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Walk into any good plant retailer over the autumn and you should find amongst the tulips and daffodils a selection of Japanese onion sets.
Japanese onions are sometimes referred to as autumn planting onions and they are one and the same thing. These onion sets can be planted from late September up to early November and should produce fully grown onions in July and August. This will allow you to harvest onions a month or two before your normal crop of onions mature.
The other major difference between Japanese and regular onions is that Japanese onions do not store as well as well as spring sown onions. They will effectively store for about four weeks, but don't let that put you off as you can eat a lot of onions in four weeks, and besides, the tradeoff is well worth the earlier harvest.
But what is an onion set? An onion set is simply an onion which has not been allowed to grow to its full size. The growers of onion sets achieve this by planting onion seeds very close together. This results in the onions growing very small because they are so crowded.
Growing Japanese onion sets
Luckily for us, growing Japanese onion sets is exactly the same as growing regular onion sets, and is still probably the easiest way to produce a good crop of quality onions.
You will need a site that is in full sun, with good drainage, and free of perennial weeds, but the key thing is to grow them in a permanent bed so that you can build on the soil fertility as the years go on.
Be aware that this can encourage the buildup of soil pests and diseases. Therefore, it is worth rotating your onion bed periodically with the rest of the vegetable garden.
It certainly is possible to grow onions on the same bed year after year, but in order to maintain successful and healthy cropping a strict health routine must be followed. If there are any onions that you suspect are harbouring any kind of disease then remove not only the plant, but also a small amount of soil from where the onion was growing.
Hopefully this will eliminate any unwanted bacteria in the soil. With this in mind, it is also worth watering the bed with a dilution of Jeyes Fluid once the crop has been harvested - this again will help to kill any unwanted bacteria or fungi.
There are onion beds that were started over 140 years ago that are still in production today using this method!
The onion bulb will be mature when the foliage turns yellow and begins to tip over, but you will need to leave them for another couple of weeks before lifting.
Choose a dry day and if the onions are fully ripe they will lift easily from the ground by hand, any problems and you can carefully ease them out of the soil with a gardening fork.
They will now need to be dried and depending on the weather or the size of your onions it will take approximately 2-4 weeks for them to properly cure. They are now ready for the kitchen. If any of your onions have developed thick 'necks' over the growing season, use these ones straight away as they will not store well and are prone to neck rot.
For more information click onto:
HOW TO GROW AUTUMN ONION SETS
HOW TO GROW JAPANESE ONION SETS
HOW TO GROW ONIONS
HOW TO GROW ONIONS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW ONIONS IN AFRICA
HOW TO GROW ONIONS FROM ONION SETS
HOW TO GROW WELSH ONIONS
HOW DO YOU PLANT OUT ONION SEEDLINGS?
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