Onions are very useful vegetables to include in the home garden. They have quite a wide variety of uses including salads, dips, stir fries and soups.
Seeds of onions can be sown directly into garden beds.
Onions are generally easy to grow and can be harvested between 6 and 8 months from planting from seed.
Seeds of onions prefer to be planted out in cooler soils so they can become established before periods of hotter weather. Seedlings can be thinned so that plants are between 5cm and 10cm apart.
When planning the vegetable garden, it is sometimes useful to consider combinations of vegetables that may or may not result in successful cropping.
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A sunny position should be chosen, ideally one that has at least six hours of sun per day. Excess feeding and over-watering should be avoided as they will result in a lack of bulbs and the possible rotting of the plants.
As plants begin to mature the onions should be on the surface of the soil and not covered. Avoiding the placement of mulch around the bulbs will help to achieve this.
Plants will be ready for harvesting when the tops start to dry and fall over.
The bulbs should be pulled from the soil and left to dry for a few days. They can then be stored in a cool, dry airy place. The use of a net bag would be most suitable.
A range of colours is available. Brown onions have a strong and pungent flavour and are usually good keepers for storage purposes. White onions are milder but still have a good flavour. They keep fairly well.
Red onions are suitable for use raw in salads and sandwiches, because of their mild flavour.
After cutting the top off an onion, instead of discarding it, the top can be planted into soil where it will eventually form a new plant.
Spring onions are grown for their green tops. They do not form a bulb. Spring onions can be sown all year round. Shallots, garlic and chives are also members of the onion family.
GIVE BROMELIADS A TRY
Bromeliads are a sometimes neglected or unfamiliar group of plants, but ones that can provide much interest in the garden.
In addition to being suitable for placement in some areas of the garden for which it is sometimes harder to find plants, they are, in general, easy care plants that require a minimum of attention.
Bromeliads originally mainly come from the tropical and sub-tropical parts of South America. They are usually identified by their spiky leaves, which are often quite colourful.
Many bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning that they grow independently on other plants.
This can help with guidelines on their preferences for positions in the garden as they often prefer to be in a position of semi-shade, in a pot that has been suspended from a railing, fence or framework.
In that way, they can drain freely after watering or a period of rain.
However, some bromeliads grow very happily when planted in a garden bed, in a shady area of the garden.
If a plant seems not be thriving in a certain position, then it may be advisable to change it to somewhere else.
Watering is an efficient process for many bromeliads, because of their structure.
Many have their leaves radiating from a central section that also acts as storage for water, so this means that watering usually is only required if there hasn't been rain for a while.
Bromeliad plants come in a wide range of leaf colours and these, as well as the shape and form of the leaves, form the main attractions for the plants.
Leaf patterns can include stripes and splashes of colour, with colours including purple, pink, red, orange, bronze, cream, yellow, cream, white and shades of green.
An interesting characteristic of some bromeliads is that the leaf colour can intensify when the plant is in flower.
A plant that usually has a reddish-bronze colour can turn a brilliant, deep red as its flowers appear.
Bromeliads can be propagated for sharing with family or friends by breaking off the new, young plants that come from the base of the parent plant.
These should be placed into a loose, friable potting mix and, when the plant is established, placed into a position similar to that of the parent plant.
Lawns should be checked for weeds that have grown up through the grasses. The weeds may require spraying, if in large numbers.
However, individual plants can be removed using a sharp-pronged tool, ensuring the entire root system is removed, rather than just breaking off the tops of the weeds.
This is particularly important if the weed has a tap root, which is the case with many weeds. A tap root is one that is similar to a carrot.
Autumn feeding will rejuvenate lawns that have been neglected during the warmer months, or lawns that have suffered from extremes of temperature.
Aerating the soil by using a garden fork and then scattering lime lightly over the surface will have very beneficial results for the lawn.
This will ensure lawns are healthy before the cooler temperatures of winter.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Dig some organic plant food into soil several weeks before planting out herbs and vegetables.
- Sow seeds of Australian native paper daisies for a colourful display in late winter, choosing a position of full sun for the plants when they mature.
- Flowering cyclamen plants provide a welcome splash of colour for cooler, shaded, outdoor areas
Maitland and District Garden Club