Well, yet again this year I'm trying to beat my personal best weight of 6lb 10 oz for an onion and hopefully given a lot of luck break the magical 10lb barrier.
The photos above are last years efforts,which after an invasion of Thrips in my Polytunnel only managed to be around the 3lb mark and the one in the centre is my biggest to date of 6lb 10 oz.
This year's Giant Exhibition Show Onion attempt !!
I'll be sowing my seed in early January and also getting some plants in early April but I have just received some pips so I'll be starting these off today.
October 30th 2008
OK.I know it's not 2009 yet but today I received some Onion Pips from my Giant Onion Growing Expert in the North East which he has got from one of his monster onions from last year.
So I have decided to set them off today as advised like you would grow an onion set only a lot earlier.
As you can see they look like small sets and are produced in the seed head at the expense of numerous seeds so you apparently get a few pips and very few seeds but the pips grow away readily.
So I've planted up 20 and once they take root I'll pot them on and then grow them under artificial lights in my new growing chamber.
If these grow well given how early they've been planted then I might be in for a surprise next year.
This is the light chamber I have made to grow the onions in this year to give them extra artificial light so I can sow the seed earlier and hopefully get a bigger plant to plant out come April.
That's about it for now,I'll show any pip action should it happen.
Well, the pips I planted earlier have started to take root and sprout leaves,so I've re-potted them into 4 inch pots.
I'm going to grow them on a cool window sill for now with a small fluorescent light about a foot above them for a while and then probably put them in the growing chamber under the stronger lights later on.
After putting my newly sprouted onion "Pips" under the new lights for just 2 days all I can say is WOW !!!
They seem to have grown about half an inch already.
As I don't really know how to grow under these lights I'm keeping them 6 inches above the plants and on for 8 hrs a day.
At this rate they'll be 2 ft tall by Christmas !!.
I can't believe how quickly these pips are growing,possibly too quickly,but as I've never grown any before I really don't know.
I'm going to have to give them some support soon by way of some split canes an plant clips to stop the leaves from flopping over.
I've got 15 plants growing now in total and if they keep on growing at this rate I may have to abandon growing any from seed as I'll be short of room under my lights.
I could however get my homemade grow lights out of retirement that I made yonks ago from 6, 4ft fluorescent strip lights,and use these as well,but they are a real hassle to use due to the size and weight of the damn thing.
Well as I said yesterday I'd neet to support the seedlings,so I've pit these handy little plastic clips around them to stop them flopping over and continuing to grow upright.
They're handy little clips and you can just keep adding more,the taller they grow.
Well I'm having a few problems with the onion seedlings.First of all the tips on some started to shrivell and go white and now the tops are starting to flop over once they get to about 4 inches in height and go yellow.
I don't have a clue what's causing it.I've decided to put them in my propogator bottom to give them a bit of bottom warmth and see if this perks them up.
I've ruled out any fungal problem as it doesnt spread down the leaf but merely affects the top cm or so.
I am at a loss to what's happening so I'll just have to wait and see how they get on.
So this is how they all are now,with some around 5-6 inches but then the tops flop over ??????????
If anyone has an idea I'd love to know your thoughts.I know these pips were only an added bonus aside from my other Onions I'm going to grow and get but I would like to see them grow well just out of curiosity.
Still having mixed fortunes regarding the growth.Some are thriving where as others are still suffering from some tip damage and wilting which is strange as they are all being grown in an identical fashion.
So here's the evidence,the one on the left growing strongly with 3 leaves on and knocking on for 10 inches in height with absolutely no tip damage,and the other one only about 3 inches tall with the tip damage.
It's a mystery.
Well today is the shortest day so I've decided to sow my seed.
I'm a lazy sod and personally I consider life too short to prick seedlings out so I'm sowing mine into modules of 18 and 24 with 2 seeds to each module.
I'm giving Unwins exhibition a try,wow ,you don't get many seeds in a packet though.
So that's about it,I sowed them about 5mm deep 2 to a module and now I'll just keep them at around 60f until they hopefully germinate in around 10 days time.
