Last year I was very kindly given as a Christmas present a packet of Ailsea Onion seeds. these I sowed on New Years day, this has become a bit of a tradition.
Now however, I read that you should plant onion seeds, or to be precise ‘Giant onion’ seeds as early as October for the following year.
Picture of a seed tray with cover and seed label
Picture of a packet of Ailsae onion seeds next to a mound of compost on a potting bench in a greenhouse
As a birthday present, I have been given a packet of these Giant Onion seeds. Lets see how they do, and if I can beat the 3lb 5oz onion I managed to grow this year. I must note, these giant onions do not store well at all, and that I have unfortunately had to throw a number of them away as they go off so quickly.
Its been a long season and finally I have had the courage to lift the giant onions.
These onions were sown on 1st January 2016, and were a Christmas present from the good lady.
Picture of a 3lb 5oz giant onion being weighed by a set of digital scales
Picture of giant onions
Picture of giant onions on a table in the greenhouse drying
Picture of a raised bed with the remains of the seasons giant onions ready to pick up
The experiment to grow a big onion used varieties “Ailsea”, “Mammoth Improved” and “Giant Exhibition”.
Potting the seedlings on in March with the addition of “Rootgrow” I was very fortunate this year, unlike last, not to suffer any deaths and they all grew really well in the greenhouse.
Planting these out into their final positions through black sheeting to keep the ground warm and weed free in May this year.
Overall, I think the variety “Ailsea” won the day. The other two varieties did grow really well with 3lb onions in each, but the most consistent large onion was definitely “Ailsea”. And the onion with the biggest roots was “Mammoth Improved”.
I wish I tried them in the greenhouse to see if they would grow any bigger, and the largest this year was 3lb 5oz, which I don’t think is bad for a first attempt.
Taking a risk this year growing peas without a net.
Picture of pea pods on a pea plant
Picture of pea pods on a pea plant
I planted these in batches so I don’t get a glut of peas all at once. The first ones for the year tasted very good too.
I’ve never attempted to grow beans before, and they seem to, so far, been very easy to grow.
Picture of flowers on a broad bean plant
With a variety of beans for drying and French, dwarf and climbing beans.
I had been advised that growing beans along-side peas keeps the birds off and so far it has worked rather well with only a few pea pods being attacked.
After failing miserably with the giant onions last year, I seem to be having a little success this. Nearly all the seedlings sprouted and I don’t think I lost any. I planted them out at the end of May and they are fattening up quite nicely.
Picture of a one pound coin against a giant onion
Picture of rows of giant onions
Picture of a raised bed of giant onions
Picture of a raised bed of onions that have been damaged
Although, my main crop of Sturon that I planted as sets looks like it has been sprayed with weedkiller accidently by the neighbour. Very disappointed, but part of having to share an allotment I guess.
I think I’ve left it really late this year to dig any potatoes.
Picture of the first of the seasons potatoes lying on the soil in a raised bed in the allotment
As usual, Aran Pilot are my first earlies’ and this year looks to be as good as the last.
I have planted other varieties in the top allotment which I hope will be as good as these.
Although we have had some great rhubarb from the allotment this year, these are really the first fruits of the season.
Picture of bunch of radish and strawberries in a wooden trug
Picture of a bunch of Radish on a chopping board
Fresh picked are some of the strawberries from the plants that I split up earlier in the season. A lot are quite small, but there are still some corkers in there.
I have grown radish before, but I have never grown this variety. There are loads to come, and I am today going to sow a second, and perhaps a third row they are that nice.
Christening, more like a baptism of fire.
Today I fished my local pond for the first time this season. I took along with me a new rod that I have just had made up from a blank. A rather superb Fred J. Taylor Roach Rod. My aim was to catch a Tench.
However, my lake is full of Carp, they were certainly in evidence today, cruising about in the hot sunshine just below the surface.
