In between the freezing winds & squalls, we’ve had some beautiful sunny spells. Taking advantage of one such ceasefire, we tackled planting our Alliums: Garlic, Elephant Garlic, Shallots, Tree Onions, Californian Red & Pukekohe Longkeepers. We’ve put them in the bed that was used to grow spuds last summer. I looked up in a book, (after planting them) to see what was needed, & surprisingly we got it dead right. The Allium family like well fed soil, but not fresh manure, (we put compost on after the spuds,) & a scattering of wood ash. They would like seaweed if we had any too. The other thing is that they like firm soil, so it pays not to dig before you plant, leave the soil compacted. We kneel on a plank to plant the rows, & this helps to firm the soil too.

Alliums: Garlic, Elephant Garlic, Shallots, Tree Onions, Californian Red & Pukekohe Longkeepers

Traditionally all these veges are planted on the shortest day, there’s a fair bit of leeway but bear in mind that onions grow leaves in the cooler weather & bulbs in the warmer, so you want to get a good head start with the leaves. We get motivated when we notice that the garlic is starting to sprout. We don’t buy seed garlic or shallots, just save the best ones for the next season. We buy bundles of onion plants, from the garden centre or supermarket, & just trim off any damaged leaves. The other thing with onions is not to plant them too deeply, apparently it encourages ‘bullneck’, which is where the necks of the onions are fat & don’t dry off properly, this means they don’t store very well.

We’ve been looking at the King’s Seed catalogue, & think we’ll have a go at starting our leeks & onions from seed for next year. I think that means sowing them this Spring. That’s really thinking ahead. Below is our onion bed partially planted, all up it takes up about 5 square metres, & should see us through the next year, plus some for our family & to give away.

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The first pic above is the allium bed planted early July, the second is the same bed 11/9 so roughly 2 months later, in the foreground are the elephant garlic.

The giant onions we harvested in the autumn were a bit of a disappointment, they didn’t store well at all, & many went mushy. They weren’t Pukekohe longkeepers, but were all we could get at the time, so shall be more careful in future. They were great for making pickles & bulk curries etc.

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