Monday, 8 October 2012

Sow your overwintering onions now

Spiders web made visible by the mist frames the first rays of sun
Last Saturday turned out to be the most perfect autumn day. It began as all autumn days should with shrouding mists that allowed only hints of blue skies and sunshine. As the morning wore on the mist lifted very gradually until at last, by midday the valley was clear and the garden was gently sweating in the most divine heat. The perfect day to straighten out one of this years brassica beds and prepare it for overwintering onions. As a bonus it was a root day on the biodynamic calendar.

Be still my beating heart!! Onion sets!
I had been in Gardeners world a few days before and seen really good looking onion sets in big baskets on the floor. I was especially intrigued by a pure white one called snowball that I have never seen before. But before I could help myself I had to stand in a corner and do some mental arithmetic. One strange side effect of teaching maths is my new inability to buy anything for the garden without working out how much space I have and how many I can fit. It's all very sensible I know but it took me longer to think about what proportion of the bed still held Toms Purple sprouting Broccoli, and how much room that left me for planting overwintering onions, and how many to put in and at what spacing, than it did to just pick up the fecking sets and put them in a bag! I have a slow maths brain, it clanks away like a mouse pushing a heavy steel door, still I suppose it works- I ended up with exactly the right amount!!

the last stragglers in the bed-wild rocket and weeds
Anyway- back to Saturday. First I cleared the wild rocket plants still growing in the bed. These had been an under-crop for Kale during the summer. The idea was that the rocket would enjoy the shade under the much larger Kale plants and so (hopefully) not rush to seed. The rocket in turn would compete the weeds for the Kale too and it all worked out-more or less for the last few months of the summer.

scutch grass roots
I had an idea that these rocket plants could be reliable perennials under glass as I have seen the same plant last several years at Eileen's so even though I dug them up I wasn't throwing them away. They would all get a nice sized pot, some compost and manure and go into the glasshouse for the winter. They are well worth keeping too as this type of rocket is the tastiest, truest rockety flavoured rocket you can grow-I think so anyway. It tastes far better than anything else I have tried.

Layer of sand added but not dug in -yet

 Next came some serious digging. It was exhausting, and incredibly sweaty. I stood up at one stage, leaned on my fork (in my best co council workers pose) and felt the sweat run down the back of my neck. Outstanding stuff in the month of October!! Why was I exerting myself in the first place you ask? I had two reasons to really thoroughly dig the bed. The first was scutch grass making a small colony in one corner, the other was the fast forward plan of growing carrots with these onions in late spring/early summer next year.

Leaf mould delivery
It was all a bit clumpy and heavy so I added a few spadefuls of sand. I'm sure the pile of builders sand is not as good as the blue sand from home but its handier when you have a pile of it on site just to use it. Unfortunately Ginger and all the local cats think its quite handy too for a quick loo stop en route to murdering something in the garden, so I had to look for a "clean" spot covered by plastic. I dug it in lightly. The aim is not to bury it but to get it into the top few inches of the soil. It will drop down further by itself over the winter.

Snowball sets in
Last, but by no means least I added a nice pile of leaf mould which has just finished breaking down after two years up at Jacks under his trees. The leaves are mostly lime leaves from Tony's place in Ennis which is dominated by a magnificent lime tree. Tony, much like my Dad sees the leaves as a right pain in the arse. Hopefully I can continue to persuade him to keep collecting them for me.Leaf mould is really terrific stuff, and as rare as hens teeth if your not making it yourself!

electric reds
Finally in went the onions. I planted 10 of electric red, snowball and troy. Great names I think! The troy are yellow, snowball pure white and as the name suggests the electric reds are red! I didn't net them from the birds but I am watching the bed in case they, or Ginger(or his cat brethren) take an interest in the newly cleared patch. If we are really lucky we will get more outstanding Saturdays like the last one making these Autumn jobs a pleasure and getting us really organised before the worse weather arrives.

PS; If you are in gardeners world they have more varieties of over wintering onions and beautiful looking overwintering garlic too.

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