Planning for Next Year - Onion Beds
27th Aug 1997
My first task will be to clear the onion beds, all the best onions have now been removed and are harvesting in the garage. The trouble with exhibition onions; if you have a successful year at growing them, is their size, if you have over fifty onions to harvest they don't half take up some room. With this in mind I built an extra temporary bench inside the garage, this bench has sides made of some light weight timber measuring 3" x ½" and the whole inside area was filled to within ½" of the rim with fine saw dust.
The onions were initially placed in trays on the same type of fine sawdust inside one of my greenhouses after first being covered in Talcum powder with a cotton wool pad and some white tissue paper placed on top of them to prevent the sun bearing down directly on to the onion skins. After a period of about 10 days they were removed from the greenhouse and left to complete the process of harvesting on the above temporary bench.
Polythene and Leaky Pipe System
Once the onions have been removed the black and white polythene will be disposed of and the leaky pipe system underneath will be hung up along the inside of the polytunnel where it will stay until required next year. I have to say however that I hardly used the system this year, June was so cold and wet that the soil rarely needed watering and when the plants did require any it was given most of the time around each individual onion with a watering can.
The next task is to clear up all the debris that will be left on the surface of the soil, in particular any dead onion skins or leaves as well as any weeds that have germinated, these will be disposed of into the refuse bin and not on the compost heap, mainly to prevent the spread of disease.
As I have had some trouble with white rot for the first time this year the priority task now will be to give the ground a good soaking with Armillatox to clean and sterilise the whole beds. My intention is to drench the soil at the dilution rate of 100 to 1 giving at least 5 litres per square metre as well as soaking the concrete block work and the paths. The whole area will then be left until early Autumn when the beds will be really dug over as deep as possible.
This year I have noticed that my soil is getting too composty for my liking so no manure will be added and I'm on the lookout for some really good stacked top soil. The ideal would be if I could find a building site where they have piled up the top soil and turf and left it there to weather for an year or so. This will then be analysed before a six inch layer is added and incorporated into the onion beds to improve it's structure. Obviously some of the current soil will be removed and disposed of among the flower and herbaceous borders where it will certainly be of great value.
This is certainly going to be a major job on my part as I have to wheelbarrow everything uphill from my back garden but it will I hope be a task that will improve the quality and size of my onions for next year. Once the whole operation has been completed the beds will again be given another dose of Armillatox at the same rate that I mentioned above.
Last year I removed the polythene from the roof of the tunnels so that the beds were totally exposed to the Winter elements and hopefully I shall do the same again this year, not only to the onion structure but to the leek tunnel as well. I am fortunate in being able to do this whilst at the same time leaving the ends and sides on because they have been designed in such a way that the polythene is clipped into twin aluminium channels that bend over the galvanised steel hoops. This means that whilst the sides and ends are still wedged into the outer groove or channel, the inner plastic inserts can be removed and re used with a new piece of polythene.