spring onions

What is it With Spring Onions?

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.

Any advice?
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!

7 thoughts on “What is it With Spring Onions?”

  1. Good luck with sowing spring onions gthis weekend! I think the container filled with compost & put in a sunny position will work. If it’s any comfort; you are not the only one having trouble with onions. I tried to sow red onions in the potager last year. None came up. Suddenly this spring …. yep, red onions galore. They just waited a whole year before coming up.

  2. Heh, I just mentioned this on my blog too; I always have trouble with spring onions. I’ve always tried the popular Ishikura, White Lisbon and Ramrod (had a little success with Ramrod actually, and some of the seeds waited til the following year and then came up!), but this year I’ve gone with a less-known one – Eiffel – (sown pretty thickly, really, in a big pot, but obviously I’m thinning them as they go) and they’ve done really well! Think I’ll stick with them from now on…

    1. Hi Naomi.

      Thanks for your comment. I use White Lisbon too, but will definitely try Eiffel.

      Have you put yours in a sunny spot?

  3. Hi Jono

    I’ve not done brilliantly with spring onions either. Had a reasonable crop last year out of a 10 inch deep pot filled with compost in a part sun/part shade part of the garden (probably got about 5 hours sunshine from about 8am in the morning)

    Other things I have trouble with are roots (carrots and parsnips being the hardest). I only have containers to grow these in and I think this is a particularly challenging crop to get from containers. Last year I grew them in compost – this year I am growing them in last year’s used compost with a little vermicompost at the bottom of the pot so they have a treat to grow their roots a little longer!

    Last year, I didn’t get any crop at all from my aubergines but blamed it on the dull, wet August we had last year. I had the flowers but then it was just too cold for them to fruit.

    But I try not to focus too much on the really challenging ones, and am constantly experimenting with new varieties of edibles – it keeps me distracted from any disappointments!

    Good luck with those spring onions and if they start to upset you, walk over to look at your squash instead!

  4. Are “spring onions” what we call “green onions”? That looks like what you’re holding in the photo. If so, and if you only use the green parts of the spring onions, why not plant the bulbs when you’re done? I wrote a post about that over the winter, and those plants are still producing greens for me.

    I’m an onion neophyte, but I went with sets (little bulbs) this year, which I can get very cheap in bulk at a local shop. I doubt I would have much success with seeds, especially this year when it’s gotten so hot so early.

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