Growing onions from sets has always struck me as a little odd. Commercial set suppliers produce them by sowing seeds in cramped conditions so they don’t grow very large and drying out the stunted onions to be replanted by gardeners the following year. Sowing sets is therefore simply an exercise in onion inflation.
So I decided to grow my onions from seed and compare their progress to sets planted by Rich. Although more of a faff, garden forums are generally of the opinion that seed grown onions produce larger, healthier and tastier crops. I started mine back in March, sprinkling seed in a tray, covering with cling film and allowing to germinate on the bathroom window. Once up and straight (they emerge bent in half) they went outside under polythene. And grew slowly. Very slowly.
Planting out is advised when they get a few inches tall and start flopping around. Mine, rapidly dwindling in numbers, looked like they would never reach that stage and by mid May Rich’s sets had been in the ground a few weeks and were already showing off thick, green shoots heading skywards. So I chucked mine in regardless. I roughly planted them in groups of four – as they grow they should all expand together comfortably. Rich extravagantly gave each of his onions plenty of space to bask in.
Three weeks on and my seedlings are starting to look like they might just develop into onions, but they’ve got some serious catching up to do with Rich’s sets.
Seeds sown: Onion ‘Bedfordshire Champion’, Suttons Seeds
Sets planted: Onion ‘Stuttgarter Giant’. Taylors Bulbs