Posts Tagged ‘onion sets’

As the allotment season draws to an end

October 10, 2011

As the 2011 season draws to an end, our workload reduces on the allotment.  Apart from harvesting some of our winter veggies, we will be able to take some time off from weeding, strimming and maintenance in general.

Flower arch on allotment

The arch renewed!

Mostly, the beds are either occupied or weeded after the earlier weed explosion when we were on holiday.  I’m pleased to say the clematis arch has been repaired and is gracing the path once more.  It does now have a certain allotment charm … instead of a smart metal arch, we have a make-do-and-mend construction with the original metal and some salvaged wood.  But isn’t that the delight of an allotment?  Smart, modern, new constructions seem so out of place in a world where reuse, reduce and recycle should come first.

The onion experiment – results!  

Onion grown from a set

Onion sets win the day

If you remember, I decided to try growing onions from seed this year instead of sets.  Our onion experiment was fairly well controlled, with both lots of onions being treated equally.

I’m afraid I have to say the onion sets have won hands down.  The onions grown from seed were smaller, but more importantly, many of them bolted and several more have already gone soft, so they won’t store.

It did seem to be a lot of effort and, as we’re trying to make our plot less labour-intensive instead of more, I’m giving up my onion seed ambitions.

Successes vs failures?

Although our beans and courgettes didn’t do as well this year – presumably due to lack of rain – we’ve had no real failures.

Mayor of Chipping Norton presenting allotment awards

Me and His Mayor-ness - photo by kind permission of Kaye Freeman (Chippy News Team)

But successes?  Yes!  For the first time we had proper calabrese heads and those wonderful plants are still giving us a good picking of broccoli sprouts every week.  Another first this year is the Brussels sprouts.  To date, all we’ve achieved have been pea-sized – a pimple on the stem!  But this year, we have sprouts to be proud of (and enjoy).

Of course, I must brag again about our Commended Award in the Chipping Norton allotment competition.  That was another first … and will be spurring us on to bigger and better things next year (so I can have my photo taken with the Mayor again, you understand).

Still to come?

While the summer season might be over, of course we’ve still got plenty of goodies left on the allotment.  We’ve taken the first Savoy cabbage now, and a few swede and leeks.  The purple sprouting looks stunningly good and I’m looking forward to some frost for the kale.

Marian swede grown on allotment

The first swede of the year

Winter veggies are my favourites, I have to say.  I get bored quickly with runner beans and courgettes, but never tire of buttery golden swede, crisp roasted parsnips and the really rich dark greens.

Once we’ve taken down the beanpoles, I’ll be back with an end of season video and post it on YouTube.  The onion plaiting video has attracted almost 300 hits and I’m keen to polish my technique.  Be sure to watch it on a PC near you!


Know your onions?

August 11, 2011

I am a very impatient gardener and for weeks now, I’ve been itching to dig up the onions (grown from sets).  And finally, the big day arrived!  I did rather underestimate the volume!  Three large containers later, they were all out of the ground and in the car ready to go back home to allotment central to ‘cure’.

onions curing in the sun

What a lot we got!

Last year, our onions didn’t keep well, which is why we decided to try growing some from seed too.  However, I have since found out that ripening onions in a greenhouse is a bad idea!  It seems they cook rather than cure in the intense heat.  So I’m looking forward to storing my onions without them rotting this time round.

Champion-sized onion

What a whopper!

The onions grown from seed are progressing!  I still wonder if they are worth the effort as we’ve had some corkers from this year’s sets.  But they are still growing and have at least gone past the pickling onion size as previously reported!

Freezing vegetables without blanching

A couple of weeks ago on the blog, I mentioned the potential for freezing veggies without blanching them first.  Two different people had recommended this for runner beans.

As promised, I’ve had a go and here’s the results: the broccoli was ‘interesting’, shall we say.  The flavour was excellent, but it didn’t pass the tenderness test. It was rather like eating broccoli-flavour chewing gum.  So back to the drawing board with that one!  But … the runner beans were quite a success.  They had a good flavour, kept their colour fairly well, and were only slightly chewy, but not enough to put me off freezing them this way.  A result!  The next experiment will be French beans and courgettes … watch this space.

Maris Piper potatoes

Our first Maris Piper potatoes

Confession time

OK … I know I was meant to leave them another couple of weeks, but I’m afraid curiosity got the better of me.  Yes … I dug up a potato plant.  Now I’ve seen what’s going on under the surface, I’m satisfied.  The remaining seven plants are now waiting for a little girl who is very excited about digging up Nanna and Papa’s potatoes.  And there’s only 10 days to go before she can!

Can you help? Growing onions from seeds

April 8, 2011

For the first time I’m going to try growing onions from seeds. Previously, we’ve grown them from sets and they don’t seem to store well.

I’ve been reading up on the subject and found loads of information, but my big question remains unanswered:

How deep should they be planted?

I would be very grateful if an informed allotmenteer, gardener or  grower could advise me please.

I know you plant onion sets with the top showing to prevent ‘thick necks’.  But onions are quite shallow-rooted and I’m worried if I don’t plant them properly, they will wither and die.

If you know the answer, please leave a comment here.  Oh … just to be on the safe side, I’ve planted some sets too …  she of little faith?

Fabulous frog spawn!

March 29, 2010
Weeded allotment

Almost weed-free allotment

There’s something very satisfying about weeding! No only can you vent all your frustrations, having weed-free beds makes the allotment look very well managed and cared for.  Of course it doesn’t last long and it won’t be long before nature starts fighting back with a vengeance.  Good job I enjoy weeding, because most of my time on the allotment this weekend was spent doing just that.  With only 2 beds left to prepare, I feel we’re ahead of the game.

Considering our allotment is only 90’ long, there is a huge difference in both the soil and the weeds, as you work your way along the plot.  At the entrance end, we’re plagued with couch grass and buttercups, while at the far end, it’s nettle and ground elder.  The one common factor is bindweed, which is rife on our plot.  But short of using weedkillers, which we don’t do, it’s something we just have to live with.

Frog spawn

Frog spawn in the pond

The highlight of this allotment week has been the discovery of frog spawn in our little pond.  The ‘pond’ is actually an old header tank from a central heating system, but for our small allotment, it’s ideal.  In 2007 when we put it in, we acquired some tadpoles from a local Freecycler.  We know we have a number of frogs and toads on the allotment and do our best to encourage them, so imagine our delight when we spotted the spawn.

David’s fencing repair is going well, with ½ the allotment now finished.  Hopefully the higher, more secure fencing will help keep out intruders … both bunnies and the 2-legged human variety!

We have some pretty large broad beans lurking in our plant houses at the moment, and the plan was to get them in the ground this weekend.  However with the threat of more snow (haven’t we had enough!) this week, we decided we’d leave them for another week.  Chipping Norton is notorious for its extreme weather, and I’d hate to lose them at this stage.

We did manage to get 200 Stutgarter Giant onion sets planted though.  We had a bit of a crisis with these, and realised a couple of weeks ago that they hadn’t arrived from our seed merchant.  Further investigation revealed we never actually ordered them in the first place!  But Edwin Tucker came up trumps again.  They still had stocks and got them to us in record time.  Thanks guys!

With Easter looming, we’re hoping the rain keeps off enough to allow us to have at least a couple of days on the allotment.  What else are holiday weekends for?

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