Unless you have a polytunnel, the vegetables you can grow at this time of the year are of a limited selection. That being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow anything at all. If you’re a keen gardener and want to make the most of your garden all year round, growing Winter vegetables can be very rewarding.
Onions are a particularly great vegetable to grow in Winter as they are large, hardy and can survive in cold temperatures. They tend to grow the most over winter and are easiest to grow if purchased as small pre-grown bulbs.
Here is a step by step basic guide to growing your own Winter onions:
Planting the onions
The first thing you will need to do is use these Autumn months to prepare the area you will be planting the onions. You could start planting the onions at the end of Summer, but many gardeners opt to plant in October/November when the weather has cooled down.
The only rule is to plant the onions before the ground has hardened through the frost.
When choosing a spot to plant your onions opt for the sunniest spot you can. The greenhouse would be ideal if you have one. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a particularly sun drenched garden, onions will grow in a wide variety of conditions although they don’t do well in sandy soil and prefer loose, well-drained soil.
When you have chosen the area, break up the soil using a garden rake. Add plenty of compost and organic matter to the soil to ensure it is nutrient rich.
Plant each bulb around 2 inches into the ground and push it just below soil level gently sprinkling extra soil over the top if it is not properly covered. Then using your hands, gently pat the soil above the bulb.
Make sure you plant each bulb around 5-6 inches apart within their row, and keep the rows a foot apart. Once all of the bulbs have been placed, cover the top over with a layer of mulch to insulate the bulbs and feed further nutrients into the ground.
Caring For The Onions
You will need to water the onions twice weekly for the first fortnight after you have planted them. After this time you won’t need to water the onions at all, particularly after the ground has gone hard.When the weather begins to warm up again, you should still only water the onions if the weather has been particularly hot or dry and the ground the onions are growing in looks parched. Over-watering the onions will rot them, so it is important you refrain from watering them much at all.
During their time in the ground you will also need to fertilise your onions. Once after the first frost which will be more than likely at some time during November, and once right at the beginning of Spring before harvest.
While the onions grow you will also need to weed the area around them. Although you won’t get them growing much in Winter, the odd one will manage to rear its head and when it does, get rid of it immediately – you don’t want your onions having to compete for nutrients! Pest control shouldn’t be much of a problem, however when the weather begins to warm up there’s always the possibility of them becoming an issue.
If you do notice them, use a non-chemical pesticide to get rid of them.
Harvesting Your Onions
After all of your love and attention, the time will come for your onions to reward you with delicious crops! You can harvest the tops throughout the Spring. The green bits sticking out of the ground can be snipped off with scissors or pruners and just like you would use a normal onion.
The green shoots taste similar to spring onions and are mild. Alternatively leave the green shoots on and use them to plait together, enabling you to hang your onions using just the plants themselves.
You will then need to wait for the tops of the onion bulbs to go brown before you pull them up. This will happen at some point from the end of Spring through to Autumn. Although you will have waited a while for your onions, it is worth it as the bulbs are very big when you harvest them because they take so long to grow.
Once you have taken them out, set them in a dry area like a shed or outhouse to dry.
Despite the long growing period, growing onions over Winter really doesn’t take much effort at all. In reward for this minor effort you get strong, tasty homegrown onions to use. Happy growing!