Growing and storing onions and garlic

Posted: Tuesday 10 July 2012
by Pippa Greenwood

The absence of good summer weather has meant that many of my onions are ‘bull-necked,’ or unusually wide at the neck end.

Onions on a table

I’ve always grown a lot of onions from sets, some planted in autumn, and others in spring. They’re ridiculously easy to grow, seem to withstand even very cold winters, and store so well that you can be eating your own delicious onions all year round.

But this year, I have a feeling I won’t be doing quite as well as usual. All of a sudden I’m starting to see problems. The absence of good summer weather has meant that many of my onions are ‘bull-necked,’ or unusually wide at the neck end. Bulbs with this condition have open necks and don’t dry off well, and as a result they don’t last in storage as well as others. They can make perfectly good eating onions, but need to be eaten promptly.

Added to this, my shallots have suddenly flopped, and I’ve heard from others who have spotted downy mildew on the foliage of onions and shallots. This too is a side effect of the weather. It’s caused by a fungus, which thrives in damp and muggy conditions.

Meanwhile, the garlic foliage has now all turned bright orange with fungal rust, and many of the leaves have died back too. So, I’m getting ready to lift the bulbs earlier than I usually would – with not much sun about, leaving them in probably wouldn't benefit them much anyway.

Drying off the onions will be a real problem this year. I usually pick my day using the weather forecast as a guide, so I can leave them out in the sun. As it doesn’t look like we’ll get a sunny day, I plan to place them on netting, mesh cloches and wooden pallets, so that air can circulate above and below them. I’ll put them in a place where I can gather them up and run inside with them as soon as it starts to rain!

But most importantly, I’ll be grading all the bulbs carefully, to separate the 'perfect' specimens from the bull-necked. And with a large number to eat promptly, I’ll be looking up recipes for French onion soup, onion bhajees, rissoles … and any other onion dishes I can think of!

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susier 12/07/2012 at 08:21

We have started chopping our onions up if they have had soggy necks, or bull necks and freezing them for future use. The 'good' onions are hung up to dry and hopefully they'll last. Ive new onions growing on the allotment, and they are looking good. My garlic which was planted earlier in the year is on my husbands plot and I haven't checked it, but the leaves have gone very pale, and I'll have a look at it next time I go up there. The garlic planted more recently is doing well.
I hope we start getting some warm and sunny weather soon.

donutsmrs 12/07/2012 at 18:10

I lifted my onions on Monday and they are now on racks in the greenhouse drying off nicely. as I've never grown them before I am really pleased with the crop I've got. I've got more now to plant in the Autumn so I hope they do just as well.

Barry Kirby 12/07/2012 at 19:49

So far the garlic has been ok, though the elephant garlic, which is still in the ground, is looking very thick and worrying.

spugh22 13/07/2012 at 17:18

I randomly potted some onions that would have otherwise gone in the bin because they had started to grow roots. Things were looking good until the stem started to thicken and now I have a peculiar looking 'bulb' on the top of this stem which, according to the glorious world of the internet, is going to be a flower. Because of the weather, my onions have "bolted". But I'm hoping I will at least be able to get the seed from this flower and propergate new onion plants?

Welshonion 15/07/2012 at 01:15

spugh22; take account of the breeding of your onions.  If they are F1 you may waste a lot of your time growing the seed only to end up with useless plants/onions.

If you want to experiment, fine, but it may be better to buy good quality seed or sets.

If you plant onions that are growing roots, of course they bolt.  Onions are biennial and always produce flowers in their second year. Nothing to do with the weather.

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