Picture of a double figure Mirror Carp in a vintage landing net with a split cane Fred J Taylor fishing rod and Allcocks Aerial Popular fishing reel
I set out a single grain of corn with one swan shot just about one rod length out into the margins.
Some time passed and bubbles around the float showed that fish were definitely feeding today. The float swayed side-to-side but never went under.
I reeled in and reset the hook length making it a little shorter. After around ten minutes away shot the float and the reel sang its rasping tune. I was hoping for a Tench but instead I had hooked one of the lakes ‘zoo creatures’. It put up one heck of a fight and it took all my courage with my new rod to stop it reaching snags in the middle of the lake.
Eventually I won the day but I hope I do not hook too many of these Carp on this rod.
After splitting all my plants late last year they seem to have taken on a new life and are thriving. I may not get a huge crop from the young plants this year but they certainly do look well.
Amazingly, this year the giant onion seeds have done very well indeed. I think I have only lost around 5 plants as opposed to last season when I lost a lot. maybe the sprinkling in cinnamon really does work to stave off infections.
Drilling larger holes in the black plastic I planted the young plants with more “rootgrow”. Hopefully the black plastic will keep the raised bed warm and keep moisture in the soil also.
When grafting at the allotment, there is no better sound to be accompanied than the blackbird.
Picture of a Blackbird singing in a tree
Picture of a Blackbird singing in a tree
Absolutely glorious on a mid spring day. Accompanied by a passing thunder storm.
After enquiring how to protect your peas, I was advised to grow beans along-side them which in turn distract the birds from the peas. I’m a sucker for trying things out.
Building wig-wam structures from canes, I hope to train these beans up them and grow my peas up the insides of these structures. Again, we will have to see the results and see if the experiments works
It really makes you think when you plant the first spuds that spring is on the way. It certainly is. The bushes and some trees have the first flush of that acid lime-like green in their leaves.
Again planting my favourite first early ‘Arran Pilot’. I seem to have only got two rows out of the bag this year. I wonder if I have planted them closer than usual?
Great to see them in, even if I only got two rows out of them. Il wait some time before I consider planting any of the other varieties in order to avoid a glut of spuds.
I have been trying to find a way for a while now of growing onions with no need to weed. It is such a pain having to be very careful between sets with the hoe, and inevitably I catch the odd one or two.
Seeing how professionals’ grow some veg through a membrane, I had an idea of trying to do the same with onions sets.
Before laying down the black plastic, I had dug in lots and lots of chicken manure. This black membrane is also breathable, and infact lets water through but stops weeds in their tracks. It also warms the soil up tremendously and keeps in moisture stopping evaporation.
I have had to construct a number of slats simply to weight the membrane down so the wind does not get in underneath and lift up. I will have to watch out for slugs doing this, but lets see if I can grow maintenance free onions this year.
Oh, and the variety, is as usual ‘Sturon’ that I normally set away in cells in the greenhouse.
I’m always keen to see if I can grow unusual crops, crops that are hard to obtain, and crops that are expensive in the shops.
This year is no exception. Although I have tried this one before, I am again trying Swiss Chard ‘Rainbow mix’. More unusually, Quinoa, Tomatillo and the Dwarf French bean ‘Borlotto Firetongue’ (Harricot Bean).
I have struggled to obtain really good Cayenne chilli seeds last year, and infact this year also. With this in mind, I am trying to get seeds to germinate from the chillies I have still in stock from our freezer.
Taking a handful of chillies from a two year old crop that we are still using from the freezer. I sliced them open, extracted the seeds and sowed them in a good multi purpose compost, watered well, covered, labelled and left in the greenhouse. Hopefully some will germinate and produce those fabulous plants we had two years ago.
Planted today, only time will tell.
Forget your calendar, forget your watch, the ‘officials’ will tell you the 20th March is the first day of spring. Only when the Blackbird sings Spring has sprung.
