Do you have a vegetable that you simply cannot grow, however hard you try?
My troublemakers are spring onions.
There are other veg that I struggle with, such as parsnips and runner beans, but I have managed to cultivate a few decent specimens in the past. However, in five years of GYOing, spring onions have become my big black mark. I have failed to harvest a single spring onion at that time. Instead, I’m stuck glumly admiring shop-bought ones.
But they’re supposed to be easy??
This eats away at me for a number of reasons, but mainly because wherever I read or whoever I talk to, I’m advised that spring onions one of the easiest, peasiest crops to grow.
I’m proud to have managed some toughies, like cauliflowers and sweet potatoes, but the humble spring onion? Not on your nelly.
I can get a few to germinate, but then they tend to kind of fade away. I give them plenty of water, but the little seedlings never really come to anything. This year is very much the same. I’m trying them directly sown in the garden, as well as in containers on my Ladder Allotment, but already they’re looking decidedly iffy.
So, I’ve decided to some troubleshooting.
Not enough light?
The first problem could be the amount of light. Apparently, spring onions like a sunny position, and at the mo, the container efforts are with my salads down the shady side of my house, and my direct-sown ones are hidden away by a bench.
Not sown thinly enough?
Sowing thinly is also recommended on the seed packet, and I remember doing plenty of scattering rather than gentle sprinklings. I’m wondering if there are too many seedlings in situ for them to establish properly once they come up. One website even recommends leaving 4 inches between each seed, so, me flinging them on top of each other could cause strife.
Earth too stony?
My direct-sown spring onions didn’t even come up at all. These were experimental sowing, in a little bare spot in the garden that I’d dug over on a whim one afternoon. The earth is very stony and lumpy, leaving me thinking that maybe it’s too much for the delicate seeds to break through.
Too many weeds?
This was why I sowed into fine soil in containers as well. The problem here I think, is that I reused soil from last year, bulked up with compost and some earth from the garden. The weeds quickly established in the small container, bullying the spring onions out of the way.
What to try next?
The next idea I’m going to try is a bigger container, filled with multi-purpose compost. At least then I know the soil will be fine. I’ll use a shallow container to keep the cost of compost down, and plant in rows rather than sprinkling.
I’ll also put the container in a sunny spot rather than my shady salad factory.
One other experiment I’m considering is sowing into half toilet rolls as many growers do with parsnips. Two seeds per half-roll should ensure germination, and I can grow on from there. I’ve learned that spring onions don’t like disturbance, so if I plant out the whole roll into the ground, the seedling should have the right environment to establish.
Project Spring Onion will start with a couple of sowings this weekend. Wish me luck, and if you’ve got any growing tips please leave me a comment. They’d be greatly appreciated in my allotment hour of need!