Autumn onion sets

An exciting moment in my gardening calendar happened in the week. My onion sets were delivered.

Now, this news may not be on the top of everyone’s ‘exciting things to happen list’, but it’s up there with the best of mine.

Onions can be raised either from sets (little onions) or from seed. Sets can go in during the autumn or spring, depending on the variety, and seeds tend to be planted in the spring. The delivery of my autumn onion sets signifies for me the close of one year’s gardening, and the opening up of the next one. This means I can conveniently forget all about the stuff that didn’t do so well last year, and instead look forward to all the lovely success stories I can regale, sorry, bore my family and friends with next year.

As this season’s onions were not the best, I’m hedging my bets and trying out all possible methods of growing them: sets in the autumn, followed by seeds in the spring. First up, the sets delivered last week – which incidentally, should now be available in garden centres too.

Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather at the weekend, I dashed off down the garden with my bag of ‘Electric Red’ sets and raked over an area of last year’s brassica bed. When the soil looked half decent, I set about the planting. In no time at all, the entire pack was popped in, root end down, wispy end up, with about 15cm between each bulb, and just deep enough that the wispy bit’s still in view. To give them the best possible start, I even sprinkled a couple of handfuls of fish and bone meal around the plants, in the hope the rain would deliver this through the soil at some point.

A quick furtle around in the shed produced a couple of garlic bulbs grown last year. Splitting off each of the cloves, these were soon poked into the soil, in much the same way. All that was left to do now was to keep the birds off them while they get established. Birds think the bits sticking out are tasty treats just for them, and it’s not uncommon to find tiny onions strewn all over the place where they’ve pulled them out. Once the green shoots appear, they become less appealing.

So, I rigged up a couple of canes on each end of the bed, tied string between, and hung a couple of old CDs along the length: I tend to save the free ones that sometimes come with the Sunday papers.

Unless our birds are closet Cliff Richard fans, our onions should be safe.

Article as appeared in The Hinckley Times

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