2013 Exhibition Onion Growing Attempt.

This year's Exhibition Onion Growing attempt starts here. 

After managing a good result for me at the 2012 Harrogate NVS Veg Show in the big boys class of 3 Large Exhibition Onions,here we go again for the 2013 season.

The only trouble is that in 2013 it will be the National Championships that are held at Harrogate and this means that all the best growers in the country will be there but also the class sizes increase from 3 onions to 5.

If nothing happens at Harrogate I still have to do my local show earlier in the month,and try to keep up the quality from last year where I managed to get my 1st ever Blue Ribbon.

Anyway off we go again for 2013.

December 1st.

First of all another go at my last attempt to grow a 10 pounder,I got some seed off Paul from the Onion he grew to over 10 pounds in 2011 and set a few off,a week later and I had about 10 germinated and these were pricked out into 3" pots.

December 14th.

Today I sowed a couple of hundred of my own seed from the 2011 Harrogate onions.

I germinated them at about 75f and they were up and through in about 4 days.

December 22nd

With a lot of the seedlings at the "Crook" stage,this is when the seedling just about starts to straighten I pricked 40 out into 3" pots of Levingtons M2 compost.

Along with the 30 or so I sowed directly into 3" pots I now have a full grow chamber of about 70 plants going.

So far so good.

January 10th.

 The onions are doing well still and are just sending out their second true leaves now.

I've got these under my new T5 Lightwave 4ft 4tube grow light for 12 hours a day,this new lamp seems to put out much more light than last years CFL ones and it's only 200 Watts,so cheap to run.

Got about 70 pricked out into 3" pots and I'll probably reduce this to the best 40 at the next potting.

The plants I sowed from Pauls 10 pounder are going really well and there are about 3 that are growing really quickly and have 5 leaves already,so these wil probably be the ones I select to grow on for a hopeful monster.

January 19th.

The Kelsaes are ticking over nicely.

Some sending out their 3rd true leaf so they seem to be adding a new leaf every 8-9 days which is fine.

The few onions that I'm growing purely for weight are really flying and needed potting on as the roots were filling the 3" pots.

I repotted into 5" 1.3 litre ones and hopefully these should do for another month or so.

So I have 6 big ones repotted and I'll concentrate on these stronger ones from now on.

And I replanted my best 2 onions from last year again on Boxing day and as you can see they've shot out plenty of leaves and rooted well already.

So hopefully I should get some more seed from these later this summer.

Feb 2nd.

Quick update.

Onions still ticking over nicely with some having 4 leaves on now.

This is about the average size and as you can see they have a great set of healthy looking white roots.

I'll give them another week and then pot on the strongest into 1,5 litre pots and give some support to the leaves with canes and clips.

Over on the giant onions they are doing ok.

1 especially is racing away but I have 4 that are stronger than the rest.

The replanted onions are flying along now and hopefully I should get some decent seed later in the year.

Feb 10th.

Repotted my onions into 5"  1.5 litre pots as they were getting a little root bound.

Did a video of the job below.

Click to play.


Feb 25th.

Just a quick update.

All the onion plants still doing OK.

Decided to stake and support them as some were starting to flop a little,but as they're getting on for 12-15" tall and still self supporting it proves that these new lights are bright enough to not make the plants leggy at all.

I use 2ft canes and the plastic plant support clips.

It's a nightmare to do 40 in one go but once it's done it's done.

This is about the average size,pencil thick with 5-6 leaves on and 12-15" tall.

I gave them all a watering with a bit of a strange personal mix of mine which is as follows :

1/2 tsp Dolomite Lime and 1/4 tsp Sulphate of Ammonia and some Maxcrop Seaweed mixed into 2litres of water.

Did this last year as a bit of a hunch and it perked them up so I decided to do it again this year too.

It just gives them a little extra Nitrogen,Magnesium and a few minerals and trace elements,not much but it seems to help.

Over on the half dozen "Giant Onion" plants they are doing well but one in particular is Huge.

It's about as thick as my finger 8 leaves on and is really motoring.

Could this be the freak plant that grows on to be a monster ?

March 9th.

Quick update.

Onions still growing fine.

What has struck me this year is how uniform they are,but I suppose it's because they are all from seed I took from a single onion.

Hopefully the resulting bulbs are the same which would make matching them up a damn sight easier.