Although quite a cold day, today is the first day of 2016 that the Blackbirds have sang, and what a joy; hopes and expectations of a good season ahead.
I’ve just recently purchased the seed potatoes for this season.
As usual, I am planting my favourite first early ‘Arran Pilot’. For the second early I will be planting ‘Nadine’ which is another favourite. As a main crop I am going to try the variety ‘Estima’. I have not read about this one. and know nothing about it, so am looking forward to see how it produces, and more importantly how it tastes.
The empty egg box is at the ready to sit the variety ‘Arran Pilot’ seed potatoes in order to ‘chit’ them prior to planting out.
Because I have a second allotment this year, I will also plant a potato crop there too. Maybe King Edwards, or a variety I have never tried before. Watch this space…
The Victoria Rhubarb seems to be taking steroids this year.
It has never seemed to be totally dormant. The plants began growing in January. It is mid March now and we have only had a couple of warm days. The Blackbird has not sang yet so it isn’t officially spring.
I have put a lot of manure and feed on these plants over the winter so we shall hopefully be getting a really good crop this season.
The Kale and the three types of giant onion have germinated very successfully this season.
Today I have potted on the first plants; ‘Ailsae’ Onions and the Kale ‘Nero Toscana’.
Picture of a tray of transplanted seedlings into three inch pots on a bench in a greenhouse
Mixing in a good supply of Vermiculite and a good few handfuls of fish, blood and bone which will hopefully give the seedlings a real boost.
I also have put at the root of each Onion seedling a pinch of Mycorrhizal fungi. This will work with the plants root system and provide me with huge onions this year, I trust.
I have gone to even further lengths with the aim of producing a large onion. I have made a dedicated raised bed that I have raked in a lot of fish, blood and bone meal, along with lots of chicken manure pellets, and a whole bag of 6x manure. On top of this, I have secured a planting black membrane. This will heat up the ground far more efficiently, as well as suppressing all weeds, allowing air and water to pass right through.
I have temporarily placed planks of wood along the perimeter just to keep the membrane down on the soil, and protect it from the wind that whips across the allotment.
When the plants are ready to go out into the bed around the back end of April, I will drill 3″ holes along each planting line, about 9″ apart, and each onion will drop into these.
I have also heightened the arms along the perimeter of the raised bed in order to secure a taller wind break to protect the onions that I will install after I have planted out.
After what has seemed to be an eternity, the rain has stopped this afternoon. The sun has not put in an appearance yet, but at least the birds can get about and feed. This fella was certainly happy singing from the very top of a huge old Elder in the allotment. Notice the buds on the Elder, ready and waiting for this year.
What I long to see and hear now is the Blackbird sing from this exact perch, then I know spring is close. I fear this may be some time away as we are heading towards a very cold snap.
Maybe this Robin was delivering this exact weather forecast and instructing all its kin to feed while they can, before the ground turns hard and white.
Over time I have managed to take some great snaps with a little pocket cheap camera. Having to enhance and clarify most pictures in Photoshop to bring them up to a decent standard.
This Christmas I have been very fortune in receiving my first ‘Bridge Camera’ It takes some great shots and goes through batteries like nobody’s business so I will have to order some rechargables for it.
Although still post processing photos in Photoshop some of the results are spectacular.
This year I have been very fortunate to be given for Christmas 3 types of giant onion seeds. They are ‘Mammoth Improved’, ‘Ailsea’, and ‘Giant Exhibition’.
The Giant Exhibition really did not come to much last season although I got onions they were not very giant.
So today, the first day of the new year, I have sown these seeds and will hope for good things this year.
Picture of a trowel and packets of giant onion seeds in a wooden trug
Picture of a small hand hoe and trowel in a wooden trug
Picture of a string twine holder with a hook for a pair of scissors and a model bird on top
I was also very fortunate in getting a wooden trug. It was very pale, and the wood very dry so I have lathered it in linseed oil which will protect and also give it a little waterproofing.