Allotment plans for winter

What happens when you have great ideas and very little information? You guess. Duncan mentioned that he wants to grown onions and garlic over the winter. Sounds good to me! But …

Have you ever tried to find out the real nitty-gritty on overwintering onions? No, I didn’t think so. Because nitty-gritty there is not much of!

Here’s what I’ve found out:

• You can plant onion seed in the autumn for overwintering
• There is a risk of bolting
• You need to protect it with fleece through the winter
• There’s a Blue Peter style way of sowing onion seed with strips of newspaper and glue that looks like so much fun it should be legislated against
Garlic needs cold to germinate (really? I planted mine late in May and it’s germinated just fine – perhaps I’m lucky?)

The Royal Horticultural Society came up trumps with facts, but not with details – to whit: Onions are biennial, grown from seed they produce foliage in their first season, overwinter as a bulb, and then flower and die the following year. It is the cold winter temperatures that initiate flowering, and problems can occur when fluctuating temperatures trick the plant into thinking that it has experienced a winter chill when this is not the case. Onions only become receptive to winter chilling once they are a certain size. Consequently careful manipulation of sowing and planting dates lessens bolting. For example, by sowing seeds of overwintering onions in August resulting plants are large enough to survive winter cold, but small enough to be insensitive to chilling.

Ah ha – but …

• Which varieties?
• Will simple fleece cloches work as protection?
• How close can the rows be?
• Do they need winter watering?

Well, I think we’re going to find out – I’m ordering the seeds this week … watch this space (or rather, peer under this cloche) for future developments!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Saturday, August 23, 2008


Blogger Claire said...

All sounds very complicated.

I'm awaiting my over wintering seeds to arrive. I've ordered a couple of over wintering cut and come salad leaves, some winter spring onions and something which is like a rocket/brocolli cross which matures from seed within 6-8 weeks and is winter hardy.

I've also ordered some rainbow quinoa for next year. Very excited about that It's to be my first attempt at a grain!

August 24, 2008 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Wow - rainbow quinoa! Where did you locate the seed - I've not seen any and I'd love some, we like quinoa salad in summer, oh yes we do!

Winter spring onions are very good - lovely in soups and omelettes.

August 26, 2008 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I have ordered my quinoa seed from here.

They have three types to choose from.

August 26, 2008 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger mart said...

I suggest "Senshyu Yellow" or if you prefer red onions, "Electric" varieties for overwintering. Rows should be about 12cm apart - I've never bothered fleecing mine, they always seem to make it through, but I am in the South of England.

September 8, 2008 at 3:22 AM  
Blogger mart said...

Sorry, should have mentioned I always grow onion sets rather than seed!

September 8, 2008 at 3:23 AM  

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