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How to Grow Onions

Perhaps a flavouring which is missed more than any other is that of the onion; in fact, many readers will recall to what lengths people went to obtain even a suggestion of onion flavour during the Second World War. So much has been written about onions that the impression is deeply rooted that only an expert can grow onions successfully. If by this is meant 41-5Ib. bulbs, then it is true, but these are the aristocrats of the onion world and something much smaller is of more use to the housewife. Usable and even large onions may be grown either from seed or from "sets". Sets are small onions which have been specially grown from seed, usually in hot climates, so that they make a small ripe bulb about the size of a nutmeg so that when planted in cooler, moister conditions they will grow and increase in size. Their behaviour, however, is very erratic, so much so that there is no guarantee that they will do what is expected of them, sometimes producing reasonable crops and at other times running quickly to seed. They have this merit in that they are seldom attacked by the onion fly which may decimate a crop grown from seed. Propagation. The best plants are raised from seed sown in boxes of light soil in January in a warm greenhouse. Prick out seedlings 2 inches apart when 2 inches high and grow on steadily in a temperature around 50°F. (I0°c.). Later they are placed in a cold frame and then hardened off by increasing ventilation and finally planted out in well prepared soil in April. Onions must have a good rich soil and will not grow successfully on the soil of a new garden or in soil which has been tipped on to a garden site. In fact, on such soils, it may be five years before really large onions can be grown. They are, too, plants of environment in that the would-be exhibitor will be successful if he saves his own seed from selected bulbs. In fact, up to three pounds may be added in about four years if own seed is saved. how to grow onions

To Grow Big Onions

Keep the bulb or bulbs in a dry, cool place until January and then pot these up in lO-inch plan: pots by pressing the base into the soil in the pot. Water and grow as an ordinary plant in a cool greenhouse or frame, stand outdoors ir April and plunge the pot partly into the soil to prevent it being blown over. When the flower spike is formed, stake and tie it to a bamboo cane as it is very brittle and may be broken in a strong wind don't be deceived by its apparent strength. The actual time of ripening will depend on district, and this is am reason why potting is advised. Tn a cold, wet summer or in northerr: districts the pot may be carried under shelter and the ripening seed ensured. In districts where competition is very keen, rivals have been knowr: not infrequently to harvest each other's seed, so a pot can be pui safely under lock and key. This process should be repeated annually-one great grower has done this careful saving and re-selection for nearly forty years and possesses probably the best strain in the world. In my opinion this is the only way to be sure of getting really fine onions every year. Strain in all plants is very important so be sure to start off right Soil preparation.

Whilst it is important to have a good fertile soil, it is of the utmost Importance to have a well-worked and a well-drained one. This does not mean that an elaborate system of drains is necessary, but that the bottom spit or layer of soil be broken up with a fork and a quantity of rough material such as compost, peat, strawy manure of even hedge clippings and chrysanthemum stalks be worked into this bottom layer. The treatment will vary according to the nature of the soil, but as onions prefer a medium heavy soil the object of putting opening material underneath will be to assist and if it is light soil this material will help to absorb and retain moisture. Prepare the soil during October and November so that it has a chance to settle down before planting. This firming of the soil is Important but it must not be taken to apply to every soil, only light spongy soils need hard treading or rolling, most soils need nothing more than the walking on necessary when raking it down.

To Grow Medium Sized Onions

The easiest and most rewarding way of growing them for the kitchen is to sow seeds thinly in a wide shallow drill as advised for beetroot, using a variety like Ebenezer. r n this way no thinning is either necessary or desirable, but it is essential to sow thinly and a little extra time should be spent in seeing that the seeds fall about 2 inches apart. Onion seeds are quite big and as by this method no other operation is needed such as thinning or transplanting, the little extra time is worth the bother. In fact, with any of these wide drill tech­niques a bucketful of special compost can be made up from ordinary garden soil from the plot and mixed with equal parts sand and granulated peat to cover the seed. If the soil is dry, water the drill before sowing, never after covering. When grown in this way do not pull the young plants to eat as spring onions for salad, but sow a row especially for this purpose as far away from the main crop as possible. No attention is necessary except to keep the row free from weeds and allow the bulbs to ripen where they are grown, these will be hard, well flavoured long-keeping bulbs about the size of a small orange, a most useful size for the kitchen. Autumn-sown Onions. Sowing seeds in late summer is only a variation of early spring sowing and the resultant seedlings can either be planted out in beds or pulled from the drills as salading. It is important, however, to select the correct variety for as in common with most other plants it is the nature of the beast to stop growing and ripen as the days shorten and the temperature drops, but certain varieties of onions and brassica not only germinate but grow during the ever shortening days of winter.

Grow Onions for Salads

Onions for Salads. No large quantity of these should be sown at anyone time and as they remain where they are sown a pinch can be sown at any time starting in late summer or autumn and continued in spring. The variety White Lisbon is a mild, hardy type and is widely used for this purpose, a single row sown between a row of peas is an ideal spot for them. The less the soil on an onion bed is disturbed the better and hand­weeding should be done instead of doing too much hoeing as this loosens up the surface soil and makes it easier for the female onion fly to lay her eggs near the plants. [fthe young plants do not seem to be getting away as they should, give them a tonic of loz. potash nitrate to a gallon of water-about a pint to each plant. This may be continued at monthly intervals until August, or weak liquid manure may be given instead, but if the soil has been well prepared as advised, little extra feed need be given. To help the bulbs ripen give an application of superphos­phates about a teaspoonful to each plant in early August. If they have been planted correctly it will not be found necessary to scrape soil away from the base of the bulb except when well­ripened bulbs are required for exhibition when an evenly browned skin counts. Little if any benefit is secured by bending over the tops in an effort to assist ripening. If the necks are thin and the bulbs nicely ripening they will fall over of their own accord, but even if thick-necked bulbs are bent over it will not make them into good ones. Such bulbs will not store well so use these first. Harvest by easing up with a fork-bulbs which have completed their growth will part easily from the soil. Spread the bulbs on sacks and expose to as much sun and air as possible to complete the ripening process and tie in bunches after a few days and hang in a cool frost-proof shed.

Problems with Growing Onions

The onion is not subject to many diseases but may be attacked by a fungus which shows as a white mould. This is more prevalent in wet seasons and where an excess of nitrogenous fertilisers has been used. Pull up the affected plants and burn, dust the area and adjacent plants with a mixture of equal parts hydrated lime and flowers of sulphur and shift the bed to another part of the garden.

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