Okay, let's be honest. Onions. Sigh. Onions and us. We have over the years had a bit of a hate-hate relationship with growing onions. When we were on an allotment down in Mottram many years ago we grew them coming out of our ears, at Drovers we had small but satisfying crops and we thought coming to a quarter acre garden would mean more onions. Onions store well and are a staple in the kitchen but this garden has a problem, it seems to hate onions, though it loves chives and spring onions. We have had onion harvests that have seen the inside of a pickling jar, onions that after fleece, after cloches, after a good old cuddle have vanished in open ground, we thought we cracked it with winter onions and even cherished this moment on film only for the following crop in the next year to fail again. We threw our hands in the air and yelled, 'Sod it, we're buying them from the market from now on'. Yet, they still call to us and we are stubborn growers. So we find ourselves planting onions in modules again.
We're turning to Stuttgarter onions sets this year and starting them off in modules -- the six tray ones readily available from garden centres and what most bedding plants come in. If you've never done this it's a way to get ahead of the birds and bugs that see a new onion set in the ground and thinks, 'I'll have a go at that'. Most damage from birds means that they are scattered around the original planting bed but the birds around here are somewhat tougher, meaner and wind swept. Think bald Arnold Schwarzenegger on a meat rampage. These birds lift the sets, take off with them (yes, we're thinking along the same lines as Monty Python and swifts with coconuts in Holy Grail) and then use them to bomb ramblers. Many a time have we heard from the back lane, 'I think someone just hit me with a shallot' -- very posh ramblers around here -- thank God we don't keep white vicious rabbits.
We put three shallots -- we mean onions -- into a module with general purpose compost. This year we're experimenting with our compost, adding coir and mycorrhiza but more on that at a later date. We want to get these onions growing and so they'll remain under glass until the roots starting showing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the modules and then they'll be hardened off over seven days and planted out in a prepared bed.
So, why plant three onions to a six module tray? Well, we're treating them a little like allotment block onions. As they grow they will push apart and form medium sized onions -- that's the theory and in past practice this has worked on allotments, in community gardens and on projects we've worked on but here has been rather miss than hit. So we will see. At least this way they won't take up as much room and if they fail we can hit them with some leeks. Don't forget that onions like a manured plot or good compost added to the bed a few months before planting. They can also grow well in window boxes too.