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Early onion harvest this year

Onions lifted and drying in the sun. Inset: three varieties of onion — red baron, hytech and sturon.

Onions lifted and drying in the sun. Inset: three varieties of onion — red baron, hytech and sturon.

Richard Wright

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Monday, August 21, 2017 - 13:30

GARDENING is full of conundrums, largely centring on that great British talking point — the weather.
This year, as we struggle through the latterly soggy summer, it’s been a case of plusses and minuses visited upon our vegetable patches.
Leeks have raced ahead and I am already harvesting good-sized specimens in comparison to last year, which was dismal.
For onions, too, it has been a magnificent growing season.
Red baron (an old tried and tested salad favourite), hytech and sturon — all heat-treated, which deters them running to seed in dry conditions — have done exceptionally well.
But when to harvest? That is the question. I have been picking a few of the red onions through the year because they are sweet and exceptionally juicy eaten ‘green’ but with some of the crop having died back ready for pulling, and some showing signs of rot in the continually wet soil, I made the bold decision to pull them a few days’ ago.
In a ‘normal’ year you could expect to leave them outside to dry in the sun after pulling but if they are rained upon moisture can be locked in the stems promoting rot when they are strung.
It is important to have a dry stem to string them up with and for the outer skin to have dried off too, so this year they are in the shelter of the greenhouse and a warm outbuilding because the weather forecasts look far from settled.
I’m turning them regularly too. It is a bit of a faff but it would be a shame to lose them now.
Any with damage, any trace of rot or with hard stems through running to seed should be used and not stored.
Through the moisture-rich summer, combined with using heat-treated sets from D. T. Brown, just one red baron ran to seed, which must be some sort of record.
Fingers crossed picking them earlier than ever before, and green, will be a gamble worth taking.
It never ceases to amaze me too how the same sets can produce onions of such great size variety.
I have had some mighty specimens this year but some appear to go into some sort of suspended animation.
When picked they appear hardly any larger than when they were planted.

 


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