Small Onions under 250 gram and Peas
31st May 2001
The small onions, or onions for the under 250 gram classes are growing really well this year, a 100 are planted in one long bed in my onion polytunnel which should keep us going all Winter with onions. The variety, Vitesso, is a new introduction to my catalogue for this year and from reports that I had back from customers who trialled it last year, it should prove to be an excellent addition to my range. One customer actually sent me one of his onions and what a brilliant specimen it was as well.
This particualr bed has no black and white polythene over it as they grow quite quickly and will be harvested from early July when they have arrived at their optimum size for this class. The size at which you harvest the onion is very important, it has to be just under 250 gram when staged. The best way is to remove one onion that perhaps isn't quite up to scratch and fairly resembles the remainder in the bed by way of shape. This onion can then be weighed and it should weigh in at just slightly over the 250 gram so that when it has finally dried out it will be at the correct weight.
The size to pull the first onion at will depend to a great extent on what variety you are growing, Buffalo, though a top rate onion is slightly on the flat side so this should be pulled when it measures 10¾ inches in circumference. If you are growing Bison, Toughball or Vitesso then they should be pulled when 10¼ inches in circumference. Don"t forget that the small onions are now to be under 250 gram in all shows, whether they are judged to RHS rules or NVS rules. Also bear in mind that 250 gram is now 9 ounces which is considerably larger than before so we can effectively forget all about the 8 ounce onion from now on.
As I have written earlier I am anticipating a really fantastic class for peas at the National Vegetable Society Championships at Margam Park on the August Bank Holiday. This is the best timing that we have had for peas for many years (though my Scottish friends may disagree!) and will be just at the right time before powdery mildew affects the pods. Sowing dates are also critical and really depends on where you live. The winning variety, Show Perfection, is often called the 100 day pea as it takes approximately that long from sowing to harvesting a full podded pea.
For Ron Macfarlane, who has grown and staged some excellent exhibits, his sowing date down at Pembroke will be the 1st June which is 85 days from the date of the show. Ron says that his peas are usually ready between 85 and 90 days depending on the weather. In my case I have already sown them 5 days ago on the 26th which is the first day I return back from Chelsea, this is actually 91 days from the show date. We must also of course bear in mind that sowing conditions at this time of year is ideal, when planting out the soil will be warm so the plants will gallop ahead with no check at all. The hundred days would apply to early April sowings or if you are living up in the northerly regions of Scotland.
I prefer to sow my own selection of Show Perfection peas in the greenhouse for transplanting later, rather than directly in the soil with possibly some germination failures causing problems. They were individually sown in Plantpak 24s using Levington M2 compost and as I actually require two rows of 25, I sowed three trays of 24s to make sure that I have the best of plants to select from. The peas were pushed into the compost about half an inch deep and covered over with the same compost. The trays were given a light watering and left under the bench out of direct sunlight until they had germinated. During this period no more watering will be given (unless they really become dry) until germination takes place as this particular variety is prone to rotting off.
Once germinated the trays will be brought up on to the benches and watering will be carried out as normal. They will soon grow away at this time of year and when the plants are between two and three inches tall they will be taken out of the greenhouse and placed on the soil where they will be planted after a few days of acclimatisation.
The area they are going to be planted in is situated at the far end of the garden, between the onion polytunnel and the boundary wall, a very well protected area from strong winds. Wind damage with peas can be devastating as it can very easily snap off the leading shoot or head, often even when they are regularly tied up. Although the soil will have been well prepared and been given 4 ounces of Chempak BTD to the square metre, a slight scattering of some dried blood given just around each seedling after planting will get the plants off to a flying start. The two rows of twenty five plants will be spaced out about nine inches apart and 8 ft canes will be positioned at each planting station. The canes are secured with Vee clips to a wire tied securely to strong posts at each end of the row as well as one in the middle.
A good tip is to plant the young pea seedlings just behind the canes so that when you come to hoe the soil, the cane in front will act as a preventative barrier, just in case you accidentally hoe through the thin stem. Place some slug pellets initially around each plant and water them in well. As the plants grow they will need regular attention by way of removal of tendrils and side shoots as well as regular tying between each leaf axis.