Thursday, 11 January 2018

ONIONS

I was expecting to say it was pointless planting onions in the autumn. If I'd left them in their bags they might have grown more. And while other people are talking about their little daffodils emerging there's not a sign that I've buried any anywhere. And as for shallots; they they appear to be rotting instead of growing.

I've hardly visited the allotment since before Christmas. The ground froze and I fell. Then there was snow. Now, the soil is squishy where snow-melt has been topped up with rain. But the non-growing onions, now visible, are entertaining.

Autumn planted onion set in January.

The onion above is progressing somewhat. But others are doing their own thing. To its right there's one with its roots up instead of down. How is this? Did I inadvertently put it in the wrong way? I might have done but don't think so.

Onion sets pushing themselves out of the ground.

The picture above shows how such annoying miracles are taking place. Onions are pushing themselves out of the soil and flopping about. The one on the left has lurched sideways but its roots are still in the ground; the middle one is in entirely the wrong place - plucked by a bird from further along the row and dropped here. As for the one on the right - you can clearly see the hole it has got itself out of. Its roots are still healthy and it's sprouting at the top so I tipped it gently back into place and hunched earth around it like a scarf. To the right of the right-hand onion is the footprint of a passing creature.

One of the striking differences between where I live now and more or less anywhere else I've ever lived is the absence of dogs and cats. I suppose it's because houses in my neighbourhood tend to be small and hardly any have gardens. A pleasant result is that there is hardly any dog poo on the pavements. In the summer I will be able to take deep breaths on summer's days and delight either in the scent of fresh air or of traffic fumes instead of being knocked out and disappointed by the stench of pet-excrement which is the downside of living by a well walked path beside the sea. Other allotmenteers tell me cats do come by but I doubt they cause much trouble because, judging by the streets, they are few, which is good. Dogs on the loose might crash into you, muddy pawed, but cats are less random. Whenever you plant a plant, that's where they'll choose to sit. Wherever you sow some seeds, that's where they'll dig. Turn your back on a seed tray and a spare cat will be settled in in a shot and pretend it's been there all morning. But here . . . few dogs . . . few cats . . Bliss.  But badgers?

There's something about the smell of disturbed earth. In the autumn, I put bulbs in one day and they were gone by morning. 

Ornamental onion not doing too well.

This is where I planted ornamental aliums. And this is also where they got dug up again. I'm leaving the hole. I've filled it in three times. What's the point? And I don't want to draw attention to there being any bulbs still there. The smell of disturbed earth might work like a huge speech bubble saying 'hey, you forgot these'.

Wooden bars between which carrots are supposed to grow but where grass is growing instead.

Above is where I planted carrots. (The markers show the end of rows.) But they didn't grow. I'm trying to remember whether I then planted something in the intervening slots to make up for them. Small daffodils? Shall I tug out the grass seedlings or will this attract creatures to the aliums nearby?

Raw vegetables added to compost bin.

Still . . . the compost bin is happy. One thing is going well! In the photo fresh new veg. has been added. A friend has given it a cabbage. (I would have chopped it up a bit but a gift is a gift.) Around the outside I've built a barricade of large stones and a bank of turfs. The stones are to keep the bin from blowing over and to keep out rats, the turfs are to keep worms warm. It seems to be working. No further rat disturbance and what's specially gratifying - no smell of rotting veg. You can stick your head right into the bin and breathe deeply and still think it's a pleasant day. It's not got far yet. The actual compost is only about six inches deep. But I don't think it's doing too badly for a newly established bin in winter.

So . . . back to the start . . . was it pointless to plant onion sets in the autumn? No. They may not have advanced but if they weren't there I wouldn't have been paying such careful attention to the earth around them.

Onion and red leafed plant.


The red leaf belongs to a plant which will spread if I leave it there - with a huge network of red roots - I know because I pulled masses out last year.

Onion and horse tails.



And horse-tails. See them?

Which means as well as easing the onions back into their slots, and taking others back to where they belong, I'll be removing the brilliant little plants which, if left in place, will overwhelm them.

(Amongst other things.)



22 comments:

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Hi Lucy, finally getting around to visiting blogs after our 5 weeks away on the other side of the country. Onions are the first things that pop through the ground here after winter, they are perennial walking onions and I don't grow them for eating very much but because I love to see new growth in the early spring. Hope the allotments does well for you this year.

Countryside Tales said...

Glorious, all things earthy. I love your wandering onions. My husband shares our veg patch at home with my vole, a small, fat, furry brown person whose front door is located behind a railway sleeper that prevents the veg patch soil spilling onto the grass. He thoughtfully left us a single purple sprouting broccoli plant last year 😬. I watched him eat the others, too fascinated by the process of neat and efficient leaf removal and the ensuing lardering to remember to stop him. I was very popular, as you can imagine. Might you have voles, too? Or possibly bunnies? They are partial to seedling removal.

flightplot said...

