Growing onions, shallots and garlic

Because so many recipes make use of onions, shallots or garlic, growing them in your garden always seems like a sensible option to me. Not only are they all very easy to grow, these indispensable vegetables are simple to store for future use. Onions of ordinary size and quality can be grown in most soils. Always, check the specific instructions provided by your supplier, but the basics of growing onions, shallots and garlic, are laid out below.

Preparing soil for onions 1. As onions need good drainage, the texture of the soil is important. Before planting dig in well-rotted manure and sand or grit. Add general fertiliser.
Planting onion sets 2. Plant onion sets 10cm apart from late winter to mid spring, when the ground is workable. Push gently into the soil until just the tips are showing.
Growing shallots 3. Plant easy-to-grow shallots 15cm apart from late winter to early spring. Press the bulbs firmly into the soil until they are half covered.
Planting garlic bulbs 4. Garlic likes the sun and fairly rich ground. Plant bulbs vertically, 10cm apart, in late autumn or early spring to the depth of the bulb.
Drying onions, shallot and garlic 5. When onion, shallot and garlic leaves turn yellow, lift the bulbs and spread them to dry in a cool, dry place, or plait withered leaves together with string.

Growing tips

  • All these examples show growing from sets (small, immature onions) rather than seeds. Many varieties can be grown from seed or set, but planting details for seeds will be different to that shown above.
  • Growing sets is slightly easier for the beginner, as you basically have a head start. They will also be more disease resistant.
  • One problem with growing from sets is bird attack, so you are well advised to cover with netting.

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