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Onion Refuge

Posted by Guy Barter on 09 Jul 2007 at 09:56 AM

This weekend I headed off 90 miles to the west to visit my mother in the foothills of Salisbury Plain.  Not only was filial duty involved, but my main crop of onions is grown in her windswept, isolated garden.  With no other onion growers for miles the crop stays free of disease in most years.  

On getting out of the car the first thing that you notice is how cold inland south western districts are at 400ft above sea level, compared to the near sea-level south-east.  It is immediately two degrees cooler.  And the squelching underfoot shows that the rainfall is 900mm plus compared to less than 700mm in Surrey. 

The wind had knocked the onions about badly and they were pocked by hail, and it being cooler and wetter, the crop was two weeks behind the Surrey ones despite being planted a week earlier.  Nevertheless it was free of disease and growing strongly.  There was no need to add fertiliser or water. They should ripen in August all being well, but without warmth and sunshine this year will be a tad on the small side. 

Winter cabbages, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli were planted and the Brussels sprouts and runner beans top-dressed with extra growmore.  The soil is extremely acid sandy clay and very prone to clubroot so plenty of lime was added for the brassicas, at and before planting time. 

Sweetcorn and courgette plants were also set out.  The relative coolness of this garden (and abundance of deer, pigeons and rabbits) means that is well worthwhile to cover tender crops with fleece until the very last minute. 

Then back to Surrey and warm, humid weather again.

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