Over on the continuing Onion Pip saga, they are still growing with varying results.
Some are starting to develop their 4th leaf and I have one which is about a foot tall with 5 leaves.
Whether I can keep them all growing is another matter, but I'll do my best.
Well, 21 days after sowing the Onion seed I've finally got some germinating.I was about to give up on them.
Over on the Onion Pip side I'm still having casualties.
I'm now down to 7 plants but one of them is a monster and almost 18" tall with 5 leaves on,so I honestly don't know what happened to the others ????
I've lifted the lights well above the plants now and I'm leaving them on 8hrs a day.
Finally, after more than a month most of my Unwins Exhibition seed has germinated.
Over on the "PIP" saga I still have one that's growing brilliantly but the others just keep dying.
This one's about 2 ft tall but the others are nothing like this one.You never know this one may be the big 'un !
Well,I'm sick and tired of my pips dying so I decided to test the Compost for Nutrients and P.H.
Wow ,am I glad I did !!!
Ist thing to do was to get a sample of the compost straight out of the bag and mix it 5/1 with water.
Then you shake it up in a tub for a minute and then allow the water and silt to settle overnight.
Then with each kit you fill the container up with the water and add a capsule of powder,shake,and wait for the colour to develop.
Now to compare the colour of the sample against the chart.
As you can see the compost was completely depleted in Potassium (K) and Potash (P).
There was a surplus of Nitrogen (N) and the P.H was too acid at about 5.5.
So no wonder they weren't growing well,other than Nitrogen there doesn't seem to be any other nutrients in it whatsoever, and a P.H of 5.5 is too acid also.
So tomorrow I'm going to get some soluble fertilizer which stresses N and K over P to try to redress the balance ,otherwise the onions I've grown from seed will no doubt suffer the same fate.
Well, the seedlings are now doing fine after realising that the compost was completely devoid of any nutrients which led to the downfall of most of my earlier plants.
I watered these with a good dose of Phostrogen and they're now doing ok with some starting to produce a 3rd leaf.
So touch wood, I should manage to get some half decent plants by April to go into the tunnel.
Ordered some Kelsae seedlings as back up just in case they don't make it.
Time to re pot my remaining solitary plant from the original pips I got late last year.
It had outgrown it's small pot and had a decent set of roots so I potted it on into a 2 litre pot and erected a Heath Robinsonesque support system made of canes and string to support the leaves.
As the thing is almost 3ft tall now I'll have to put it on a windowsill instead of using the lights, and I've placed a small fluorescent light above and some tin foil behind, to get as much light as possible.
Just a quick update.Decided to replant some of the seedlings from the duff compost into some brand new stuff and see if they do any better.
The one remaining plant from the pips is still growing,if a bit leggily but it now has 8 leaves on.
The other seedlings are now on a windowsill with the light above them.
Just a quick update on the seedlings.Not doing particularly well but some are now starting their 4th leaf,so come mid April I may have a few reasonable plants to plant out.
Oh my GOD !!!
Just got back from the North East with the onion plants that were being grown for me by an Onion Growing Superhero.(Cheers Gary you're a star !)
I thought they'd be good, but I couldn't believe my eyes when I actually saw them in his greenhouse.
It was a 200 mile round trip but well worth it.
Those are 3 litre pots by the way.
Just to give you an idea of the size of them,mine are usually only this big in about June !!
So I then fertilized my onion bed as to his instructions by adding various amounts of Bonemeal,Blood Fish & Bone Calcified Seaweed and Chicken Manure Pellets.
Then I mixed it into the top few inches and levelled and tamped it down a bit.
I'll keep the onions in their pots for another couple of weeks or so with a couple of paraffin heaters on at night so that If there's any chance of a hard frost, I can give them as much protection as possible, and even cover with fleece if necessary.
I'm still going to continue growing my own seed grown plants and use them for the dressed onions,I know they're miles behind these big ones but should end up reasonably ok eventually.
Having real trouble keeping the Onions warm at night during this recent cold snap.
I've got 2 paraffin heaters on constantly but the temperature got down to just 1.2c indoors earlier in the week when it was -5 outside !
