Time waits for no onion

I have to confess the shortest day took me a bit by surprise.  Its not that I didn’t know it was coming, but the speed it approached left me feeling a little like Wylie Coyote standing there with tools unused after the Roadrunner zapped by.    It always feels like I have plenty of time to do things, however in reality I always underestimate how long things will take.  This can be misjudging the task by an hour or even by days and in some cases by weeks.

Onion seedlings
This isn’t a bad bunch of onion seedlings. I read somewhere that they should be planting before they get to be 6mm wide or they won’t grow properly.

I may have let the shortest day slip by in a gardenless state, but spring is just over 9 weeks away and I can’t afford to be complacent.  I need to make winter count although without the intensity of making May count.  And the first thing to be done was to rectify the onion situation.  It would be a terrible thing to be in an onionless state.

Last seasons onions
This is all that is left from last season. While it is only 3 onions it will probably do a weeks worth of meals.

The day after the shortest day was spent up to my elbows enriching the soil – which should have been done weeks ago, according to my plan and intentions.  I am fortunate to have healthy set of seedlings due to the wise foresight I had on the eve of lockdown.  My last purchase was onion seeds.   I was able to find some Pukekohe Longkeepers from my favourite supplier easily enough, however they no longer do my second favourite variety of early producing Hunter River Whites.  They were a perfect combination of onions and the Hunter River Whites, while being ready earlier, didn’t store as long and so by the time they ran out I had the Longkeepers ready and kept us going until they ran out some time in mid-winter.   So, there I was standing in the garden centre in the late hours of the last day of being out and about for who knew how long, and I had to make a decision which was to be my backup variety.  I did a bit of speed Googling and hastily decided upon a Spanish Sweet Yellow Onion.   I’m not sure if it will meet my needs, but apparently it keeps well.  We shall see.

onion seedlings
I’m sure these onion seedlings will stand up soon….

Upon sowing the seeds I seemed to be a bit heavy handed with these new seeds and so – to throw the cat among the pigeons of my uncertainty, I have ending up with more of these new onions than my old familiar favourites and so nervously worry about my long term onion supply situation.  I’m not a great fan of change.  If something works why mess with it.

winter zucchini
It is very much a do or die situation for this poor old zucchini

My healthy (because that’s what counts right now) onion seedlings were lovingly soaked in a seaweed tonic to assist them in their abrupt passage from the warmth of the greenhouse to the chill of the garden.  I didn’t even give myself the opportunity to slowly and carefully harden them off.  I’m such a bad onion grower.    To make up for it I took the time to space them out correctly.  I even used a string line and a small bamboo spacer.    Although I did throw caution into the wind and spaced them slightly closer than recommended in an attempt to reduce the final size of the harvest and up the number of plants.  Last season I grew some enormous ones that would do 3 – 4 meals, but I’m not really enjoying having to store cut onions with their aroma tainting anything in the vicinity.    Then I breathed a sigh of relief – my onion harvest was in the ground and in 6 months we’ll know if there were any adverse effects from the rocky start.

Elephant garlic
Due to my elephant garlic crop failure last year I had to buy in cloves. Just in case the temperature was a problem I’ve had these in the fridge for 6 weeks.

But this is only half the story.  I still had 4 square metres of space designated to the ‘Other’ onions.   The sweet red onions that perk up summer salads, shallots for the much loved pickled onions, and elephant garlic because elephant garlic is cool.  I also got carried away in that pre lockdown splash out at the garden centre and bought some pearl drop onion seeds as well.  I hadn’t given much thought to how I would use them in our diet, but I had the seeds so I sowed them and as healthy seedlings – it would be wrong not to plant them.  I also had some long overdue leek seedlings that have been planted well out of season, but they were there so – nothing ventured nothing gained and waste not want not and all that.

I love how shallots multiple and give you many. I’m hoping these will fill many jars of delish pickled onions

There was one thing standing the way of these ‘other’ onions – a lingering zucchini plant.  It wasn’t looking great but it was still doing its thing.  I had a decision to make, make the onions wait a little longer, or condemn the determined zucchini to the compost.  In the end I relocated it and am hoping for the best!  Because of the zucchini this bed also needed to have its soil enriched to replace what the zucchini took.  Then the onions were unceremoniously plunged into the earth as the once blue sky began to darken and feel heavy with rain.   The spacing started out with tape measures and string and perfect lines and disintegrated into a vague ‘she’ll be right’ approach in an attempt to avoid planting in the pouring rain.   If these onions manage to shake off their rocky start I’ll be quite surprised.

Mixed onion bed
The ‘other’ onion bed has a range of different planting distances so looks a little messy compared to the tidy ordered look of the main onion bed

With that over I can relax a little – but not too much, the broad bean seedlings grown from seed and repotted several times as they grew are staring at me from the shelves of the greenhouse begging me to liberated them so they can feel the natural soil beneath their roots and the wind rustling through their leaves…  there is always something that needs to be done.  I need to embrace active relaxing to avoid the boom and bust of celebrating achievement for too long without picking up tools again and move slowly and steadily forward.

Come again soon – why does it surprise me that winter is a busy time in my garden – I’ve been doing it for years?!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

13 thoughts on “Time waits for no onion

    1. You should try a down under Christmas – all the Christmas carols, greeting cards, and imagery are for snowy wintry scenes when it is so hot you long for just one snowball to cool things down! Even poor old santa is stuffed into a big fat plush red suit! : o)

      1. When we were in school, I remember seeing pictures of similar imagery during Christmas in South Africa. It was the same sort of imagery we see here, but like there, it was during the warmest time of year. I happen to like tradition, some could be modified just a little bit. Incidentally, the New Zeland Christmas tree, Metrosideros excelsa, bloom in the middle of summer here.

          1. They are not so magnificent here because they have not been around for very long. There are a few in Golden Gate Park that are impressively large, but no others like them. We happen to like them because they are so resilient to coastal conditions. Because their roots are so complaisant, they work well as street trees.

  1. Oh no! My onions are well over 6mm and still haven’t made it into the garden. I guess I’ll find out if that’s true or not…

    1. Hi Joy. It would seem if their stems are too wide going in or that they are delayed being planted, they can end up with thick necks. This isn’t exactly a disaster, but it just means they might not store as well. But even that isn’t the end of the world because there are other ways to store them like chopping them up and freezing them or dehydrating them. All the best with your crop, I hope it works out just fine. : o)

  2. I just absolutely love seeing the sunflowers in the background…. and the Zucchini still holding on for dear life! We’ve had a few good and heavy frosts already which quickly lets me know which plants will continue to survive through winter!

    1. I’m still testing the waters with what will grow here in the frost less garden. I really can’t believe the flowers they are amazing. I may need to throw all my traditional rules out the window and just let things grow that want to grow. Hopefully it won’t mean I have to give up some things though. : o)

  3. I got some garlic for planting at the beginning of May… and it made it into the bed with a couple of days to spare before the shortest day. Now it’s wait and see if anything comes up!

  4. My Elephant garlic in ground over last weekend , huge cloves so saved from last crop…
    cheyote / choko went in late so I got only one baby, and it sprouting indoors now lol…
    Pappa bear choko still alive past shortest day 🙂 huge crop this year?;
    Tobacco plants in ground late too but two surviving the winter so far, no greenhouse, just love for the plants… kimmy

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