How to grow onions

This is another great crop to be getting started with now, simply sow direct into the soil

Although onion sets when they’re available are easy to just pop in the ground, it’s so much more satisfying to enjoy the whole germination process and grow onions from seed.

Sown in the winter onions will be ready in early summer next year, up to a month before normal maincrop onions.

They like very well-drained soil where they won't fall foul of winter wet, so fork some extra grit or sand into the sowing area to help improve drainage.

Try to get the seeds sown by the end of the month. That will give them time to produce good-sized bulbs by winter, which will be able to withstand whatever the weather throws at them.

Fully-sized bulbs should be ready by next July, but you can also harvest leaves from them earlier for a bonus ‘spring onion’ crop.

Keep the soil well watered up until germination, which should occur just a few days after sowing, in warm, damp soil.

After germination, thin out the seedlings to leave a seedling every 15cm (6in) along the row.

How to grow pumpkins

how to grow pumpkins

For a pumpkin-filled Halloween this year, full of your own home-grown fruit, it’s time to get sowing

It’s always funny to think of growing such an iconic October plant right now at the height of spring, but you have to start somewhere to get those monster crops!

In fact, why not join in with Thompson and Morgan’s National Pumpkin Sowing Day on April 12? This date has been set by the seed company to inspire people to grow their own whoppers at home, to try and beat last autumn’s weigh-in winner that reached over 2000 lbs!

As with all members of the pumpkin family, it’s slightly too early to sow them directly outside, but it’s prime time to sow them in little pots for keeping indoors, in good, moist seed compost, in a light spot of around 20 – 25C.

Sow the large seed on their sides about 2.5cm deep and cover over with more compost.

Place on a warm windowsill or in a simple propagator and wait for germination – you can then plant them out next month. 

pumpkin seeds.jpg

Have you got the space to grow them?

If you’re not fussed about growing to show and compete and want a small crop, try the variety ‘Wee B Little’, a brilliantly named tiny pumpkin for the smaller plot from www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk.

For real monsters to take up your whole allotment, go for ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giant’, a record-breaking variety.

 

How to dig up shallots

Dig up and dry your spring-sown crop

After the long wait from spring, your shallots will be ready to harvest now. 

As the stems start to fade to yellow, but while they’re still a little green and therefore fresher, lift the clusters of bulbs and dry them out, as you would onions.

You could use a hand fork to lift them, as you can then be more sure of not damaging the bulbs so much.

Bruising or slicing the bulbs accidentally means they’re more susceptible to rot during storage later on. 

Lay them to dry in the sunshine or, if it’s wet weather, in an airy, dry place.

Once they’re drier after a few days, you can make it easier for them to fully dry by brushing off all the extra mud and loose skins from the bulbs. You can cut off the dead foliage, too. 

Separate the bulbs and keep them until you need to use them.

Hang them in clusters using twine or an old pair of tights, or store them in a dry, frost-free place.

Digging up shallots

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     1.   As shallots grow in large clusters, dig them out carefully with a fork or they’ll bruise. 

1. As shallots grow in large clusters, dig them out carefully with a fork or they’ll bruise. 

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   2.   Brush off extra soil and separate the clusters of bulbs so they dry better. 

2. Brush off extra soil and separate the clusters of bulbs so they dry better. 

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     3. Lay out to dry in the sun in a single layer in a large tray, or lay on a tarpaulin or similar.   

3. Lay out to dry in the sun in a single layer in a large tray, or lay on a tarpaulin or similar. 

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