2008 Giant Onion challenge

                                                                    

  

   This year I am attempting to beat my personal record weight of 6lb 10oz.
   achieved in 2003.I'll be growing the World Record Holding variety - Ailsae


  
Here are a couple of pics - my best onion last year on the left - about 3.5 lbs but a fantastic shape and my biggest ever of 6lb 10oz on the right.

             

                 

 March 26th  Well I decided to replant my seedlings as they were getting a bit cramped

I know they don't look like much now but come September I hope they will be 5lb+.

   I know they look a bit limp at the moment,but they will pick up once they start to grow.

                

 April 1st  Well what a difference a week makes.They are now all upright and growing well.

            

  April 12th Just a quick update,as you can see they have grown quite a bit in the last 10 days or so and have also grown some more leaves.They're about 9 inches tall now and I'll be hopefully planting them out in the bed in around a week to 10 days.

             

 April 22nd.   Decided to plant my onion plants in the polytunnel this evening.

            

 As you can see they now have a cracking set of roots and should take well in the new bed.

 I've planted them 15 inches apart and 18 inches between the rows

            

             

 Now its just a matter of giving them a good soak with seaweed liquor to help with the rooting and then put the metal rings over them to give them support.

             

 The plants are about 15 inches tall and have about 3-4 leaves,I'm hoping for 20 by July.

                          

 May 6th  Just a quick update.The onions seem to have transplanted well and are now growing on nicely.Have put the final leaf support rings over the plants at about 18" as the leaves are almost 2ft long now.

                             

            

 May 18th      Just a quick update,everythings still growing well.

            

                              

 May 29th

  Well 11 days after the last update and things are really moving fast.

                                    

 Up to about 8 leaves now and they are still growing well,leaves about 30 inches tall.

                 

                 

                                    

 June 7th.

 Just a quick update.Still growing well,about 10-11 leaves on now.

                

 June 16th

 Well now that the longest day is fast approaching the onions are just starting to bulb up.

So in the next 8 weeks they will put all their weight on and hopefully be a bit more interesting to look at.

                                             

 I've found one growing which could be the record breaker,It's growing stronger and bigger than the rest and has about 14 leaves already so I'm pinning my hopes on this one.

                                                      this is the one !!!

  June 24th

Oh no...possible disaster !!

Some of the onions after growing so well so far have now decided to send out a secondary set of leaves from the neck of the onion which can result in a mis-shapen bulb or even cause the bulb to split into two.

I may be being a bit paranoid and I may be lucky and get away with just mis-shapen ones,and the rest growing normally, but it is a bit annoying.

I can only put this down to the unseasonably cold snap in April somehow checking the plants.

                

As you can see in the 2 pics the second set of leaves now growing.

                                     

But hopefully nothing serious will come of it and I don't get a load of them dividing into 2,and the ones that are misbehaving just become a bit oddly shaped.Maybe the extra leaves might even help to make the odd onion even bigger,if a bit on the ugly side .

 

June 29th

 Well a week on and no more of the onions seem to have misbehaved by growing double necks.

I still have about 16 in the main bed which are growing correctly.

                        What an onion neck should look like                                                       What an onion neck should not look like

                                               

 So I now have a new possible record breaker,fingers crossed ,it is growing perfectly and vigourously.

 

 July 8th

 Another week later and still no more onions seem to be misbehaving.

They're growing steadily but due to the complete lack of sunshine in the last 7 days only growing very slowly.

                                                

                     

 July 14th

 Well another week of solid rain,no sunshine whatsoever and pretty unseasonable temperatures haven't really helped.

Things don't seem to have moved along much but I now have a new favourite to be the biggest.

                     

 But I suppose given the earlier setbacks and the rubbish weather things aren't too bad.

                      

July 27th

Well a fortnight later and things havent exactly been flying along.The weather's been freezing cold,wet and not a bit of sunshine,so all in all not ideal growing conditions.

Well here are a few more pics,see if you think they're growing.

 

 

August 1st

Well within the last 5 days I've had an explosion of Thrips.

They've made a right mess of the onion leaves.

My best onion has split too,and they all seem to be ripening prematurely.

Anyway here's the evidence.

                                                

You can see the damage they do to the leaves and how tiny they are on the right.

I've given them a good old spraying,but I think I'm a bit late .

                                                 

So thats now my new hope on the right.

I'll be lucky if it makes 3 lbs the way things are going this year.

August 6th

Well a few more days since the thrip invasion and things haven't improved.

I sprayed them with Derris and Bug Clear but that still hasn't shifted them.

This is the state of the leaves.

 

The next photo shows what has happened in the last 10 days

You can see the damage done to the leaves in just 10 days and also after spraying.

And these are the little sods that are responsible but literally in their thousands.

