Monthly Archives: March 2021

Growing Organic Onions

If you love the sweet taste of large onions and want to grow them in your garden beds, you can do so with these follow along steps.

I have grown large onions for more than 30 years and still get great enjoyment from seeing these impressive plants grow into whoppers in my garden beds.

Large onions require a long growing season to achieve a good size, so they are one of the first crops to be sown in the greenhouse or indoor mini greenhouse (grow lights are beneficial). This begins the end of December or the first of January. Sow seeds into seed trays filled with a good moist seed starting mix. I like Ocean Forest and get the best results with it. Once the trays are filled, lightly firm them in with a tamper or hand to gently compact the soil. This leaves a small rim around the top of the tray, making a space to sow the seeds. Before sowing the seeds the trays should be watered with a fine mister or fine water head such as 1000 red head and let drain for approximately half an hour. Sow the seed evenly over the seed try of soil and lightly cover with a layer of vermiculite. Place the seed trays on a heat mat and use a dome to hold in moister. Germination will start between seven to 14 days. If you have missed the opportunity to start your own seeds, many times you can find onions already started in your local nurseries, but the choices of onion varieties are limited.

Once the seedlings start to germinate, remove the dome to allow air flow and reduce damping off. Grow the seedlings in the greenhouse or mini greenhouse throughout the winter and early spring maintaining a minimum temperature of 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, then they will begin pricking out.  

Ground preparation can begin early in the spring by adding plenty of well composted manure or compost as onions require a rich, fertile soil. It is possible to grow large onions on the same ground for a number of years with good results providing a high level of organic matter is maintained. And remember this can only be done if the plot remains clear from fungal diseases like white rot.  

From March to April, depending on the weather, move the young onion plants into a cold frame to gradually harden them off before planting. After a week or two of hardening them off the plants are ready for planting into the vegetable plot and are usually about the thickness of a pencil by now.  

Carefully prick apart the onion seedlings, being careful not to damage the roots. If room allows, plant 8-12” apart. This gives the plants as much room as possible to grow into good-sized bulbs. If you wish, plant a row of lettuce or sow a row of radish in between the onions as a catch crop, making use of the extra space while the onions are getting established.  

Approximately three weeks after planting feed the onions with a sprinkle of high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as Fish Meal or Feather Meal. Simply sprinkle a little around each plant and carefully work in with a hand cultivator or hoe. In late June give them another feed, but only if the onions give and indication they require this extra food. Onions can tell you if they have enough nitrogen as the leaves will take up a crinkled appearance, almost looking as if someone had made a series of thumb indents up the leaf. When this is seen no further feeding is required.  Knowing how they are growing is as important as to much feed will result in split or soft onions that do not keep very well.  

Through the growing season the onion plot should be kept clean from weeds, being careful not to damage any of the onions. Watering is only necessary during dry weather and in the beginning of transplanting.  

Onions naturally start to bulb up after the longest day (June 21). You can almost watch them grow at this time of year.  

Large onions should be ready for harvesting from late July till late August, sometimes later. Lift bulbs as soon as the foliage start to bend down. Large onions should not be left in the ground until all the foliage dies down as this can affect the keeping qualities of bulbs. 

Once the onions are lifted, trim off the foliage, leaving a neck of 4-6 inches long, then rub off any soil and lay in open trays in an airy shed until outer skin is dry.  

Use the largest bulbs first. Kept in temperatures around 50-60 degrees they can keep well into February.  

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March can be an exciting and very busy month for gardeners!  

We have a list of things to help you get started. Of course you may have to adjust to your growing area, as we are all different. We are in zone 8. 

Sowing and Growing

A lot of seed can be sown in March, but keep a good eye on the weather. Snow and cold winds will put gardeners on hold and it’s usually worth waiting for better conditions. If its to cold outside, then wait before sowing into outdoor beds or start seeds in pots. These can go into a cold frame or even under sheltered areas or tunnels. Choose seeds that don’t need added heat and be prepared to look after small plants until weather allows you to plant them out. Many vegetable varieties are at a cross over point, meaning you can plant either by seeds or transplants.  

Sow Now

Beets, leeks, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, peas, broad beans, lettuce, parsnips, salad leaves, spinach, summer cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.  

Plant Now

Onion plants, shallots, early potatoes, peas, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, leeks.

Keep plants frost free. Cover newly planted onion and potato leaves because they can be killed by frost if they emerge in cold weather. New onions can bolt if they are hit by a hard freeze.

Make mulch your best friend this year! Mulch holds in moisture, helps prevent weeds and helps cool roots when the hot summer sun comes. Start to Mulch between rows of established plants in the vegetable garden and perennial gardens. 

Mulch asparagus beds

While they are still dormant, it’s the ideal time to give them a final clean through in readiness for the new spears that appear in coming months. Carefully remove any weeds along the rows, taking care not to disturb the shallow roots or new shoots that are only a few inches below the surface. When weed free, apply a good thick mulch of garden compost, composted manure or mushroom compost over the bed. Ideally, it should be around 2 inches deep or even a little more. This will help seal in the moisture through the growing season, keep the soil in good, fertile condition and smother any weeds. 

Plant New Strawberry Plants

You will often see pots of strawberry plants for sale in March. These may already have open flowers or they may have small buds, or just show promise of later flowers with some healthy foliage.  Be picky and look for the strongest plants that you can. Strawberries do well with some good garden compost dug into the bed.  Scatter kelp meal, and bone meal into the bed and slightly work in. If your soil is alkaline, using an Acid Mix fertilizer may be a better choice of plant food. We don’t use manure, as we find we get more leaf and fewer fruits. Mulch to keep the soil moist and weeds down. If birds are an issuer you may want to cover with floating row cover or Bird-X

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