Sunday, January 22

There's good news and bad news in store!

Let's deal with the bad news first ... After what was a brilliant harvest last year our onions just haven't lived up to expectation!
I gave them more tender loving care than I have ever done in the past. I diligently weeded between them so they didn't have any competition from weeds and it seemed to have paid off. They swelled up and looked just great. We lifted them and I discarded any that had any signs of softness. We let them dry off and then I cleaned them up and almost polished them. Not with actual polish but they looked really smart. (It took two half days!) 

Again I discarded any bulbs that hadn't seemed to dry off properly and looked as though they may rot off in storage. I say discarded but any that were usable were used up rather than storing them. But all my efforts have been in vain - we have constantly been throwing away onions that have started to rot - the race has been to use them before they went bad. Even some that looked perfect showed their true colours when cut into - and often that true colour was brown! Don't get me wrong we have had enough onions for us and my sister to use up until now, and maybe a little longer, but it's been disappointing to see them developing mould.
So what has gone wrong? - Maybe we were wrong to take them in before they had dried off properly but after the long dry season it was set to be wet so we gathered them and popped them on the greenhouse floor to dry. They seemed to dry OK but maybe they didn't cure properly. And maybe the conditions in the greenhouse were too damp to store over winter but if so where can we store them next year? - We haven't room anywhere else.

We don't seem to be the only ones who have suffered though and other sufferers haven't lifted their onions too early. Browsing the Internet - as you do when things go wrong - one tip I picked up is to cut off the tops of the onions 3 - 5cm from the bulb (trouble was it didn't say when - is it whist the tops are still green?) and turn the bulbs root plate facing upwards onto wire netting. This should be done under cover such as inside a greenhouse so any moisture drains. It said the bulbs should be given as much warmth as possible but that can't be right can it - wouldn't they cook?. Apparently it helps to blow cool air under the netting for a week or two if the weather is damp. The idea is to dry the tops as quickly as possible.

Interestingly, last week, I had a surreptitious squeeze of a supermarket onion and the top was slightly soft. Just like the onions go when they are starting to rot. So maybe the problem was the season turning damp just when the onions needed to have it dry! Maybe it wasn't our fault after all!

And to crown it all - some of our perfect onions have been nibbled by mice! I'm on the look-out for any mice with oniony breath. If I catch you mouse - watch out!

I was going to give you the good news now but I think I've gone on long enough - be patient and I'll give the good news in my next post!


  1. I can hardly wait for the next instalment. The bad news was certainly pretty bad, so I hope the good news is equally good!

  2. That's such a shame. Hubby has checked our's just this morning and found four mouldy ones, but all the rest are fine. It's a good job you've got some good news after that.

  3. What a shame about your onions. I have had some problems with some of ours storing. It was mostly the one variety of red onion.

    I'm not real scientific about the way I cure and store them. I braid them and hang them to cure on the back porch. Then I hang them in the basement and cover them with brown paper bags. I also make sure that they don't touch each other. Don't ask me why I do it this way. Because I have no idea. It seems to work pretty well though.

  4. Oh dear - what a disaster. I had a few that rotted but the rest were ok. I dried mine under cover but with an open door to give them a good blow. Usually it is enough to dry them outdoors but the weather wouldn't allow that last year. Looking forward to the good news.

  5. It was such a lousy growing year in 2011 that perhaps it is nothing to do with the way you harvested & stored them, but all to do with their growing conditions?

    Whatever the reason, very sorry your crop isn't lasting.

  6. It's just as well that we had so many Mark - yes the news is equally good. It balances things out.

    In many ways Jo I think having so many onions may have added to the problem as we had difficulty spreading them out to dry.

    Ours problem was all varieties Robin. You are lucky to have somewhere to store things but we just haven't the space.

    We would normally dry them outdoors too Elaine.

  7. Having to wait for another post for the good news is just plain mean Sue!!

    My onions did well in the ground this year and have stored well over winter and we are still eating them. I have stored them in the greenhouse...I'm not sure off hand when i lifted them but as soon as I did they went straight into the greenhouse and them a week later I took off the tops and any loose skin. I don't think we had weather as wet as yours though so maybe this did make a difference.

    Hope they last better for you next winter.

  8. It's strange BW as if anything I was more attentive to them.

    It seems we did almost the same thing Tanya! Sorry to keep you hanging on but I'm a terrible tease!

  9. If it's any consolation, here in France, it's been the same thing. I don't bother growing bog-standard onions - I buy them for around 2 quid for 5 kilos, but I have noticed that about one in four have started to rot around the neck, and the ones that look OK are rotting from the inside - not looking so cheap now...

  10. Hi
    VM glad to hear from you. So what was the weather like in France was it damp at onion gathering time?

  11. What a shame, after all the care you gave them. Hope you have better luck next year. Looking forward to the good news!!

  12. that’s such a shame, my neighbour has grown onions for years he used to do them for showing he’s in his 70's now and just grows for eating but 1/2 his garden is devoted to them he always stores his in his shed in boxes like you had in your pics but he puts s layer of sand in the bottom apparently this helps to keep out the moisture i am going to try his way this year so i will let you know how that works out

  13. A real shame about your onions. I didn't grow any. Some good notes from other bloggers. Looking forward to the good news!

  14. In recent years our onions have started with rot before being lifted! Last year was so wet they didn't stand a chance - so I'm jealous of your bad news!

    Can't wait for the good news.

  15. The things i find most annoying are the things that I'm not really sure why they happened so I sypathise entirely. I had a couple of bad onions in the bag I bought from the supermarket a week or so ago and its onion season here so they haven't even come from storage (actually perhaps they have perhaps the supermarkets are using up old stocks....)

  16. Huge bummer! They looked so pretty and tidy in their boxes. I wonder if the greenhouse is too damp despite your best efforts. I'm curious about this putting sand in the bottom of the boxes information.

  17. There's always something to moan about each year Alison - wonder what it will be this year.

    They've always been OK fro us in the past Stacy - be interested in what happens with the sand - the problem being we could probably do exactly the same next year and things turn out fine. gardening isn't an exact science is it?

    The good news will follow on ... Kelli - hope it isn't a let down!

    Are they rotting from the base plate Mal - white rot?

    That's very true Liz - if you know why you can remedy it can't you - except if it's the weather of course. Are your supermarket onions imported?

    I wondered that too Jenni.

  18. How frustrating, particularly not knowing what, if anything, you can do differently in the future. Mind you, I've been finding supermarket onions have been going off faster recently, so maybe it is something to do with the mild weather earlier? Look forward to the good news...

  19. may be it's noty dried properly and humidity effects too....
    Hope you find a solution...

  20. Oh what a shame! I didn't get enough for storing last year because it was my first go growing them from seed but I'm planning quite a few this year... I'm going to cross my fingers and hope for the best :-)

  21. I think it was maybe more a case of the wrong weather at the wrong time Janet.

    I think you're correct Malar - too damp when they needed it to be dry!

    We have never tried growing from seed Mel as we have always done well with sets especially heat treated ones. The onions still grew well this year so I guess however we had grown them we would have had the same result!


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