Monday, 4 March 2013

Sow your onions, garlic and shallots

the lads hard at work sowing onions garlic and shallots in the teaching garden in Hospital
It's been a busy few weeks since classes started back in February. At first you are fooled into thinking you have loads of time until suddenly, without warning its March and you have to sow everything, now! before you run out of time! It's exhausting...yawn Zzz. Its enough to make you want to lie back down and rewind the clock to February.

One job you can do in late February or early March is the sowing of onion sets, garlic cloves and shallots. And its a super satisfying job because you get the whole lot done and dusted in a few hours after a vigorous dig. The last fortnight of dry weather has been perfect for digging over these beds, especially if you plan to partner the onions with parsnips or carrots later on in April. Digging beds in four separate gardens over the last two weeks it was amazing how different each type of soil was, but at least the common theme was dryness, and that's all you could wish for this time of the year. Having a whole class to dig beds is even better. If you are digging solo the bad news is that the soil literally needs to be a fine powder before a carrot will even consider growing in it. You can certainly add coarse sand and dig it in lightly to the top few inches but it will be better if you had manure or compost added in last year too. So get stuck in but mind your backs!

Things to remember about sowing onions/garlic/shallots

Pointy end up, fat end down, amazing how often people think its the other way around!
Allow 6 inches between each one to allow them to get to a good size
(In an 8x4 bed you should fit 15 down and 7 across =105 per bed)
If you are going to share the bed later with carrots or parsnips I reckon three rows of alliums to allow for two of carrots/parsnips. Any more is too packed for my liking.
Don't push down the onions/garlic/shallots until you have finished the whole bed and are happy with your rows being straight etc. You will forget where you have sowed otherwise!
Net the bed when you are done sowing to prevent the birds pulling them up or a cat thinking its a hip new bathroom for cats

Reward for a hard days work everyone goes home with leeks


  1. Great to see the onions in, it makes the season look in full swing and you have really achieved something!Good tip not to push them down until they are all in, I ALWAYS do that even after years of sowing them and knowing I will lose track of them!

  2. I get into a right flapp Peggy until I get them in, then I relax afterwards.Then I get into another flapp until I get the spuds in!

  3. What do you dust it all with?

  4. Tammy
    "Done and dusted" is an expression that means the job is finished, no dusting with anything!