 20-30cm apart.

I’ve had a real issue with birds picking out the bulbs because they think that the tips of the bulbs are good for making nests, or because they think tips of the bulbs could be food.  My shallots have really suffered because of this.  To combat the onslaught brought by the birds, I’ve got two lengths of string and made an X over the bed – I hoping this will act as a bit of a deterrent.

Onion fly is also meant to be a little bit of a problem if you’re not planting these in raised beds, so later on in the year, I’ll be looking to plant some mint in the space that I have left at the end of the bed.  Mint, along with other herbs is a good deterrent to pests because of the mixture of scents.