I'll hopefully be planting them into the beds sometime in the next 2 weeks.
Finally after repotting my own seed sown onion plants on into some decent compost rather than the terrible stuff they were in before they are now doing OK,if a bit behind what I'd have hoped.
Well today was the big day regarding the Giant onions.
Decided to plant them into their final positions in the Polytunnel Bed.
As you can see they are in great shape with a fantastic set of clean strong pure white roots.
Decided to dig all the holes before planting to make it a bit easier.
Took a while to do but got 16 in the bed at 18" spacings each way.Then I put the wire supports over to hold the leaves upright.
Then gave them a good drench of seaweed liquor to help establish the roots.
As you can see they're already huge for this time of the year so hopefully with a great deal of luck I might grow a really big one.
I'm not taking any chances with thrips this year so I'm going to put loads os sticky traps up all over to catch anything that flies.
I decided to do a bit of a test with the last 2 plants and planted them in large 40 litre pots with a load of Nutrimate and Mycorrhizal Fungi which apparently attaches to the roots and provides them with an extra large "Virtual" root system.
I'm going to add some of the Nutrimate to just a couple of the onions in the beds also to see if there is any noticable difference in growth rate.
As far as my own sown onions which are for the dressed classes,they have picked up after being replanted in different compost and are about 9 inches tall now with 4-5 leaves.
They won't be giant but hopefully some nice shaped 2-3 pounders by September for the show.
I just wish I'd sown them in the compost they're in now and not the duff stuff as they'd be far more advanced by now.
Note to self:Do Not buy "bargain end of Season" compost at the end of the year that's been left outside all year in all weathers at the garden centre !!
I'll leave any records I'm hoping for up to the other plants.
I'm getting short of room on my window ledges now, so today was the day to replant the own sown onion plants plus the kelsae seedlings I ordered as a back up into the polytunnel.
They're all around 9-10 inches tall with 4-5 leaves on and a decent set of roots.
I'm spacing these out 12 inches apart each way,ideally you'd give them at least 18 inches each way for really big ones but I'm a bit short of space and want to get quite a few in, and as these are for dressing it's not really that necessary to grow a giant one.
I've put some of the smaller supports over them as they establish to keep the leaves upright.
So that's all the onions planted out in the tunnel,as you can see the difference between the 2 beds of plants is pretty immense. If I don't have any major problems I might get a big one or two and a decent set of smaller ones for dressing.
Well I've just noticed some Botrytis today on one of the onions...
This is one of the worst diseases you can get and is primarily caused by cool,damp conditions with little or no ventilation or fresh air flowing around the onions.
The exact conditions that mine have had over the last 10 days at night being couped up,doors shut with absolutely pointless Paraffin heaters just adding to the problem by adding copious amounts of moisture yet doing little,if anything to warm the place up.
I dug the offending onion up and now I'm going to increase the air flow by leaving the doors open at night.
It may affect them coldness wise but will hopefully eradicate the Botrytis risk.
Anyway,on a positive note ,the remaining healthy plants have been flying with the unbelievable weather of late and have been putting on 2 leaves a week !!!
This was a week ago.
As you can see It's put on 2 leaves in a week and the leaves are huge fat ones which are a good sign for a big 'un.
Some of the tallest leaves are now almost waist height !!
Anyway,with a bit of a blip with the Botrytis,apart from that I'm on schedule for a big 'un.
All I need now is NO Thrips : NO more Botryris : NO Double Necks : NO White Rot and a whole lot of luck.
I can't believe the rate of growth at the moment,another 2 leaves in 6 days,so that's 11 leaves and they are now getting on for 36" in height.
If you notice I'm being careful not to water close to the bulbs to help prevent anymore botrytis appearing
The Onions I grew from seed and the seedlings which didn't have the best start are also doing really well now,they always seem to fly once you get them out of the small pots and into the ground.
So overall,touch wood,things are doing OK so far.
Another week later and things are still moving on a pace.
The small plants are really shooting up.
The big 'uns are still growing.
Just the one leaf this week,so that's 12
Things just seem to be going too well.....something's going to go wrong...I just know it.
