If you were watching the BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge last night you would have seen the contestants growing onions. Why not have a go at growing your own? Onions are a versatile crop, they are easy to grow and tend to be frost tolerant so a late sown crop can easily overwinter.
Onions can be raised from sets (specially raised small onions) or from seed. Those from sets will mature before those from seed and tend to be more resistant to mildew and onion fly. Growing from seed is a good economical option and there tends to be more choice available.
At Perrywood we have a wide range of onion seed available, including ‘Ailsa Craig’, which was an onion of choice for a couple of contestants on last night’s show. This variety is a good choice for the show bench, but equally impressive in the kitchen with it’s lovely mild flavour.
Here’s our simple guide for growing onions from seed:
Position: Open, sunny site with well-drained fertile soil
Preparation: Dig the soil in advance of sowing and incorporate plenty of well-rotten organic matter (preferably in the autumn), then in the spring, just before sowing, rake the soil to a fine tilth
Sowing: Direct sow in spring at a depth of 1cm and a distance of 30m between rows. Once germinated, thin the seedlings to 4cm apart. Onions will take around 12 to 18 weeks to mature. It is possible to sow onions in late summer or early autumn, they overwinter and take up to 48 weeks to mature
Care: Regular hand weeding or hoeing is important because onions do not like competition! Make sure the onions are kept watered but don’t overwater as this can lead to downy mildew
Harvest: Late summer
TOP TIP: Try growing mint alongside your onions to deter onion fly.
If you’d like to grow your onions from young plants rather than seed, at Perrywood we have a variety called ‘Bedfordshire Champion’ which produces large, globe shaped onions with a good mild flavour and clean white flesh. It is also an excellent variety for storing.