Since we ordered SO many things for this year, and expanded how much space we were gardening in, I decided to go over groups of things in separate posts, in no particular order and spread over the next few days.
Let’s take a look at how our garlic, onions and shallots went.
Let’s start with the garlic, since hard neck garlic is a fall planted crop, and our garlic for next year is already in the ground.
We are growing the same three varieties as we did last year, each in one pound bags. We had considered doubling how many we are growing, but decided against it at the last minute. If we grew the number of onions and garlic we use throughout the year, we would probably fill most of the beds and not have room for anything else!
Overall, the garlic did rather well. They were all smaller than they should have been, but that’s true of just about everything we grew, mostly due to weather conditions. We much prefer the flavour of these hard neck varieties over the soft neck garlic that is available in the grocery stores. We especially enjoyed having garlic scapes to harvest, making this a dual crop. These are a big win, and I can see us growing this year after year. Hopefully, we will have better growing conditions for next year’s garden, and will have large bulbs that are worth saving to plant in the fall. Otherwise, we are more than happy to buy these from Veseys.
The onions and shallots were a much bigger challange.
The varieties we got as seeds were:
Red Baron (a bunching onion)
Norstar Onion (a yellow bunching onion noted as good for storage)
Conservor Organic Shallot
Plus we ordered Red Carmen Onion as sets, which did not get shipped until our zone was ready for spring planting. All of these were from Veseys.
The seed onions and shallots were started indoors, using our aquariums as mini greenhouses to protect them from the cats. The smaller tank had problems right away, as the cats could still reach down to the growing trays and very determinedly destroyed them. Also, there was very little air circulation with the lid, and the soil started to mold. We eventually found a window screen we could use as a lid, but it was too late for the shallots.
For the Red Baron onions, we use the flats from egg trays to start them in, which turned out to be a bad choice. The carboard just sucked the moisture out of the growing medium and we ended up losing the seedlings.
The Norstar, in peat pellets and repurposed K-cups, did much better and we were able to transplant them. We used extra seeds to try growing more, using red Solo cups to start them in. The Red Baron onions sprouted, but that’s about it. We transplanted them anyhow, but they didn’t take, though I did find a single one when I redid the tomato bed, so I planted it right back again.
I ended up buying onion and shallot sets, later in the spring. Between those, the surviving Norstar seedlings and the Red Carmen sets, we found ourselves with a decent onion harvest that we are still enjoying now, though we quickly ran out of shallots. We also harvested green onion tops, freezing some and dehydrating others.
Of course, like everything else affected by the drought and heat, the onions and shallots did not reach their full potential in size, but they did quite well and are very delicious.
Onions and Shallots: For all the struggles we had, ultimately, we did well with onions. While sets are easier, I’ve decided to go with seeds for next year’s garden. There is more choice in variety, and you can get a lot more seeds in a packet than sets in a bag. Especially with the shallots.
I have since bought more onion seeds. We will be trying the Conservor Shallots and Red Baron bunching onions again. For a yellow bulb onion, this time we will be trying a type called Oneida, again because it was noted as good for storage. We will also be growing a red onion, but I will be trying a different variety, with a very different shape, from another company.
The problem will be with starting them indoors. They need to be started very early, in our zone, with people in my gardening groups starting them as early as January! The big aquarium is currently holding house plants to protect them from the cats that keep wanting to dig in the soil, so we’re going to have to figure something out.
Over time, we plan to have a plolytunnel and maybe even a greenhouse. That will solve some of our problems, when it comes to starting seeds and protecting them from the cats, but it will be some time before we reach that point. Until then, we will just have to made do with what we have, and find the space we need to start all those seeds! When it comes to long term storage of bulb onions and shallots, we want to be growing a lot more that we did this year. Something we will build up to, as we expand our garden.
Hard neck Garlic: These are just a win, all around. It was the first time we got to try scapes, and we all love them. They are also really easy and low maintenance. Being able to plant outdoors in the fall is a major advantage. The bulbs certainly could have been bigger, but there was no loss when it came to flavour. Over time, we will be increasing how much garlic we plant, too.
You just can’t have too much onions and garlic!