Onions are a kitchen pantry essential and compared to other vegetables are very easy to grow in poor soil. Plant onions seedlings to guarantee a good supply at the ready.
Autumn and winter are a great time to plant onions. They tolerate poor soils and dislike fresh fertiliser. Good drainage is essential — raised beds in an open, airy position can be ideal. Larger varieties need full sun and can tolerate wind. Small varieties can be grown in pots and can tolerate part shade. Plant seed or seedlings to the depth recommended on the packet and tamp the soil down gently around them. Thin the seedlings if there is more than one in each hole.
Onions are part of the Allium family which includes shallots, leeks, garlic and chives. Generally there are three main types of onions;
• Brown onion – strongest flavour, ideal for adding to meat dishes.
• White onion – softer flavour, use for salads and more delicate flavoured dishes.
• Red onion – sweeter flavour and is chosen for salads and sandwiches.
Different onion varieties have different ideal planting times and climatic conditions, check with your local garden centre for the best variety for your area.
Don’t cover maturing onions with soil if they break through the surface — this may rot them. Developing onions don’t need mulching. Hand weed if weeds are a problem near the roots bulb. Maintain even moisture levels but don’t overwater. Stop watering when leaves start to yellow.
How to harvest onions
Harvest when their green tops have dried off and become limp and brown. Onions can take up to eight months to grow. Immature bulbs can be pulled up and used as spring onions. After digging them up, leave them in a dry, position to harden off, then remove any excess roots and stem. String them in bundles or open weave bags and store in a well-ventilated room.
Pests and diseases of onions
Thrips can cause white spotting on the foliage. Combat these insects with Searles Bug Beater.