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Talkback: Knowing your onions

I have grown and successfully stored onions for about five years now, usually managing to grow enough to last up until the next years crop is ready for lifting. I always buy 'Setton' as sets to plant out in late winter/early spring and after lifting them in late summer, i leave them on my greenhouse staging for about a month. I make sure the greenhouse is well ventilated, but is still warmed by the late summer sun to dry the onions well. This i believe has been key to my success. I then store them in the house under the stairs in onion sacks haggled from a market stall.


  • having grown the onion family on an allotment for several years, i have come to the conclusion that my onions (shallots and garlic too) store best in strings in the garden shed which has few windows but is normally frost free though well ventilated at all other times. After bringing some strings into the kitchen for interesting xmas decorations i noticed they started to sprout into growth, becoming soft and unusable, although the same crop stored in the shed was fine.

    The answer... try to store them as above, and chop, sweat and freeze some for use in soups/stews etc. Use all the onion family in season, i.e. onions from august to xmas, then shallots (which seem to keep better) followed by leeks straight from the ground till spring. Spring onions can be used till the summer crops, and don't forget chives, which can be cut and frozen as they are or chopped into ice cubes. it makes for interesting cooking, i like French onion soup in early autumn, roast shallots with sunday dinners in winter and cock a leekie in january, but Bolognese made with leeks is surprisingly good.

  • I have grown onions from sets with good results for 30yrs and from seed with varying results. This year being very wet during June/July the onions were large weighing around 3/4 lb each with thick necks. I managed to dry them out and prevent neck rot by splitting the necks and pulling the leaves apart down to the tops of the bulbs.

    I have previously stored them in an unheated greenhouse in trays over a few, relatively frost free winters. Can anyone advise on whether they will withstand a period of below freezing weather.

  • We live in Leeds and have recently taken on a very overgrown weedy neglected allotment. We have cleared this, applied weedkiller (no choice in view of the neglect) and have made 4' wide by 15' beds for vegetables. I planted onions, garlic and shallots in the autumn. I have keept thes weed free and protected from birds with netting. Have I done the right thing? Will the frosts damage the sets, and will they survive all the wet weather? I see that the garlic should have been planted in modules for planting out in March/April - should I rebuy and try again? Advice please!
  • I have overestimated the amount of onions I needed for my allotment can I store them for next year kind regards D Duff
  • I grow 4 forty foot rows of onions, garlic and shallots each year. I rotate my crops, in the autumn, when my potatoes are cleared I prepare the ground for my onions by adding manure/compost available free at my site. I dig this in along with some Blood Meal (onions I find do better with lots of nitrogen). In August I sow seeds of Japanese winter varieties which I transplant and then plant in my prepared bed in January/February. I also then plant sets of onions in February/March. I bend over the stems of the earlier Japanese onions in late June and lift them and them dry two weeks later. The same with the set onions but about two months later in late August/September.

    To recap in order - August, sow winter onion seeds; September, prepare bed; October, sow garlic cloves and Japanese winter onion sets; November, transplant Japanese winter onion seedlings; January/February plant out Japanese winter onion seedlings; March, plant out main crop sets; June/July, bend over and lift Japanese Onions; September/October, bend over (if needed) and lift main crop onions.

    By lifting I mean to just lift the onions from the soil, leave for a fortnight then place somewhere warm and dry to dry before storing in sacks or in ropes.

    Use the Japanes ones first. Make sure they are physically dry and keep in a fridge or cool place until needed, they should keep for about a month.
    Main crops when dried as described I find keep until early summer, when you have the Japanese ones to take over.

  • I have just planted loads of chives when they have grown I would like to chop them up and dry them out and put them into my chive bottle like the ones you buy from asda etc. But can some one advise me on what to do to dry them out do I just leave them over night can someone help me please thanx lindsey
  • I have some onions that i think are growing, but I'm not sure if they are (as they have been brought from a supermarket),(to be eaten)! they have green growing out the top of them and I was wondering if I could plant them grow my own onions can someone please help me as i don't know a thing about gardening! thank you ross
  • I have grown red onions ( unsure of their name )however they have started to flower, after reading your section about bolting I checked to see if there were any weeds growing within, there was but only at one end would this affect the whole crop and what do I do to rectify it.
  • I'm a new gardener and have planted red onions. The onions have grown tall, about 2 foot (600mm), and some have seed balls on the top of their stems, but a lot of the bulbs are small. Is his normal? Will they fill out. Have I done something wrong? I water them every day.
  • I have grown white and red onions from sets for years,(about 120 white & 60 red), all in the same bed prepared with dug in manure and fed with B F &B and nitrogen.
    Every year without fail the white out-perform the red. I lose maybe only 5 white sets and the rest grow to a good size,but the reds are a disappointment. About half don't grow, while those that do are small, I may get 10 that are a reasonable size. Can anybody explain this?
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