Well,another week and thankfully no more problems.
The weather's been so cold and dull though they seem to have virtually stopped growing,only putting on one more leaf.
This one seems to be growing the best at the moment,and it seems to be a bit taller in the bulb than the rest which should make a taller and hopefully heavier Onion.
Another week later and things are still going pretty well.
I did however suffer a bit of Sun Scald on a few leaves this week on a particularly sunny day,I've never been affected by this before so it's new for me.
The one on the left was a south facing leaf and the other was north facing,hence not affected.
It must have been a really strong sun as it burnt my cucumber and bean leaves as well !!
Anyway apart from that as you can see they are starting to bulb up a bit now and I'm up to 14 leaves on some.
This is the whole lot with Mr "Big" being front left.The smaller dressed onions are on the left.
The self sown and the kelsae plants for the dressed onion classes are doing fine and starting to grow well,and If you remember the solitary surviving plant from a "Pip" that I grew last October,well that's it above right.
To be honest it's not all that far behind the really big ones,but as it's only in a relatively small pot it won't get massive.
One of the other big plants I grew in a big pot full of nutrimate,micorrhyzal fungi and slow release fertilizer pellets as a test is doing really well with the best foliage of them all.
Me thinks this might be the way to go in the future,we'll just have to see how it ends up.
Well,this is how they are as of mid May.
I can't believe it.
Well,a week later and the Botrytis has reared it's ugly head again.Thankfully It's only reappeared on the 2 onions that had it previously, and I stupidly tried to save by stripping back the affected parts.
Anyway I have now done what I should have done originally and dug them up and wanged 'em.
Hopefully this should be the end of it as the 2 plants affected were a bit on the weak side from day 1 and all the rest are much stronger healthier looking ones.
They are definately starting to bulb up now and the biggest is 10 inches around the base.
None have started to grow any double necks like last year and are still producing some big thick leaves which is a good sign.
With all the really hot,sunny weather recently and the leaves getting some scorching I decided to rig up a bit of shade netting over them which can be removed easily on duller days.
Anyway onto the big one,It's now 13 inches in circumference with 16 leaves on.
It's growing much bigger than the others which are doing great also,but this one is crazy.
It's growing so tall in the neck so hopefully if this fills out it'll be a big 'un.
In just a week it's put on 3 inches in girth and another 2 leaves.
So far so good.
One week on and things still moving on.
This is how the majority of the onions are,about 12" in circumference.
And here's "Mr Big" 14.5" circumference now,and got to be about a couple of pounds already.
Still growing well !!
Really starting to put some weight on now,circumference is now 16.5"
I'm giving them about the equivalent of an inch of water per week, or about 2 gallons each.
I checked the soil moisture to a depth of about a foot by taking a core out,and at the moment it seems to be perfect,uniformly moist but not too wet.
I'll stick to this for now but give a bit more if we get any really hot weather.
WHAT AN ABSOLUTE B#STARD !!!!!!!!!!!
I knew something would go wrong,and it did !!!!
My 2nd biggest onion and the tallest of the lot has got bloody Botrytis.
You need to be Eagle eyed to spot it but once it's there it's curtains.
So I'm pretty p#ssed off with the whole thing at the moment.
What was annoying is that it weighed over 4 pounds leaves and all and was around 5 feet tall.
I'm going to have to find something to spray onto the rest.
Well,now my biggest one has got botrytis .
Bloody Great !!!! and 2 more.
Sod it,I'm not pulling any more up when I find botrytis,I'm just going to blast the mould with some disinfectant to kill off the spores.
I am of the opinion they will all get it anyway so I may as well leave them and see if they keep growing.
It's a real shame as it is really starting to bulb up and is 19" around now.
What is baffling me though is that I have another 50+ onions I grew from seed and the kelsae seedlings are in the same tunnel which have been grown in the same soil with the same manure added yet not a single one of these has had botrytis .Plus I haven't been careful watering them,and just watered over the leaves and bulbs ,yet no Botrytis.
So why the hell is this ?? Not one of these is diseased at all.And they all were planted at the same time.
