Know your alliums... (AGGIL 3)
As I was shopping in Morrisons this morning it was with a bit of a heavy heart I had to plunge my hands into the loose onions and bag up a kilo or two. As you may remember, our onion harvest for the past growing year was pretty disastrous, and our garlic harvest wasn't much better. It had rained so much just prior to harvesting that our onions and many of our garlic were pretty damp. Some of the onions had succumbed to white rot and others just weren't up to scratch. None of them had bulked out in the way our previous onions had. With our garlic the Allium Leaf Miner had taken quite a toll and we will certainly not be growing garlic nor onions in that bed for some time to come. Leeks is another of the edible allium family that I don't think we will be planting this growing year; the last two years have been pretty poor totally due to Allium Leaf Miner.
Now we are in a new growing year, at least for us, and I had the joy on returning from shopping of opening up the Messidrome garlic that we had purchased from Suttons. Apart from the plastic netting bag packaging I am absolutely delighted with this order. The cloves themselves are big and chunky, and the bulbs from which the cloves have been split are absolutely full; happily almost filling the palm of my cupped hand. We haven't grown this variety of garlic before though one of our YouTube subscribers suggested that we do. Normally we have grown Germidour, both new from Wilko and as saved cloves from the previous harvest, and we have also planted cloves from a bulb of garlic bought from Lidl.
Last year the onions and garlic went in deeper than I normally do, very much in the the way that dad used to do it. However, I'm going to be planting them this year as we have done in previous years. I don't think it's the fact that the way dad used to do it was wrong, I think rather it is more that the soil in Guernsey is far lighter and more sandy and therefore drains extremely well. Our allotment soil is good, don't get me wrong, though it certainly doesn't drain like much of the soil in Guernsey. Given this, these Messidrome cloves will be planted about an inch or so deep and then we will top dress with some chicken manure pellets in the spring. After planting we will cover them loosely with scaff netting for a few weeks, until they have started rooting and the green tips have begun to lift above the surface.
Messidrome garlic is a soft neck variety and hopefully is going to store well for us. Though I have not yet checked its origin I am thinking it must be from the Drôme region in southeast France, and be that region's famed harvest. The blurb says it has 'excellent flavour for all culinary uses' (what else would a grower or allotmenteer use it for?) and 'stores for longer and has more numerous but smaller cloves'. Time will tell...
Unlike in all our previous years of growing alliums, we are not going to be overwintering our onions this year. Last year we overwintered sets of Red Baron and also Shakespeare. In the years that we have grown Red Baron they have always bolted, and then have to be used first as they won't store well. In contrast, for the last few years the Shakespeare variety of white onions had done superbly for us, and stored well through to about January when we ran out.
Richard and I were at the RHS Malvern Autumn Show last Sunday and met up with a load of YouTubers, including Vivi Gregory, Jane Kelly, Huw Richards and Liz Zorab who were taking part in a Q&A in The Potting Shed. During the Q&A Huw mentioned that he is not going to grow Red Baron again as his had also tended to bolt. I must admit there was a little bit of me that was pleased that someone who grows organically as well as Huw does had also had challenges with their Red Baron. I felt a little less inadequate in the onion department!
So, as I mentioned we are not overwintering onions this year. We will have our garlic growing over winter, and we will have two types of broad beans too; maybe some peas also. Hopefully the growing tips of all these will keep me smiling through the winter months.
I am going to be following the advice of Vivi this year and buying onion sets for planting in the spring. In fact I will be copying the Queen of the Gardens entirely this year in our choice of white onions and will be growing Jet Set, and they will be going in around March / April I think [note to self, check What Vivi Did Next's video of her planting sets in 2019]. We are still going to be growing some red onions, even though Richard is not a great fan of them. I have ordered a variety called Rosanna - again a French variety which is apparently pink rather than a deep red. I have never grown this variety before so it will be interesting to see how it does for us, especially compared to the experiences that we have had with Red Baron.
