onions

  • Exploring the rhizosphere: how to grow trouble free onion sets...

    Rootrainers are what I've chosen for years to grow overwintering onion sets, garlic and spring planted onion sets. Onion sets (small immature onions) allow me to have onions all year round. But, originally manufactured to grow tree seedlings, why would I use Rootrainers for onion sets?

    Growing Onions using Haxnicks Rootrainers
    Growing onions from seeds can be a hit and miss affair, with weather, birds and the like all affecting the young seedlings’ growth outdoors, particularly those seedlings that have to overwinter. I am not after prize winning onions anyway or even huge onions so don't need to use onion seeds. I prefer sets. However, whenever I planted sets direct into the soil outdoors, within a few days, I would find many of the sets had been pulled up from where I had planted them and scattered all over the soil. Who or what was responsible?

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

    The root zone is the name for the region of the soil around plant roots as they grow.  The roots produce secretions that help and protect them as they force their way downwards through the soil. The immediate area around the root is called the rhizosphere. There will be many rhizospheres within the root zone of a plant.

    The rhizosphere is the most dynamic environment in the soil, or a microbe ‘hot spot’, the fast food areas of the soil! The roots are also continually shedding old tissue and sloughed-off plant cells. The root secretions and dead plant cells are a feast for microbes living in the soil. In return the soil microbes provide nutrients for the plants, which encourage plant growth. More plant growth means more roots. A win-win situation! Hence soil microbes themselves congregate around the roots. Microbes in turn are a beacon for earthworms, who sense the root secretions and microbes in the soil and target such ‘hot spots’ to feast upon them!

    The Culprit!

    In my garden its the blackbird.  Blackbirds deliberately pull up the onion sets to seek out earthworms and other such tasty morsels, living and feeding in the root zone underneath the onion set.

    By planting onion sets in Rootrainers, the roots will grow in and around the compost, binding it together.  Then when planting them outdoors, unless the blackbird has fed on at least 3 Weetabix (!) that morning, it will not have the energy or strength to pull out the onion set with its well rooted fibrous compost ball, which is a lot heavier than an onion set on its own. Result:  no more scattered onion sets!

    Due to their size onion sets are great for children and school projects too.  Handling them is easy.  Planting requires less skill as sets are easier to handle than seeds.  Together, sets and rootrainers make the exercise easy and interesting for children to do for themselves. One major advantage for schools is that the children can grow AND harvest them all within the school year.

     

  • Madeleine's Garden - Borders and Onions

    As the weather has been so inviting over the past few days with lots of sunshine and warmer temperatures I have been busy outside generally tidying up the garden and building site. Our house was ‘finished’ – well we call it finished but of course there is an everlasting list of continuing jobs – last year, which means that I can now start with a bit of landscaping and making of borders.

    I am planning to make a border all the way around the house, some parts gravel and some parts climbing roses, wisteria, a self-fertile kiwi tree, bulbs and other things that I haven’t yet chosen. It would be fun to have a theme perhaps, an Italian or French corner or maybe all white and pink. We’ll see... Let me know if you have any good ideas.

    Garden Borders and what needs doing from Haxnicks

    Empty Flower Beds at Haxnicks Garden

    A small update on my tomato seedlings, they have just started to grow their real leaves although they are still tiny weeny – 2cm high, which is lucky as there is so much more cold weather to come and they love the warmth of my windowsill.

    Growing Young Plants for Haxnicks Garden

    The sweet peas are getting taller I think that next week I will pinch off the tops so that more stems grow from the bottom making bushier plants, therefore, more prolific in flowers.

    Young plants on window sill in Haxnicks Rootrainers

    I had a rummage in my seed packet drawer and came to the conclusion that I had no more seeds to plant at the moment except for my onion sets, I couldn’t resist and today I planted them and then covered them with fleece tunnels.

    Onion sets planted at about 10cm apart. Fleece tunnels to keep the ground warmer.

    I have placed the onion rows to the outsides of the bed as they act as an insect repellent later on when I have rows of carrots and salads in between.

     

     

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