So here are the remaining big ones,infected ones and clean ones.
As you can see I've even installed some leaky pipe for watering so that there's absolutely no chance of any water getting onto the bulbs.
Don't suppose this will help though,but I've got to give 'em a chance.
Also bought some Neem Repel which claims to help with the formation of Botrytis by coating the bulb in a thin film of neem oil which stops the spores germinating.
Once again I don't think this will work but I've got to give it a bash.
Amazingly after the re-emergence of the dreaded Botrytis,one week later and no more casualties.
I have been spraying the mould patches on the affected ones with Citrox disinfectant which claims to be harmless to plants,and bugger me ! I seem to have killed off the mould.
Well It has definately killed off the fruiting body where the spores emerge from because these patches of the grey mould have gone black and the mould hasn't grown one little bit.
So somehow I might have got away with it to a certain extent.
Even though it is infected with Botrytis it's continued to grow and is now 20 inches around.
These are the ones with no sign of mould and are roughly 16-18 inches around,so pretty big.
The onions I grew from seed and the back up kelsae seedlings for the dressed onion class are doing pretty well considering that they are only 12" apart each way.
Hopefully they should make some 3 pounders but they are a really good tall shape as well which helps.
The onion I planted in about 25 litres of soil in a pot is doing remarkably well considering how small the pot is.
So we'll see what this next week brings,forecast heatwave and all.
Well,I don't believe it.After all the other problems I have yet again had an invasion of Thrips !!!!
You may just be able to see the little yellow insect that is responsible for all the damage on the leaves.
They just rasp the surface and turn the leaves silver and transmit viruses and let in even more mould,although they are almost invisible,only about 1-2 mm in length,unless you can spot them early or you notice the slightly bigger brown winged adult then you're stuffed.
Last year I was too late and they absolutely ruined my plants.
Anyway, luckily I did spot the first few and blasted the plants with some Rapeseed Oil based spray of all things,which kills on contact by literally suffocating them and their eggs.
It seems to have knocked most of them off as I did spot dozens in the fresh shoots, and now 2 days after spraying I've only seen the odd one which I'll keep on spot spraying.
They appeared just like last year when we got a really hot thundery period,hence their name of "Thunder Flies",I just like to call them "Little Yellow Squirming Bastards" though.
Anyway over on the smaller dressed onions for show they are really starting to bulb up a bit now and should be pretty good by the middle of August when I'll pull some for dressing.
Anyway back to the big 'uns. The botrytis infected monster still continues to grow but It's going a funny shape.
It's now about 21.5 inches around but looks like it could just explode.
But looking on the bright side,of the 8 or so that are botrytis free this one is really growing well and is not far behind, being just short of 20 inches around.
The weather last week didn't do them much good though as it was close to 100f during the day which isn't ideal so hopefully with some more normal weather they should do OK.
So no more botrytis victims and the thrip attack hopefully stopped in its tracks things doing ok really.
Another week later and still no more Botrytis.
The biggest healthy one is now 21.25 inches in circumference and there are another 6 not far behind.
So that's just over an inch gain in the week,If I could eventually get to 26+ inches around then I'd be over the moon.
Here's hoping !!
Well,Mr Mouldy Big 'Un decided to split in half.
I knew it was coming as I'd been flooding it with water to see how big it would get before the inevitable happened.
But on a better note I now have 2 growing which are just about as big as this and are free from any botrytis etc.and another 6 not far behind.
I thought it would be around 5lbs, but when I weighed it it was actually 6lb 6 oz !!!! at 22" circ.with leaves
So another 3lb 10 oz more for them and then it's the magical 10 pound mark.
I'm now fearing a plague of bloody Locusts or something similar to put a stop to it !
Things still ticking over nicely.
The ones I'm growing for the dressed classes are coming along nicely and are around the 2lb mark.
The big 'un in a pot is remarkable considering there's only about 20 litres of soil in it.
Anyway,as it stands,this one is the biggest healthy one now.
I've dispached all the thrips completely and haven't had any more botrytis for nearly a month.
