Friday, July 13

Will we be crying over our onions?

For quite a few years now we have been growing onions from heat treated sets which is supposed to cut down the chances that the onions will develop flower buds. The heat treatment is supposed to kill the flower bud that is developing in the centre of the bulb. The heat treatment takes time and so genereally the sets are available later than untreated sets and consequently they are planted later. Our heat treated sets arrived in April which usually wouldn't be a problem but this year we couldn't plant them straight away due to the weather conditions and so started them in modules in the cold greenhouse. It wasn't until the end of May that we managed to plant them out in the ground and since then the weather has been cold and wet. The result is ...
There are three varieties here the nearest are Fen Early, then the small ones are Hyred with Hytech the furthest away.

All are behind - at the end of last July the same variety of onions looked like this ...
Hyred are making the least progress and have also managed to produce a couple of flower buds in spite of the heat treatment.
Last year quite a lot of onions rotted in storage and so we decided to add a few more to our planting schedule and bought some non-heated treated varieties, Snowball and Setton earlier in the year. These were planted in pots in the cold greenhouse in February and planted out in March. As it happens they may be our saving grace .. maybe. At least they managed to get growing before the horrible weather really set in.
Setton are probably stronger growing than Snowball which produces a white onion. Snowball has also been the vatiety that has produced the most flower stems. The weather conditions this year have made onions bolt far more than usual. The warmer periods earlier in the year followed by the drop in temperature in June fooled that plants into thinking summer was over which triggered the production of flower stems. Each time I have visited the plot I have been snapping off the buds.
The buds need to be snipped off immediately below the bud leaving the stem in place. Removing the stem or cutting it further down leaves a hollow tube which can gather water and lead to rotting as it is onions that develop a flower stem can end up with a woody centre.

We are also growing two varieties of shallots, Yellow Moon and Picasso. 
Like Snowball, Yellow Moon has produced a huge number of flower buds whereas Picasso like Setton has produced none.

If I was ever in any doubt about how worthwhile it was to plant overwintering onions then this year would have dispelled them. We are harvesting these now. We planted four varieties, Electric, Shakespeare, Senshyu and Autumn Champion.
This harvest picked up where the stored onions left off - it's such a pity that overwintered varieties won't store but at least it means that at least one aspect of our onion growing hasn't ended in tears.
 

20 comments:

  1. It seems that most things are being affected by the weather this year. As you know, I'm having a go at growing onions from seed this year, but I think I may have picked the wrong year to be trying this.

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    1. I think it's the wrong year for most things, Jo

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  2. Its always interesting just how much difference the weather makes to the progress of our crops. Plants are quite temperamental things at times aren't they? It does show though just how much difference variations in climate can make which actually is quite scary to think about.

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    1. We have also been having lots of dull dreary days where it is almost dark by 7:00 p.m. Liz which means that the plants aren't getting as nmuch daylight as they need at this time of year. A similar effect to growing a houseplant in a dark room.

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  3. Hi sue, you've certainly got a variety of onions on the go, if not all successful. Re overwintering varieties, you say they don't keep which I'd heard elsewhere too: how long will they survive for once picked? We hoiked ours up a couple of weeks ago and they're sheltering in my drum BBQ as we speak!

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    1. We usually pick ours as we need them Lee but that is more for convenience than anything, (no room to store them when the greenhouse is full), and also the chance that they could put on some extra growth. We have usually used most of ours by the time the summer ones are ready so we have never tested how long they actually store but from what Rooko says below they could keep longer than is claimed.

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  4. Hi Sue, The wet weather has certainly affected onions differently to the heat of last year. I didn't sow any Winter sets this time although last years stored right through to the end of May this year (in my greenhouse). I harvested 60 or so (heat treated) ones a few days ago, which were sown from sets on January 7th. All had been affected by excess rainwater. Rust sooty type mould etc. Over their growing period I kept removing the affected outer leaves which resulted in more leaf growth from their centres. This gave the effect of them going to seed. Although the "bulbs" were not as large as last years, I stripped all the outer skins and leaves off after they had been lifted and the first ones were used yesterday, great condition. Wether they will store long term is yet to be seen.

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    1. Hi Rooko, So you found the autumn ones kept which is interesting. How did you manage to get hold of heat treated sets so early?

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  5. Very interesting. I haven't grown any onions, but I have some shallots on the go, and they look as if they probably won't grow any bigger, so I think I'll harvest them soon. I feel sure that in a sunnier year they would have done better.

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    1. IF the leaves are still green there is a chance they'll grow more Mark

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  6. My Picasso Shallots look very sad. No flowers, and the leaves are now nearly all yellow and withered away. I think I may try and dig them up in the next few days as If they are no good whats the pint of wasting the space. I have ought seed to try and grow onions over the winter. And to top it all as well as losing all my potato foliage to blight, the tomatoes have it as well :(

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    1. If the leaves are yellow I guess they have done their growing Lorraine. Sorry about your potatoes and tomatoes. When our tomatoes started to get blight the year before last I removed any leaf showing any signs as soon as I could and kept it in check. If you are growing outside blight is hard to avoid on tomatoes which is why we don't grow any outdoors any more.

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  7. My shallots are rubbish this year - lots just rotted :-(

    Onions doing ok so far, though

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    1. I'm surprised ours haven't rotted CW although at least we haven't seen any standing water on our plot - doesn't mean there hasn't been any as we have not been able to visit too often

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  8. I can honestly say this is the worst year I have ever had with onions and shallots - hardly any growth at all - so disappointing. Seems like most of us are in the same boat.

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    1. Just glad that we got some in earlier this year Elaine - maybe they'll at least produce a few useable onion size bulbs. It a worst year for a few things for us.

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  9. I'm kind of glad now I didn't bother with onions or shallots this year (or maybe lucky I didn't grow them). I'm having difficulties enough with what are considered 'easy' (even my radish have bolted before I can harvest!).

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  10. Everyone on our plot is having the same problems with onions producing flower heads...I have been doing the same as you and snapping off the tops....just hope I get some onions this year!!

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    1. I hope so too Tanya, some do seem to be looking a little better but there is a way to go yet before they look like they should.

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