Next year I'm going to have to try some of those carniverous mites which you can buy that eat the larva of thrips and keep them under control,as they seem immune to pesticides.

If I manage a three pounder this year I'll be happy.

This is about the biggest now.

August 18th

Well I have decided to salvage something from my pretty disasterous attempt at growing a giant this year and have lifted a few reasonable shaped ones for dressing for my local show in early September.

 

I lifted five and should get a pair and a set of three out of them.

They aren't too tiny with the biggest weighing just over 2 lbs,but considering I have grown them almost 7 pounds before they are pretty disappointing weight wise.

The next thing is to peel the skins back until you get to an unbroken or unsplit one,then trim the roots,cut the neck so you leave about 2-3 inches and wash them and dry them.

Then I'll leave them to ripen and dry on a soft towel and turn by 90 degrees daily to get an even colour.

I should manage a reasonable pair.

So that's it for the moment.

I've left the bigger onion growing in the tunnel which should be around 3lbs and I'll be dressing these in about 3 weeks time once they've dried and hopefully gone a nice colour.

August 31st.

 Well finally got tired of looking at my "big" onions in the polytunnel and pulled them all up today.

Had some pretty awful specemins,anyway here's the evidence.

 

Pulled the biggest one too which is probably about 3lbs......well maybe.

I'll now try to explain how I dress my onions.

Firstly take some raffia and make a loop like so with a short length just longer than the stalk on the right,and the other end with about 2 feet of raffia to tie on the left.

Then keeping the loop in position with your thumb wrap the other end of the raffia around the dryest section of the neck as tightly as you dare.

Continue to do this going up and down the neck until you finish at the bottom with a few inches of raffia left.

Then pass the spare raffia through the loop like so and carefully pull the other end of the raffia slowly upwards to draw the loop up towards your tied neck.

Then when you have pulled the end to draw the loop up so it is just under the tied neck ,stop.

Cut the spare raffia off and then pull the other end just slightly to hide the cut end.

Then cut the excess raffia from the top and trim the top of the onion if you have a lot sticking out.

And that's about it,6 like this and I would have been happy,shame I've only managed a couple.

So if I manage to match a few up I'll se how I get along at the show next weekend.

That's the best pair I can manage,mind you they're not too bad considering the rubbish I had to pick from this year.

This year's Show.

Sept 7th.

 Well today was our local Horticultural Show and given all my disappointments with not managing to grow a giant this year I did pretty well.

 

Got 1st place and 2nd with my dressed onions.

1st place with another onion as part of a 3 veg combo.

And even won a cup for the most points in the onion classes as I put the biggest one this year in as a single onion at the last minute.

So all in all although I didn't manage to grow a monster I did OK at the show.

So next year I'm going to do it.

A ten pounder !!!

Sept 14th

Well back down to earth again.

It's now time to dig over my onion bed and add some muck for next year.

                                     

I dig it over roughly and this year I've managed to get my hands on a load of really good well rotted horse muck,so I've put a good 3-4 inches on.

                     

As you can see it's good stuff and absolutely stuffed full of worms.

This should really do the soil a world of good.

                                             

So then I've just mixed the muck into the top foot of soil,then I consolidated it a bit by walking on it,gave it a really good watering and then covered it with some weed control fabric to keep the moisture in but still let the soil breathe.

Come next Spring I'll give it a good rotavating to really mix the muck into the soil If the worms haven't already done it for me.

 Stop press !!

Next year I'm going to grow my own Onions from seed,I'm going to grow Kelsae for shape and for the shows,given the disappointments I had this year.

Although not monstrous in size you can grow them to 7lb given a bit of luck.

But hopefully I'll be growing a few other plants that will have been grown in the early stages by an Expert Giant Onion Grower from the North East I have just got to know this year,and he's going to let me have a few to see how they go.

He has a set up and the expertise I could only dream of and they will be grown under artificial lights until about April when I will plant them.

He consistantly grows onions to 15lbs so he is a real expert.

I know it's a bit of "cheat" on my part but I will never have the set up to do this sort of thing myself and to miss out on an opportunity to grow on such amazing specemins like this would be daft.

So I'll be growing 2 beds of onions next time,mine from seed and the other expertly grown ones in an adjacent bed.

I can't wait.!!

Oct 1st

Well I've just bought some grow lights so I'll be able to start some onions of earlier this year,around early/mid January and grow them on under artificial light until p;anting out in April.

They are a new fangled compact fluorescent type lamp which although is relatively low power (125 watts) has the advantage that it can be placed extremely close to the plants as it doesn't get hot like similar sodium lamps do and is much cheaper to run.

                       

 

They seem incredibly bright so should do a good job.

I'll knock up some kind of reflective growing chamber to maximise the light and see how I get one later.

 

 

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