I have to confess the shortest day took me a bit by surprise. Its not that I didn’t know it was coming, but the speed it approached left me feeling a little like Wylie Coyote standing there with tools unused after the Roadrunner zapped by. It always feels like I have plenty of time to do things, however in reality I always underestimate how long things will take. This can be misjudging the task by an hour or even by days and in some cases by weeks.
I may have let the shortest day slip by in a gardenless state, but spring is just over 9 weeks away and I can’t afford to be complacent. I need to make winter count although without the intensity of making May count. And the first thing to be done was to rectify the onion situation. It would be a terrible thing to be in an onionless state.
The day after the shortest day was spent up to my elbows enriching the soil – which should have been done weeks ago, according to my plan and intentions. I am fortunate to have healthy set of seedlings due to the wise foresight I had on the eve of lockdown. My last purchase was onion seeds. I was able to find some Pukekohe Longkeepers from my favourite supplier easily enough, however they no longer do my second favourite variety of early producing Hunter River Whites. They were a perfect combination of onions and the Hunter River Whites, while being ready earlier, didn’t store as long and so by the time they ran out I had the Longkeepers ready and kept us going until they ran out some time in mid-winter. So, there I was standing in the garden centre in the late hours of the last day of being out and about for who knew how long, and I had to make a decision which was to be my backup variety. I did a bit of speed Googling and hastily decided upon a Spanish Sweet Yellow Onion. I’m not sure if it will meet my needs, but apparently it keeps well. We shall see.
Upon sowing the seeds I seemed to be a bit heavy handed with these new seeds and so – to throw the cat among the pigeons of my uncertainty, I have ending up with more of these new onions than my old familiar favourites and so nervously worry about my long term onion supply situation. I’m not a great fan of change. If something works why mess with it.
My healthy (because that’s what counts right now) onion seedlings were lovingly soaked in a seaweed tonic to assist them in their abrupt passage from the warmth of the greenhouse to the chill of the garden. I didn’t even give myself the opportunity to slowly and carefully harden them off. I’m such a bad onion grower. To make up for it I took the time to space them out correctly. I even used a string line and a small bamboo spacer. Although I did throw caution into the wind and spaced them slightly closer than recommended in an attempt to reduce the final size of the harvest and up the number of plants. Last season I grew some enormous ones that would do 3 – 4 meals, but I’m not really enjoying having to store cut onions with their aroma tainting anything in the vicinity. Then I breathed a sigh of relief – my onion harvest was in the ground and in 6 months we’ll know if there were any adverse effects from the rocky start.
But this is only half the story. I still had 4 square metres of space designated to the ‘Other’ onions. The sweet red onions that perk up summer salads, shallots for the much loved pickled onions, and elephant garlic because elephant garlic is cool. I also got carried away in that pre lockdown splash out at the garden centre and bought some pearl drop onion seeds as well. I hadn’t given much thought to how I would use them in our diet, but I had the seeds so I sowed them and as healthy seedlings – it would be wrong not to plant them. I also had some long overdue leek seedlings that have been planted well out of season, but they were there so – nothing ventured nothing gained and waste not want not and all that.
There was one thing standing the way of these ‘other’ onions – a lingering zucchini plant. It wasn’t looking great but it was still doing its thing. I had a decision to make, make the onions wait a little longer, or condemn the determined zucchini to the compost. In the end I relocated it and am hoping for the best! Because of the zucchini this bed also needed to have its soil enriched to replace what the zucchini took. Then the onions were unceremoniously plunged into the earth as the once blue sky began to darken and feel heavy with rain. The spacing started out with tape measures and string and perfect lines and disintegrated into a vague ‘she’ll be right’ approach in an attempt to avoid planting in the pouring rain. If these onions manage to shake off their rocky start I’ll be quite surprised.
With that over I can relax a little – but not too much, the broad bean seedlings grown from seed and repotted several times as they grew are staring at me from the shelves of the greenhouse begging me to liberated them so they can feel the natural soil beneath their roots and the wind rustling through their leaves… there is always something that needs to be done. I need to embrace active relaxing to avoid the boom and bust of celebrating achievement for too long without picking up tools again and move slowly and steadily forward.
Come again soon – why does it surprise me that winter is a busy time in my garden – I’ve been doing it for years?!
Sarah the Gardener : o)