Grow it yourself: onions

Is it worth growing onions when the product is so cheap to buy with consistent quality? Possibly not if your vegetable gardening is suburban dabbling and you have access to a good farmers’ market or another reliable source. We grow them because we aim at self sufficiency (even though we don’t always make it) and we like to know where our food comes from. If you grow your own, you can also go beyond the usual brown, red or spring onions. Kings Seeds have at least 10 different types listed. If you want the range, you will have to grow from seed. Alternatively you can buy bundles of seedlings which look like baby spring onions, at the garden centre.

Onions don’t like heavy soils. They do well in light, sandy soils but you need to build up the soil fertility by using manure, a green crop, compost or fertiliser. They don’t have big root systems. In fact they don’t have a lot of top either so you have to make sure they don’t get swamped and shaded by competitive weeds. Onions get planted any time between autumn and spring though you won’t be harvesting until next summer and autumn. However, different varieties of onions have different planting requirements in that time span so check the instructions.

Spacings depend entirely on the variety. Some are small so can be grown close together while others need room to develop. While commercial production uses a non bulbous variety (Allium fistulosum) for spring onions, home gardeners know that any thinnings and surplus juvenile plants will fit the bill.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.