Sure, I planted several thousand onion seedlings today, but this was the culmination of a process that began back in May, when I sowed the fresh onion seeds into flats of potting mix. I sowed four flats each of white, red and brown onions. Onions germinate just as well in cool conditions, so the trays sat out the front of the potting shed in the open, and once they had sprouted I applied a chook manure tea every couple of days to ensure robust seedlings.
Meanwhile, the look of the garden for the coming season took shape. Some crops are planted often (salad and rocket maybe 20 times a year), some periodically (beets seven times a year, and broccoli five-ish), and some are only planted once: garlic and onions.
Planting once usually means planting a lot. The garlic crop for this year (looking sterling, thankyouverymuch), is 25 beds, and today’s onions fill 15 beds.
Now for the sake of neatness I like the onions to be in the same place; planting 15 beds of onions opportunistically around the garden is a nightmare for planting, harvesting and crop rotation. So freeing up a section of the garden has been a priority.
With this in mind, for the last three months I’ve been leaving one section of beds fallow once they have been cropped.
Unfortunately, a section of garden free of current cropping does not remain bare, especially in spring. Nature will fill gaps, in this case with a lovely collection of grasses, chickweed, claytonia, rocket and some dock for interest. These weeds have enjoyed the damp spring, and as cultivating wet soil is no fun (it takes longer, it’s less efficient, and bed tilth suffers), I’ve had to squeeze bed preparation into what dry days there have been.
On the first dry day available I ran the mower over the weeds a couple of times; then a week or so later I cultivated the patch with my trusty tiller. After a second cultivation last week, I began to spade up the beds and to rake out any remaining weeds. Because the soil is still quite damp, this took about half an hour per bed, and is fairly physical work. I then applied compost and raked that in.
So at last, five months later on a bright spring morning, Farmer Alex goes out to plant onions.
So that’s the end of 'the tale of planting onions’....or is it the middle of ‘the story of the onion crop’?