This year, I’m going to grow enough onions.
I’ve never yet grown enough onions. I’ve got close-ish, with leeks and spring onions and chives as the support team, but never quite enough to last the whole year.
I have excuses. For the last thirty years I’ve been living in a subtropical climate not ideal for onions (or garlic). Here there is a limited window of opportunity for planting, a limited number of varieties to choose from, and a lot of ways to be seduced by seed catalogues into dud plantings. In my seed box are Welsh onions and potato onions and pearl onions and shallots that looked so good in the catalogue but behaved like Scotsmen when they found themselves in what used to be called “The Big Scrub”. We eat a lot of onions and since they all have to go in pretty much at the same time, they don’t fit well with my rolling successive planting style of gardening, or, for the last decade, with my intensively fenced “Up Gardening“.
It was a little bit of maths that led me to the resolution to try to grow enough storing onions to last out the year. I don’t know why I’ve never actually thought this through before. Average five onions a week (with leeks and perennial leeks and spring onions and chives to round it out) equals 250 onions a year. Add another 50 for casualties. Split into two plantings a month apart (the most I can manage here), in two beds, that’s 150 onions a planting. At 12 cm spacing, that’s just over two square metres in each of two beds, really not much space at all. I think I have been failing to appreciate how truly productive for space onions are.
I’m not getting seduced by seed catalogues this year. Most varieties of onions, especially the keeping varieties, are long day length which means they need the long days of summer at lower latitudes to set bulbs. This year I’m sticking to Hunter River Brown and Lockyer Brown varieties, both good keepers and bred for the shorter day lengths we have in summer this far north. I’m planting a box of seed of each, and will transplant them out into the garden next month, aiming for about 75 of each, planted in patches of about a dozen onions scattered throughout the bed. I’ll plant another box of each then, to be planted out in May. I’ll companion plant them with carrots but since I can plant carrots all year and I’m aiming for a year’s supply of onions in one go, it will be a token amount of carrots.
By the time I get a year’s supply of onions as well as a year’s supply of garlic both in, I’m going to be very glad zucchinis and squash don’t grow over winter. By the time they go in again, in September, I should be able to tell you how the onion challenge has gone.