This week in the Vegetable Garden
I took a basket of ‘Red Light F1’ onions to the Frangos Brothers’ Greek restaurant in Ballarat yesterday. I wanted to find out what Terry Frangos, who uses a lot of red onions in the hundreds of Greek salads he makes every week, thought of this variety. I got a text today from him. “Fantastic, Good Flavour. Great centre and good colour.”
Unusually and impressively this red onion which was harvested last January is still firm and crisp six months later. I grew five varieties of red onion last year. ‘Red Light’ is the only one which hasn’t shot as I write this in mid-July. It’s a very attractive looking onion too with good interior colour and a shiny red skin. Sadly we could only manage to get hold of a little seed to sell this year. This strain has such world wide popularity that no seed is to be had in commercial quantities anywhere.
Time to Sow Onion Seed
We sow nearly all main crop Onion varieties during July or early August. We always sow directly into the final position rather than raise seed in trays pots or seed beds for transplanting later. The onions do much better and produce a bigger crop if grown that way. The one drawback to this method is that onion seed takes several weeks to germinate and the seedlings are very small for quite a while so keeping weeds under control is essential.
I take a deal of care preparing the onion beds as direct sown seed needs a good fine surface tilth. Our soil is naturally very acidic so we dust the bed with ground limestone (garden lime).
I stringline a row and place a garden hoe alongside the string. I then press the hoe’s staff firmly into the soil with my foot. Into this depression I thinly sow the onion seed. When the seed is sown I top it with fairly fine soil.
Pressing with a hoe staff helps with the soils capillary action and also it means that all the onion seed is sown at the same depth. I never sow seed into dry soil but this isn’t generally a problem with winter planted seed.
As the onions germinate and grow some parts of the row may become congested. I thin the onions seedlings and cook the thinnings which, when I was young, used to be called scallions. Scallions and spring onions were two different beasts then. Spring onions were bred to be harvested young and never bulb up. The thinnings from bulbing onions were called scallions.
The onion seed we sell is suited to sowing roughly in a line south of the centre of NSW
|‘Expression F1’||‘Pukehoe Long Keeper’||‘Red Shine’|
‘Expression F1’ is another new variety which performed really well in our onion trials last year. From a July sowing it made huge bulbs. The biggest weighed just under a kilo. This variety stored well, from January to the end of June. The flavour is really good.
‘Pukehoe Long Keeper’ is the best storage onion. This variety is harvested in January and keeps in a good condition until November some ten months after harvest.
‘Red Shine’ is a good looking open pollinated variety which keeps well for four months after harvest.