Thursday, December 27, 2007

Next year's garden - success and failure
The alliums

A series of posts discussing my feverish garden planning.

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The alliums

Every year, I have grown onions: Onion sets, onion from seeds, started onions from flats. Every year, I have harvested onions: Big onions, small onions, onions riddled with wireworm.

You have to start the seeds early, space properly, weed judiciously, and hope they store well. Even though, I always start lots, I find we run out of onions too soon. In order to grow enough for our families needs, I think I'd have to devote a quarter of the garden to them, and there are other plants that I would prefer to grow. They also are insistent on having lots of light, water and food and little competition. Not only that but they are outbreeders, meaning I don't save the seed and their seed viability is low meaning that I have to buy new seed often.

All in all, I have decided that we would stop growing (and therefore cook less with) onions, but instead grow (and cook with) many other members of the allium family.

The Perennials

Chives: Super easy to grow, self seeding, with attractive, edible flowers, this plant is a must for any herb garden. Just clip few off a handful of slender leaves to add to your sauce or salad when needed. Garlic Chives is a vigorous cousin but is a bit too boistorous for some gardens - use liberally as a pot herb and deadhead to prevents numerous volenteers.

Topsetting onions. Also known as walking onions. These onions form bulbs at the top of stems that bend to the ground and root. Use these as you would pearl onions. You can also use them as green onions and best of all you can eat the bulb itself which is not huge but big enough.

Potato onions or multiplier and shallots: Last year, I stuck some shallot bulbs in the ground and only two came up. Apparently, they behave rather like garlic by splitting and then growing bigger. According to at least one source, multiplier onoins have a two year cycle - the first year forming bulblets and the second year these grow fatter. You could harvest some and replant the rest. They also keep well.

Bunching onions: I haven't grown these yet either but plan on dedicating part of my garden to them. They are perennial, productive, early and tasty. Oh and they are easy to grow! Hmm.. maybe I'll give part of my polytunnel garden to them. Next to the chicory perhaps.

Garlic: As I was writing this, I realized that garlic is a perennail too. I grow it successfully every year and add to my varities by purchasing locally grown heirloom garlic at markets. Using locally grown varities increases my chances of success. I need to grow lots of garlic too but I happily devote space to it. Most of my garlic is hardneck so instead of braiding the necks for storage, I tie them together and them hang them somewhere dry and room temperature. You have to love veggies that store at room temperature and low humidity. After harvesting, break apart the bulbs that you won't be using and replant the cloves to have a new crop of bulbs next year.


Others

Leeks - Isn't it great that leeks are the only allium that I haven't listed as a perennial? Many leek varities are very, very cold hardy. They will overwinter in most environments (to ensure this, mulch heavily with leaves in the late fall). They can be harvested as baby leeks, as big leeks at the end of the season and again in the spring.

Despite the fact that I have listed leeks as not a perennial (it's biennial), I intend on making a 'perennial bed' for it. Ammended with lots of goodies, I will let the leeks overwinter then drop seed. Then I'll transplant or thin the seedlings. We'll see how it goes.



Links

Root Cause on perennial onions - lots of varities discussed

Some perennial onions I have never heard of!

How to grow shallots by one of my favourite veggie info blogs: Vegetable Garden Tips

5 comments:

Patrick said...

I really like alliums. At the same time I'm starting to realize it's going to take some trial and error to find the right ones for my garden.

So far I think the Amish and Egyptian onions are great.

At the same time I've ruled out growing the Belgian shallot and the yellow potato onion, because they just aren't hardy enough in my garden. The catawissa onions just weren't interesting enough to grow again. I just threw away my winter stock of greely bunching onion, because it became infested with some kind of insect and rotted.

The fleener onion is still a maybe, because it was really on the small side.

I'm still happy with the ones that remain, and perhaps I'll even look for some more varieties to try, but I'm slowly ruling out many of the varieties as unsuitable. You might not want to put all of your eggs into one basket and stop growing all your normal onions too.

Patrick said...

Also, the Seed Savers Exchange (via their member only listings) is a great source of perennial onions.

Ottawa Gardener said...

I've heard good things about Amish multiplier onion too. It's true that we should all try various varities until we know which ones work best in our gardens. So far I have had great success with both garlic and regular chives and egyptian onions does really well around here. I think I'm going to try different types of multiplier onions and some bunching onions to see what's best.

As for growing onions, I think I'm going to get them from one of our local farmers for the time being and devote that space to even more dried peas and beans (I think I'm developing a problem, in the good sense) or maybe even MORE heirloom garlic... yum.

Curtis said...

I haven't grown garlic yet. Even though I bought some to plant. I think I still have some and they are still firm. I'll stick them in the ground and see what happens. I grew chives this year and cant wait till they grow back. I like Aliums. Onions are on my list for next spring.

hw said...

Are multiplier onions the same thing as shallots?

I don't really like onions, but I used some shallots for cooking for the first time over the holiday and fell in love.

I definitely want some of those in my garden this year.