Ah, where would we be without onions? After potatoes, they are the next crop I think about growing for my family. We use spring onions and bulb onions every day in our cooking, so we tend to grow copious amounts on the allotment. We didn’t usually grow spring onions, as I have never had great success with them for some reason, I didn’t even have success with standard bulb onions in the previous 5 years either. We have just started again with spring onions this year and so far, so good.
Last year, something clicked and the bulb onions grew in abundance. We had months of onions stored as well as the trimmings to eat like spring onions, and the thinnings to eat too. I wish I knew what made the difference in why last year suddenly got successful, but I am still unsure to this day. My allotment neighbour says that it took her about 5 years to get real success from the soil on her plot too, so maybe it is just that?
Growing bulb onions from sets couldn’t be easier – you just push them into the ground, in Spring. Roots downwards, pointy tip up. I don’t cover them up much because I don’t have a problem with birds and other animals scratching them out. This is because of two reasons:
- There are several local cats who scare off or kill the birds, so the latter don’t even get a chance to scratch up my onions.
- I have heavy clay soil, so ince you push those onions in, they’re not going anywhere soon!
If you have birds or other animals around, then you might want to cover the onions with an inch of soil or less. Some people say you should leave the tip slightly showing, but I have had success with covering them completely as well as leaving them showing – I have not noticed any difference whatsoever.
Sowing from seed, at least in my area, only tends to be done by people wanting to grow huge onions or those sowing spring onions. You would sow bulb onion seeds in the Autumn or Winter, indoors in modules with a little heat, then plant out in Spring. I find that spring onions, leeks, and chives (all Allium – onion family veg) only really work if I sow them from seed in pots or modules and then plant out afterwards. I have never had success sowing these directly. This is probably just my heavy clay soil, so I have continued to sow as modules and then transplant. Bulb onions from sets are a lot easier and as of last year, very successful for me at least.
Best Onion Varieties to Try
These are the onions I have tried, so I know them (list contains affiliate links)
- Stuttgarter – these have worked well in the allotment, can also be bought as seed
- Sturon – you can buy the seeds but I always grow from sets and they have worked really well
- Red Baron – red onion variety. Not had great success with red onions in general, but these were okay. Great flavour actually
- White Lisbon – a spring onion pretty similar to what you find in the shops. Only ever had success when sown in modules and then planted out afterwards – I think this is my soil more than anything else.
- White Lisbon (Winter Hardy) – cold hardy version of the above. They tolerate really cold weather and need almost no protection when it’s frosty or snowy. I just use some basic, cheap quality agricultural fleece.
I am growing a lot more spring onions this year. I like transplanting modules where I’ve sown about 5 seeds in each square. This gives a nice little bunch to pick when they’re ready a few months later. It’s quite handy that way and the onions don’t seem to suffer by being next to each other. I have even seen a guy down the allotment have great success with sowing 3 bulb onions together. They all push out from each other as they grow, and there doesn’t seem to be any problem with his, so I’m definitely going to give this a try next year!
What are your favourite onion varieties? DO you prefer spring onions or bulb onions? Red or white? Or are you posh and prefer shallots 😉