Growing Your Own Vegetables - Early Autumn Sowings
6th Sep 2003
Having had such a beautiful warm August, it's not too late to sow some onion seed with the resulting bulbs helping to fill the hungry gap during May and June next year. This has been traditionally called the hungry gap as it's the period when your onions in storage have finished and the normal Summer crop have yet to mature. It is however important to sow only those varieties that are going to be able to withstand the ravages of the winter months so that they can then be harvested from May through to July.
The varieties to select from are generally the Japanese onion types and the reason for sowing them as soon as you can now is to allow the seed sufficient time to germinate and grow on to be a strong seedling prior to the onset of cooler weather. Select a strip of land from your vegetable plot that won't interfere with your plans for next Spring's vegetable patch. An ideal area might be where you have just dug up you potatoes as the soil will be nice and friable and would initially have been dug over well for the potatoes. Rake the soil level and apply some general fertiliser at about 4 ounces to the yard. I have had some excellent results this year from using the new Westlands organic Growmore which has the same ratio as the traditional Growmore of 7:7:7.
aAs we have had a really dry hot summer this year, if we have not had any decent amount of rain prior to you sowing the seed, it's important that you thoroughly moisten the ground a day or two prior to sowing. Open a shallow furrow, half an inch or so deep and sow the seed thinly along the bottom and then cover them by pulling the soil over with a rake along the row, never across it. Make sure that you keep the soil moist until the onions have germinated. I would expect a relatively quick germination this season as the soil is really warm and you can expect them to pop their heads through in two to three weeks. There are a few to select from with Buffalo being one of my favourites, you can also try the following - Senshyu Semi–Globe Yellow, and Wolf F1 which has a strong tolerance to bolting.
This is a good time as well to sow a variety of Spring onion known as Guardsman, as the name implies, this variety looks amazing in the vegetable plot as it stays bolt upright. Sowing it now to over winter means that the onions will continue to grow on next spring. It's probably the most vigorous spring onion that I have ever grown and remarkably will continue to grow on well into late spring and summer, I have eaten this spring onion when it has been as big as a small leek and it's texture and flavour was still enjoyable and not too hot. Eat the spring onions with your salad as soon as they are big enough from early Spring, select them here and there along the row thereby leaving sufficient space for those left to develop to their optimum.
Autumn Onion Sets
Another option at this time is to plant Autumn Onion sets, in many ways these are probably even better and easier than growing them from seed. The onion sets really will root fast this year with the warm damp soil and should make a good size before winter. Treat the soil as above and plant them in a straight line leaving approximately three inches between each onion set. A good tip is to go through all the onion sets prior to planting and with a scissors remove the dried foliage down to the shoulder of the set. If these are planted out with the dried husk swirling in the wind, they seem to attract the birds who peck at them resulting in the onion being pulled out and left to waste on the ground.
Varieties that I recommend to grow from sets are the following : Electric Red (a red skinned onion) and Radar.