This afternoon I got down to the plots, got the rest of our tomatoes out on the top plot, and tomorrow I will start preparing that bed for the Messidrome. Oh, and at Morrisons I also bought myself a mini flask. A little treat that will keep me warm for the work ahead at the allotment over the coming dark months.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 3
6/10/2019 12:01:18 am
I ordered my hardneck thinking it was coming from America then Amazon sent email anyway coming from China now I am contemplating when to plant before frost after frost before ground freezes as last year came up beautifully then died I am determined to grow my own
6/10/2019 07:21:20 am
Is hugely frustrating when that happens is not buying? Especially when it's something which effectively has some type of time limit on it, as with you receiving this purchase in order to be able to put it in the ground before the ground is too hard to accept it. Do you think you might be able to buy some locally?
brian j brown
7/10/2019 01:42:32 pm
Supposed be here by 11/6 as for buying locally sporadic to get so I will wait .I am going to plant like Greta 6 inches deep ,possibly I was planting to shallow
6/10/2019 08:55:38 am
I didn't know that you were doing a blog until this morning you mentioned it on facebook . It's looking great ! Debbie
6/10/2019 10:38:05 am
Daisy. We've had the blog for some time though haven't really been using it. I've been keen to do more writing, which is something I used to love, though in the last 30 years I've just been copywriting for clients. I decided last month that I wanted to start an allotment diary blog, in the vein of Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. For us our growing and gardening year starts on the 1st of October. Richard came up with the name A Guernsey Gardener in London and immediately I knew that was right. If you do like the blogs, which obviously you do, then please do subscribe in the right-hand column of this blog and then you will get an email each time a blog is posted. Many thanks for your words and support, and have a great Sunday. 😊
6/10/2019 03:07:35 pm
I’m loving that you’ve started the blog Paul!
6/10/2019 03:19:23 pm
Thanks Sandy, that's much appreciated. I don't know the variety Music so will look it up. Certainly all of our growing conditions can be so different that obviously one variety that fits one won't fit another. I'm hoping these Messidrome are going to do well for us, though as I said, time will tell... Good luck with the netting and fingers crossed!! 😊
Izzy and Anne
6/10/2019 08:53:27 pm
Loved this post about onions and garlic, very timely and helpful. Our red onions were not as good as the white ones this year, they either did not grow much larger than the original sets or they bolted. I have tried growing from seed this autumn, but germination was not as good as the white onions so I might forget them next year. Today we bought some organic garlic to plant from a local nursery which employs and trains people with learning disabilities and not a scrap of plastic packaging to be found 😀.
6/10/2019 09:01:54 pm
Sorry to hear about your poor germination with the red onion seed. Maybe they're just not suited to the UK as much as white onions are. 🤔 And really well done on that purchase of organic garlic. How fabulous that you've been able to buy it from a place that benefits through benefiting others too. 😊
Gareth Wyn Jones
7/10/2019 06:55:43 pm
Enjoying your new blog Paul.
7/10/2019 07:51:00 pm
Gareth, good luck if you go for the Messidrome and let me know how you get on. I think the spring planted ones will be heat treated, though you have got me thinking now so I need to do some research. 🤔
8/10/2019 04:11:55 am
8/10/2019 08:15:54 am
Amin - I am so pleased that this little blog, and I hope the other things we do pleases and is enjoyed. What a shame about your onions!! I will be updating on here, and YouTube and our Facebook group Planet Vegetaria of the progress of all, including the garlic which I would absolutely love to get in this week!!
10/10/2019 06:31:03 am
A useful blog Paul, I don’t have an allotment but try growing in pots in my garden. My garlic is in and already up. Planted 29th sept. I like that you give it a top dressing of chicken manure come spring time. I shall do this myself come spring. I’m worried now that my pot may not offer the drainage needed but it’s a wait and see game now. I’ve a tiny 1 metre sq raised bed that has P.S broccoli in a slug has devoured one. I’ve put copper tape around the edge which for the moment is working. I look forward to your next blog they’re very useful for this amateur, allotment envy, pot grower.
10/10/2019 07:26:17 am
Tracey, thank you so much for your lovely comments. I'm sure your pot will be fine as anything that is above soil level will drain well. I would make sure that it is never sitting in water though as the garlic won't like that. Slugs are an absolute menace of course. I do think that beer traps are the way to go. One of the issues with copper tape is that, as I understand it, if a slug can have part of its body on terracotta or wood and part of its body on copper then the effect of being on the copper is not felt. So if they are big slugs that are longer than the width of your copper I think they won't feel it. I may be completely wrong! There is a new blog up now about my spaghetti squash that I grew this year. If you have subscribed to the blogs in the right-hand column here then you should get an email letting you know each time there's a new blog. 😊
Pix & Sounds
15/10/2019 10:18:05 am
16/10/2019 12:28:19 pm
We are indeed growing Elephant Garlic this year. I ordered it back in mid-September whilst in Wales and it is yet to arrive. On Monday I received an email to say it had been dispatched, so finger crossed!
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