Know your onions!
We are doing a trail to see how much work and what the yeilds are like using different methods. We would really like to find a self reliant way of growing onions from year to year without that anual pilgrimage to the garden centre to buy onion sets.
2009 we grew Bedfordshire champion and Red Baron from seed started in mudules very sucessfully although the planting out of 600 seedlings was hard work and the seedlings needed some care to get established.The yields were good, and the onions stored well.
We also had a couple of trays of each seedling we didn't have room to plant out, so we let them form mini bulbs in their seed trays and let them dry out over the summer, basically we grew what looked like our own onion sets.
2010 we are doing a trail to see which method is the most successful.
We have sown seed direct, planted the home grown onion sets, and planted out some more seedlings raised in modules. The results and progress will be posted on this page.
Progress so far, the onions sown direct almost all failed, so we planted that patch up with commercially produced sets. The home produced sets are growing strongly and are nearly ready.
The seedlings raised in trays and growing well but only about 50% survived the transplanting. We think this would have been better if more water had been applied but all the onions got the same treatment to make it a fair trial.
The home grown sets are ready and are the ones with the best success rate.
The Seed grown onions are ready with a good crop of large onions harvested(See photo). The sets for next year have grown and dried off sucessfully, and the seed from last years best onions is being saved.
Onions can be produced without the use of garden centres for free and for ever at home reducing your dependence on the global supply chain and reducing your use of fossil fuels. A little planning and organisation is required but the results are worth it.
So to start from scratch:
Sow bought seed, in trays(100-200seeds per full size tray) in the warmth in Feb to the beginning of March, move to cooler area once growing.
Plant some out when growing strongly about a month or 6 weeks later, growing some on in the trays until August.Suppliment your crop if required with bought in sets.
Harvest the planted out onions when ripe(August) saving the best 20 to use for seed the next year, dry these well and store seporately.
Stop watering the onions in trays in August leaving them somewhere to dry out(greenhouse, polytunnel)
September, harvest onion sets from trays when thoroughly dry, bag up and label for next year storing somewhere cool and dry.
March, sow your own grown sets outside, plus more store bought seed in trays for next years sets.
April plant out the 20 saved onions just like you would sets but in a block, let go to seed, save seed and start again next year using your own saved seed and your own grown sets! We have found we harvested enough seed not to need to save seed every year.