Over on the 7 giant onion plants the one "Freak" is still way ahead of the rest in vigour and size.

So generally they all have 5-6 leaves on and stand 18-20" tall.

The trouble is that some are reaching the bulbs and getting burnt,and as I can't raise the light anymore or lower the plants I'm a bit stuck.

So everything is doing OK so far BUT.....

And it's a big BUT !

Last year in my main onion bed for the first time I noticed that most of the onions had Pink Root.

As you can see as the name suggests the roots turn pink and die resulting in either total failure or smaller bulbs depending on the time of infection.

It's supposed to be a persistant problem once you get it.

So I have done my best to sterilize my soil with some "Stuff" but if this doesn't eradicate it all the hard work will be for nothing.

Fingers crossed it worked otherwise it's growing in big pots from now on.

March 23rd.

For the last 2 years I've had my onions planted out in the tunnel by now.

This year I honestly don't know when they'll be planted as there is sub zero temperatures forecast into April.

They are still ticking over but really need some natural light.

24" tall now and the tips are touching the lights and scorching,but I can't raise the light anymore so I'm stuck.

Mr big's still growing away really well.

Last year I tried to grow my own Kelsae sets.

I sowed the seed in mid June,and just as they had germinated they started to bulb,this way there is a tiny neck.

Anyway I didn't think they'd store over Winter but they did and if they are a success then it'll be a darn sight easier than growing from seed.

April 1st.

Onions still ticking over but should really be planted out now.

No chance of that for at least a week with hard frosts forecast.

The kelsae sets I planted last week are flying along.

One of last years best onions that I put down for seed is already sending out a couple of seed heads which is good news and means that I should get some of my own seed from these by late Summer.

I spent a good few hours preparing and fertilising my onion beds in the polytunnel so that as soon as the weather warms up I can plant straight away.

So firstly I just broke the already rotavated soil up a little and then added the fertilisers and other ingredients.

These were as follows.

For every square metre I added.

5oz Vitax Q4

6oz Nutrimate

2oz Calcified Seaweed Powder

2oz Dolomite Lime

1oz Slow release fertilizer pellets.

Then I sprinkled all this over the bed and mixed it in thoroughly to a depth of about 6" and raked flat.

The a good watering to start the fertilizer off a bit, then covered with some black polythene on lats to keep the air flowing and help warm the soil up. 

I also have some soluble mycorrhizal powder and micro organisms that I'll incorporate when the onions are planted so that they benefit from it's properties.

April 7th.

Finally,planting time.

I loaded all my onions up into the back of the van hoping not to have to slam the brakes on on the drive to the plot.

This is 2 weeks later than last year for me to plant but the weather has just been too cold even in the polytunnel.

I planted 30 of my Kelsae plants in 2 beds at about 18"x18" spacings supported by some wire hoops to keep the leaves upright.

I also planted 10 of my home grown Kelsae Onion Sets that I produced from seed last year,It'll be interesting to see how they get on.

If they're anything half decent then it'll definitely be something to consider in the future as It's a lot easier than growing under lights for 4 months.

I also planted 7 of the Giant onion plants out,4 in a bed and 3 into big 65 litre pots.

This one is the freak of the bunch and is far more vigorous than any of the others.

Anyway I did a short video.

Click below to play,Cheers.

May 1st.

Quick update.

Disaster over on my home grown Kelsae Sets.

3 out of the 8 have split into two already.

It was only a trial run so I'm glad that I didn't go bonkers and plant a whole load of them.

Everything's still doing well over on the 30 odd other Kelsaes though and with the bit of sun lately they have really started to grow.

Over on the freak big one,it's still growing huge leaves and is hopefully going to be a big 'un.

So over all so far things doing ok apart from the sets,but that's no problem.

May 11th.

Short update.

Things ticking over nicely,8-9 leaves up to 3ft long on the kelsaes and the big 'uns still doing well to.

May 19th.

With a few Sunny days recently and the Sun being exceptionally strong at this time of year I had to shade the tunnel on a few days to prevent any more scorching of the leaves.

Other than that they are still growing nicely with no problems so far.

Now got an average of 9-10 green leaves on so seemingly on par at the moment.

Last years best 2 onions I put down for seed are doing really well this early on.