It measures just short of 22.5 inches around and it's quite a tall bulb which will add to the weight.
So it seems to be adding around 3/4" a week so hopefully another 6 weeks and maybe 26" might be possible.
Still growing slowly.They all seem to be around a similar size now and even the one in a pot is catching up.
The biggest one is now 23.25 inches ,so still keeping on adding 3/4" a week even with the cold dull weather over the last week.
That's it so far.
The onions I'm growing for the dressed onion class are coming along well and are probably 2 lbs or more so I should be able to get a few sets from these for the show.
Size isn't all important for this class,but shape and uniformity are more important.
I'll be lifting these in about 10-14 days to give them about 3 weeks to dry off.
On the big onion front the biggest has put on another half an inch in girth and is now 23.3/4 inches.
Anyway here's a pic of another onion which is catching the big one up but is a taller bulb which means more weight,so this one may well end up being the heaviest.
Another 3-4 weeks and we'll know.
Wahey !!!! I've broken my personal record !!!!!!!!!
I decided to dig up my remaining botrytis suffering onion as it had stopped growing and had been surpassed in size by two of the now remaining 9 healthy ones.
The best thing is that I have 2 others which are perfectly healthy and bigger than this one still growing.
And the weight is.............................................. 7lb 9oz.
So if I can manage another 2lb 7oz more with another one then that'll be the magical 10lb mark.
Well,time to dig up my smaller onions for the dressed onion classes.
It's 3 weeks 'til my shows start so that should be plenty time to get them dried off ready for tying.
These were the Unwins ones I sowed from seed and some Kelsae seedlings I got as back up when the dodgy compost saga hit me earlier,to be honest you couldn't tell them apart.
I pulled up 15 in all and as you can see they're pretty decent in size and all reasonably alike.
Once I got them home then I just stripped the skins back to the last complete skin,washed the onion and cut the neck off and leave them to ripen off on a soft towel.
When I weighed them amazingly they ranged from 2lb 12oz to 3lb 12oz with about 9 being roughly 3.5 lb.
I'm entering some in the Westmorland Show this year which has an onion championship of 6 onions which will be pretty tough and also has a 3 onion class,so I'll either have a half decent set of both or just a cracking set of 3.
Anyhow,back to the big onions,the one in a pot is racing along and is 23.5 inches around but still really growing actively,and even keeps sending new leaves out as well.
This is the onion which I added loads of micorhyzal (or however you spell it !!) fungi to.
It just seems to keep growing and growing.
The biggest one has added about 3/8" this week and is now 24 1/4" in circumference.
I've been giving the Onions a final push by adding some Maxcrop Seaweed Extract over the last week and it seems to have worked.
The biggest one is still growing and added another 1/2" this week and is now just short of 25" around.
It wouldn't win any beauty contests but it's got to be approaching 8-9lbs or so by now.
I couldn't resist pulling my smallest big one up for a specific class at one of my veg shows.
Considering it's size,just shy of 6lbs it's a cracking shape and once it's ripened up nicely and the neck tied ,it should do pretty well.
Well,the onions I pulled for the dressed onion classes are drying out really well and the necks are shrivelling so I'll be able to tie these up well.
These are the best onions I've ever grown shape and uniformity wise.
This is the set of 6 I'm pinning my hopes on at my biggest show,all over 3lbs each and pretty similar in shape too.
Next Sunday is my 1st show ,then the following Tue+Wed is the bigger show.
Anyway,back to the big 'uns.
Still growing and now 25.1/4" around and 2 more 24.1/2" around.
If they keep going for another fortnight-2 weeks then 26" may be possible and then hopefully a 10 pounder !!!!
My 3rd biggest onion has given up growing and the leaves have shrivelled ,so I pulled it up.24.75" girth.
And it's a new record !!! 7lb 11oz. with no leaves left and no neck to speak of.
This is a pretty flat bulb which isn't conducive to weight for a given girth.
The other two bigger ones are much taller bulbs with loads of big leaves still growing so maybe they will be 9 pounders+ ?
I don't think I'll hit the magic 10 pound mark this year now.