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Onion Varieties, Growing Methods

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The most valuable onions are those that can be stored for use during the winter. When well grown, carefully harvested and properly stored they will keep successfully for six months. But it is important to grow the right varieties for storing. Onions are not a good crop for freshly broken up land. They can also be grown on the same land in successive years.

Varieties for Storing

Good strains of onions for storage are available from seedsmen, but this season, owing to difficulties in obtaining supplies from normal sources, some of the more popular varieties may be scarce, or even unobtainable, and other varieties will have to be substituted.

In the white-fleshed and other mild-flavoured varieties may be included the flat white Spanish types, such as:

White Spanish, Rousham Park Hero, Improved Reading, Market Favorite, Banbury, Nuneham Park, Danvers Yellow Flat and Ebenezer, and the Globe types, such as Up-to-Date and Bedfordshire Champion. Ailsa Craig is also a good large onion of distinct character and very mild flavour, but is not such a good keeper.

Good keeping onions of darker skin colour and stronger flavour will be found in the Brown and Blood Red groups, and among varieties of these that will be found to be satisfactory are Brown Globe, Magnum Bonum, James’s Long Keeping and Giant Zittau, Unwin’s Reliance, Suttons’ Solidity, and Carters’ Autumn Queen, and the American varieties Ohio, Danvers Yellow Globe, Southport Yellow Globe, Southport Red Globe and Red Wethersfield.

Most of these onion varieties have now gone from the lists. Up-to-date was deemed to be a synonym of Bedfordshire Champion despite the flavour of Up-to-Date being said to be far stronger. You can get Up-to-Date from a heritage library in Ireland, though.

Ailsa Craig and Bedfordshire Champion are both still easily available as are James’s Long Keeping, Giant Zittau, Southport Yellow Globe, Southport Red Globe and Red Wethersfield can still be found.

How to Grow for Storage

There are normally three ways :

(1) by sowing seed in the open in early spring,

(2) by sowing seed under glass or in warm frames in January and February and transplanting in April, and

(3) by sowing in early autumn and transplanting in March. By sowing in boxes, seed can be made to yield the maximum number of plants —an economy in war time.

The first method is very popular and can be freely practised almost anywhere; but where soils are difficult to work, or onion fly is troublesome, the other methods are suitable.

No matter what method is followed, the onion bed must always be carefully prepared. The soil should be dug early (before Christmas) and be liberally manured. Firmness of soil is essential to good growth.

Early sowing is also important, and to ensure this the bed should be prepared as soon as the soil is dry enough to work in March. Tread it both ways and rake level, removing all large stones.

The seed drills should be drawn 9 in. or 12 in. apart and about 1 in. deep. Sow the seed fairly thinly and evenly, and cover it with earth by means of the feet or back of the rake. The seed requires to be gently consolidated either by another light treading or by using a light roller.

Onion seed is rather fickle in behaviour, but 1 oz. of seed should be sufficient for at least 100 feet; it may germinate either well or badly, and quickly or slowly according to weather conditions. As a rule it takes about three weeks to come up.