4 flower spikes per onion and a couple ready to open and get pollenated by the bees , so hopefully some more seed for me to use next year.

June 1st.

Onions still progressing well but a little behind last year at this stage.

Suffered quite a lot of sun scorch on the leaves even though I had all the doors open and shaded the tunnel with shade netting and fleece....

So this is the size of the average show one and the big ones on the right

June 14th.

The onions are starting to bulb up now.

One strange thing is that the plants seem to have sunk in the bed so now the base is a good inch below the soil surface, which isn't ideal as you want as little of the bulb in contact with the soil as poss.

Don't know why this has happened unless the compost in the final potting has just settled.

This is one of the bigger ones growing in a pot.

June 29th.


Well it had to happen, things were going along too well.

Things were growing well, all starting to bulb up nicely and then this ......

Within the last week 18 of my 30 onions have gone to seed.

This is the first time ever in 13 years of growing big onions this has happened.

Never a single one before.

No Idea why it's happened other than the silly weather early in the Spring that never came or maybe the 10 days of really hot weather ? I don't know, they haven't been stressed i.e allowed to dry out so I am baffled.

Another baffling thing is that not a single one of the Giant ones growing purely for size has bolted, even though they were grown under the same lights and planted at the same time in the same beds.

So realistically all I have now is 7 giant ones growing purely for size, unless these too decide to bolt.

After this disappointment I think this may well be the last time I grow any Show Onions.

July 27th.

A belated update.

I thought everything had gone pear shaped when every single one of the Kelsae Show onions went to seed.......but......they kept on bulbing up and growing.

They're now approaching 19" circumference.

How they'll dry with a seed spike in the neck is questionable but I'll try to remove as much of this as I can and see how they get on.

These are the 4 giant ones which didn't go to seed and are bulking up nicely and still growing new leaves which is good.

And this is the biggest of all, growing in a pot, similarly still growing new leaves so should keep on bulbing up.

Anyway that's about it.

Did a video of the whole plot and the giant marrows. .

Click below to play, Cheers.

August 4th.

D-Day for the onions.

Lifted all the onions but not too sure how they'll fare due to having a seed stalk in the middle.

I drilled out the offending material but I'm sure they'll go rotten in the next month before the shows.

With this in mind I decided to sacrifice all but one of my Giant Ones which hadn't gone to seed to make sure I have at least 4 or 5 onions that shouldn't rot prior to the shows.

These were the 2 big ones, the largest weighing in at 7lb 1 oz with leaves.

I now wish I'd not dug them up as I'm pretty sure one of them would have grown to be a ten pounder.

Anyway , still got one growing which is bigger than these 2.

Did a video of me lifting them below.

Click to play, Cheers.

August 11th.

Starting to get a bit of skin colour on the onions but still not convinced they'll keep for another month with the seed stalk problems.

Solitary large onion still growing slowly in a pot.

Don't think I'll break my pb but we'll see how long it grows for.

Did a fortnightly plot tour video below, it's a bit random.

Click to play.

August 24th.

Quick update.

Well, remarkably 8 weeks after going to seed and 3 weeks after lifting and thinking that I'd have no chance of a single onion to show this year, I have.

Not the best I've ever grown but with all the problems they are now ripening up nicely and even the massively thick seed headed necks are shrivelling well.

So a bit of a result all things considered.

The remaining giant onion has just run out of steam at 24" and stopped getting any bigger, I'll just give it a final push with a bit of feed and see if this sparks it back into life or just finishes it off.

September 14th.

I pulled the big onion for Harrogate this weekend and amazingly it weighed 9lb 10 oz.

giant onion

At Harrogate it was trimmed and weighed in at 8lb 10 oz.

So the National Onion Championships at Harrogate.

Could I enter 6 onions that had gone to seed in June and possibly do anything ?

Well believe it or not this is what happened.

To get 5th place in the National Onion Champs given that they all went to seed back in June, and it was only my pig headedness to just see if they'd still grow bigger instead of just binning the lot.

They did amazingly, and then to go through the process of drilling out the seed stalk so the neck may dry properly and thinking they'd all rot.

They didn't amazingly.

So to me this is a Nil Desperandum moment, when all looks to be crap just  try something totally off the wall and it may just work.

And it did amazingly.

Here's a video of all the Exhibits at Harrogate.

Click to play, Cheers.

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