Alan Titchmarsh offers tips for planting onion bulbs
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Onions are really very handy to grow as it means you’ll never be short of this essential root vegetable. In addition, they’re nice and easy to grow from baby onions called sets. Although seed is available to grow onions with, sets are the easiest and quickest way to do so. Onions need regular watering if the weather is dry, as it is right now, and given an occasional feed with a general liquid fertiliser.
Stop watering and feeding the onions once they have swollen, around the middle of summer.
Weed and maintain regularly, as onions don’t grow very well if they’re in competition with other plants.
Take care not to damage the bulbs if you’re using a hoe – ideally, you should be weeding onions by hand.
As soon as they start to form on the onions, remove any flower stems you see as this will disrupt the growth.
When to harvest onions
Onions are ready to harvest when the foliage starts turning yellow and topples over.
For sets planted in September, this should be from July, while from spring-planted sets harvesting will be from late summer to the early autumn.
Despite it being suggested to bend over the foliage or gently lift the bulbs out to break the roots, this isn’t recommended anymore.
Instead, you are advised to lift the bulbs before the foliage completely dies down.
Place the onions on a rack in full sun outside or in a well-ventilated greenhouse for about 14 days.
This period will enable them to ripen properly.
When the foliage becomes dry and papery, the bulbs can then be moved to another spot.
At this point, you should store them in a light, cool, dry place until needed – but only store the perfect, undamaged bulbs.
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Don’t store any thick-necked or soft bulbs, instead, use these up as soon as possible in your cooking.
A garage or unheated room in the house is an ideal location to store onions, somewhere they will be out of direct sunlight.
Individual onions can be placed carefully into netted bags, and you can use purpose-sold vegetable storage nets or netting sacks used to hold other fruit and veg, such as oranges.
The bags should also be hung off the ground, and you’re advised to check the nets periodically to remove any onions that have gone bad.
This process of curing and storing also works for other alliums, such as shallots and garlic.
Once drying is complete cut the tops of the onion within one inch, or 2.5cm.
You can also store the onions in a wire basket or crate, with temperatures ideal around 0 to 4C.
Humidity levels should be between 65 and 70 percent for the best results, as if the location is too damp, rotting will likely occur.
Most onions can keep up to three months when dried and stored properly.
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