Allium Harvest

Our early January planting of white ‘Sturon’ and red ‘Retano’ onion sets was ready to be lifted this week.  In the adjacent bed, our garlic was starting to show symptoms of a severe rust infection but the onions were blemish free and ready to go into store.
With nice dry weather, the plants were easily lifted with a hand fork and most of the soil dropped off with a quick shake.  We lined them up on the greenhouse benches allowing the foliage to dry out.  They need to be given plenty of space.  If packed in too densely they sweat which encourages rot and mould.  Two small beds of onions keep us going for most of the year and the garlic, at least those that weren’t too affected by the rust, should see us well into winter. 

The allium family as a whole are popular garden plants.  Chives with their decorative purple flowers at about 30cm high often make it into flower borders especially as edging plants.  The bigger more decorative members of the family are great border stalwarts that thrive in a range of soils and come up every May to display their pompom-like flower heads above everything else in the border.

A search through the RHS Plant Finder shows over four pages from which to choose.  ‘Purple Sensation’ has been one of the most popular for decades while A.cristophii with its star shaped flowers on large heads has always been a show stopper, as has A.schubertii with its head of exploding stars.  Globemaster, Gladiator, and the white Mount Everest are other favourites to look out for.

A slight word of warning.  The heads have the potential to contain hundreds of seeds.  If left to fall on the ground the resulting ‘rash’ of seedlings can prove to be quite a chore to remove.  We found out the hard way.