Onion sets and allotment neighbours


One of the great things about keeping an allotment is having allotment-neighbours. Our allotment-neighbour, Tom, is a mine of information on vegetable gardening. He is also very generous with his plants, and regularly passes his surplus seedlings over the fence to us – always gratefully received!

I’d never bothered to grow onions before, reasoning that they are cheap and plentiful in the shops, and that I would rather give my allotment space to more expensive or unusual veggies. However, last year, Tom gave us about forty onion seedlings, which we plonked straight into one of our no-dig vegetable beds. They grew like crazy. Tom lent us an onion hoe to deal with the weeds. I’d never encountered an onion hoe before, but it’s a super little tool – it has a swan neck, and lets you grub up weeds quite close to your onion bulbs without damaging your precious veg.

We ended up with a bumper crop of white onions, which we cured in the sun before braiding them for storage. They easily carried us through the portion of the year where it is hard to find UK-origin onions for sale in the supermarkets, and they were utterly delicious – crisp in texture and strong in flavour.

I really want to do the same again this year, so rather than rely on hand-outs from Tom, I’ve done a little bit of research on growing onions. It turns out that a lot of gardeners prefer growing onions from ‘sets’ – these are immature bulbs. Apparently they are less prone to onion fly and mildew than onions grown by seed, and because the bulb is already partially grown, they mature quickly – great for the impatient gardener! I’m getting them in this week, and they should crop by late summer.

Also on my list of things to do this week is another successional sowing of spinach and lettuce, and to sow my leeks – we pulled up the very last of our leeks just a few days ago! Squash and melons are also on my list – our buttercup squashes were incredible last year, so creamy and sweet – and I’m obsessed with cucumbers at the moment, so I will be sure to get a few of those on the go. (I must make sure to sow some extra, so that I have some to give to Tom!)

I have also been hardening off my broad bean seedlings in preparation for planting out. These will be going straight under a FIGO-frame with a veggie protection net over the top, as I have learned my lesson regarding broad bean plants and pigeons... Look out for pictures of that later this week!

Gabbie Chant
Author: Gabbie Chant

Gabbie is a writer, teacher and keen vegetable-grower. She also keeps five lovely little bantams, who get up to lots of mischief in her garden. She is lucky enough to rent a double allotment, in which she has plenty of space to build all sorts of exciting FIGO structures! You can get in touch with her at gabbie@figoframes.com

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