Onions, from the point of view of the home gardener, are a very important crop. From the horticultural point of view, they are a test of the gardener’s skill, since a well-made onion bed, resulting in a good crop of onions, is something that never just happens, but is the result of really good cultivation.
Onions rarely do very well on newly broken land, but succeed best on ground that has been under cultivation for some time, thoroughly cleared of weeds and pests, and brought into
good heart to a considerable depth. They like well-dug soil, well manured, but with the manure already partly decayed before it is dug in, and thoroughly mixed with the soil. The bed should be prepared some time before the onions are sown, and allowed to settle, so that the underneath soil is pretty well consolidated. Onions do not like loose, shifting soil. The largest stones should be removed when preparing an onion bed, and throughout the soil lumps should be well broken.
RAISING ONIONS UNDER GLASS
If desired, onions can be raised under glass in autumn and kept in a frame until spring, when they are planted out in rows on the onion plot. or they can be sown direct on the plot, either in autumn or in spring, thinned out gradually as they appear to crowd, and so left at the required distance apart according to the variety of onion. The largest exhibition onions are usually autumn sown, and autumn sowings are advisable for most purposes, as the onions so raised have developed tough necks by May, when the onion fly is about. The onion fly is a pest that lays eggs in the tender neck of young onions, and these hatch out into grubs which destroy the crop.
Onions to be transplanted can be sown broadcast in boxes or on the nursery plot. Those which are to mature where sown should be arranged in lines, making a drill about 1 in. deep to receive the seed. The thinnings drawn out from time to time to make room for the remaining plants can be used in soups and salads.
All the onion family respond well to small frequent doses of nitrate of soda, watered in during the growing season.
Onions are often grown from sets, which are really tiny onion bulbs raised the previous season, but ripened off before they have grown any larger than marbles. These sets are pushed into the soil, in rows, allowing from 6 to 12 in. between them (according to variety, and to the richness of the soil). They should be buried about half-way, and if they have old dead foliage still present, this is best trimmed away when planting. If it is left, worms often drag it under the soil, and so disturb the roots of the onion.