I hope that you do end with some onions after all that. I don't bother with overwintering ones, I plant sets in the spring and generally do well with them. xx

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Linda. I remember when I first found out about walking onions. It was on a blog called 'Artists Garden' and the photo of them was wonderful. These aren't supposed to be walking but are! And I agree about the green.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Countryside Tales. I wonder . . . voles . . . There were voles where I used to live but I only knew for certain because cats used to catch them and leave them lying around. Without cats . . . That will be something to ask other allotmenteers. (Not so many of them around at present cos they got their plots all sparkling and neat before Christmas!)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Mike at Flightplot. I doubt I would have planted onions when I did - or even so many, if it hadn't been that I wanted to show both myself and others that I was serious about the allotment. I tried to put something in each bed as I cleared it. (Still many to go!) That what I sowed or planted was then cleared in one way or another by 'creatures' was a bit of a disappointment. But these at least have survived/ And since they haven't actually done anything much I suppose they might now be best described as early planted spring sets. At least they haven't become etiolated in the dark days . . though maybe that is yet to come.

Jo said...

I miss my allotment when I read posts such as this. Onions, they start off as little blades of grass but with so much potential, it never ceases to amaze me how things grow.

bettyl-NZ said...

I don't grow veggies--that's Hubby's garden out back!--but I can relate to finding things upside down and out of place! And those things truly help you find other things that are interesting.

liz said...

Lucy, I'm very impressed with your compost! I used to have an open pile at the back of my garden, but Henry the possum took up residence nearby and sat on the adjacent fence driving my dogs crazy. Now that space is for twigs and branches that need somewhere to decay. I have two bins now close to the back door. Possum-free. It is such a pleasure to dump kitchen waste and deadheaded and trimmed plants in the bins They seem to fill them up. But a year later there is decomposed brown gold!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Jo. I know what you mean - especially because before planting sets I'd sown onion seeds. They came up, as you say, like grass . . . but got eaten by slugs (or something) each time they grew to about two inches high.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Bettyl. With your comment you've widened things out in an interesting way. It's true that when things are out of place they can draw attention to things which one might otherise have missed. I guess some kinds of art are like that. Already I see mosses as sculpture and lichen as graffiti. I think I will see soil as a canvas from now on - and am grateful to you for that.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Liz. Possums! From here that sounds wonderfully exotic! At the moment I'm in the odd situation of having to buy veg. specially to feed the worms because when cooking with vegetables from the supermarket there's very little left un-used. Carrot tops, apple cores, the odd tough cabbage end and that's about it. But when the allotment really gets going there will probably be a bit more spare vegetation. It will be worth it because I expect the soil (which is very fine, though not sandy) will need a little something to bulk itself up and provide good growing conditions for whatever I put in it. I'm looking forward to runner beans.

Diana Studer said...

While you deal with frost and rain, we have hot and can we have some rain please?

Candi said...

I can just picture all your onions flopping around, but I do hope they find a permanent home in the soil soon and grow for you xx

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

You are certainly persistent! Here in Florida I have given up on vegetables. Growing season is just starting for tomatoes but I'm not feeding any more of those big caterpillars!

Stewart M said...

We are having one of our best garden vegetable years - due (almost entirely) to getting a possum proof pod in which we have grown all the plants! Prior to that the little (insert swear word of choice) used to eat them all! Ah, progress!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Diana. Although I would like to send you some rain I would do so reluctantly because I'm rather enjoying it here! (And tomorrow it may even turn to snow!)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Candi. I'm wondering if I should worry about frost. Not that I can do anything about it. But the onions seem to have survived snow . . . fingers crossed.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Kenneth. I'm not sure if I will be able to grow tomatoes because I don't (yet) have a greenhouse. But nothing tastes better than a tomato picked in the sun and eaten straight from the vine.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Stewart. A possum-proof pod sounds interesting but I'd like a badger-proof plot!

Caro (UrbanVegPatch) said...

Hi Lucy, It's a mystery which creatures skulk about at night exploring the plots. I remind myself that the animals that visit are behaving in ways that existed long before we cultivated the land. Once plants are growing strongly, I find less disturbance - I get foxes, pigeons and cats disturbing the beds here. I pick up any old freezer baskets or Ikea wardrobe baskets that have been discarded and use those to cover seeds or bulbs until they're more established - they won't keep mice out but work well otherwise! If you've got badgers, there's not a lot that will keep them out - My parents regularly had their metal dustbin turned over by a badger looking for food scraps!

Anna said...

Mmmmm - looks as if your onions are having fun Lucy. It's funny how what you plant rarely stays just where you put it. I've only ever grown onions once but plant shallots in the spring most years. Good luck with keeping rats out of your compost heap. I've got rid of our heap at home. There is an area of uncultivated land (not ours) with a stream running through it behind our house and rats became a problem we could do without.