A place for onions in every vege garden

Onions will be ready for harvesting between 6 and 8 months from sowing seeds. However, seedling planted out would be ready much sooner.

Seeds should be sown in seed trays, with seedling being ready to plant out in 4-6 weeks. This will give the young plants sufficient time to develop some strength.

A TREAT: Onions prefer soil that is fertile and slightly acidic, so adding  dolomite to the soil prior to planting will help.

A TREAT: Onions prefer soil that is fertile and slightly acidic, so adding dolomite to the soil prior to planting will help.

Young onion plants look like blades of grass, although they sometimes retain the outer covering of the seed for some time at the tip of the plant. Seedlings should be placed between 5 and 10cm apart.

Onions are available in a range of colours, with strength and use relating to the colour.

Brown onions have a strong flavour and are quite pungent. They generally keep well under the appropriate storage conditions. Brown onions roasted whole with other vegetables are delicious.

White onions are flavoursome, but milder than brown onions. They also keep reasonably well.

Milder flavours and strength, such as that preferred in salads or on sandwiches will be obtained from red onions.

They also add colour to salads or a stir-fry.

Onions prefer soil that is fertile and slightly acidic. The addition of dolomite to the soil prior to plant will help to achieve this.

When selecting onion seedlings for planting out, it is preferable to choose smaller plants as they will be less likely to bolt to seed in November, resulting in the loss of the crop.

The preferred method for planting out seedlings of onions varies from the usual practice. Seedlings should first be laid flat in a groove or trench. Then the soil is moved to barely cover the roots. The plants do not have to be positioned in the soil so that they are sticking straight up. Within a week to 10 days the young plants will have straightened themselves up and the bulbs will develop just below the soil’s surface. This will result in stronger bulbs.

Weeds that develop around onion seedlings should be removed by hand in order to avoid disturbing the roost and bulbs of the plants. Liquid fertilisers that have a high nitrogen base should be avoided as they will only encourage the plants to produce leaves, rather than develop good bulbs.

Regular watering will ensure good growth as well as assist in the prevention of the bulbs splitting.

Onions will be ready to harvest when the tops start to dry off and fall over. Once onions have matured and have been harvested they should be allowed to dry before they are stored in a cool, airy place.

BORER WATCH  

While trees are bare of leaves is also a good opportunity to check the main trunk and branches for infestations of borer, or damage to the bark.

Areas of a fine sawdust-like material, with the particles stuck together will indicate the presence of borers. These are grubs that burrow into the tree’s wood, weakening the timber and eventually causing branches to fall off and the tree to die.

Once the sawdust covering has been scraped away, a hole, in which the grub will be active, will be evident underneath. A piece of thin wire can be used in an attempt to remove the grub. In addition, an insecticide can be sprayed into the hole, which can then be plugged with putty or a similar material.

Sticky brown resin on the trunk of a tree, fungi growth or pieces of bark that are lifting from the surface may all indicate a serious problem with the tree. This may need to be assessed and treated by a tree professional, otherwise the tree may gradually die if it is left untreated.

Many trees have suffered from the extremes of weather over the last several years, particularly extended periods of dryness. Checking on the health of the tree whilst its branches are bare may identify problems that can be rectified before too much damage has been done to the tree.

If limbs have to be removed from a tree, professional advice should also be sought, especially if power lines are in the vicinity or there is danger that limbs will fall on to buildings.

ATTRACT BIRDS

One of the delights for a gardener is observing the birds that visit the garden. By selecting plants from certain plant groups and planning plants that will have a variety of heights, flowers and structure, an environment can be established that will encourage birds to visit the garden.

In addition to providing the delight of their songs, birds can also assist in the reduction of pests as they feed on caterpillars and insects. This will lead to a reduction in the use of chemicals required to maintain control over some of the pests that inhabit gardens.

The average backyard is adequate for creating a bird-friendly environment. Birds enjoy a wide variety of plant types, but native plants will produce flowers that are most attractive to them as they are, after all, native birds enjoying their natural feed.

Plants that produce nectar rich flowers will attract honeyeaters, which come in a variety of sizes. Grevilleas, either of the natural occurring forms or the many modern hybrids, produce flowers that are nectar rich. The sticky nectar can also be felt by placing fingers in the flowers. Banksias, melaleucas and callistemons (bottlebrush) also produce large amounts of nectar.

geoffh.gardening@gmail.com

Maitland and District Garden Club