Welcome to our plot!

I'm Hazel, and in Nov 2006 my friend Jane and I took on a half plot at Hill Allotments, Sutton Coldfield - we want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own fruit and veg, and to improve our diet (and fitness!).

This is the story of what happened next...........

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Onion Disaster!

Well I suppose that our plot at the Hill being trouble free forever was too much to hope for – and sure enough, we have our first – er – ‘challenge’!

I did mention that the onion set leaves were flopping all over the place – but assumed that it was ok because so were everyone else’s – NOT TRUE! Barry, dispensing advice as ever, had been busy up and down the Hill comparing onions, & when he came over to me carrying a book called ‘1001 Fatal Diseases & General Bad News for Vegetable Growers’ or similar & opened with ‘oh – not you as well’, I knew that there was trouble in store!

Apparently we all have something called Stem & Bulb Eelworm which is a ‘microscopic soil-living pest’ which kills young bulbs and produces soft bulbs which can’t be stored. Nice.

I felt better when I had a nose round other plots – David-other-half, Reg-next-plot and neat neighbour John all seem to have it. Not just us then. Treatment seems to be to sterilise the soil using something now illegal, or not to grow onions for years.

Clearly this is appalling news – although onions are cheap in the shops (but not red onions), I use loads to cook with, & they are not practical to grow at home as they need quite a bit of space.

I’ve shared our ills with the kind folks at the Grapevine, & they have cheered me up no end with the consensus being that you can still eat them, so there you go. Interestingly enough, although this affects shallots too, it doesn’t seem to affect autumn sown Japanese onion – so that’ll be at least part of the answer, then.

The weather has been dry all week – with a predictable change to miserable, cold & rainy weather just in time for the bank holiday weekend.

I did manage not to get wet yesterday at the Hill though, & the dry weather meant that there was not as much weeding to do. All the POTATOES are now showing, so I earthed up the main crop (i.e. the ones which are far enough apart to do so!) and sowed short rows of SWEDE (best of all), TURNIP (snowball) and ASPARAGUS PEA in plot A (legumes), some marigold and RADISH (saxa 3) in plot B (misc) & a row of BEETROOT (red ace) in plot C (roots).

I also dug in a couple of huge buckets of manure into a patch in plot B (misc) – supervised by my cheeky robin friend – then planted the Competition Pumpkin plant. I also planting out the Competition Sunflower – but that looks rather droopy (understatement!). I fed both with a ‘traditional high nitrogen feed’ to give them a boost – I’d really like to do well – wouldn’t it be great to win a prize!

Once the ‘jobs’ were out of the way, it was time to ‘collect the booty’, & I took home some POTATOES (rocket), LETTUCE (mixed), RADISH (cherrybelle), SPINACH (hector f1) – & the PRIZE which was a dozen finger sized BROAD BEANS (aguadulce) to be cooked whole with butter – what a feast!


  1. Oh no! What a shame. I suppose you have to think if you can't grow onions next time then think of all the extra space you've got for something else. Or, if it's only storage that's a problem then maybe you can grow them and just enojoy them at harvest time.

  2. Hi Hazel - Always pleased to find another Lottie blog to add to my feeds.

    The RHS books of pests and diseases says much the same as you have stated on eelworms, but concludes: "Two types of vegetables which are not attacked and can be grown in infested soils are lettuces and brassicas. Where eel worms have occured, keep the ground free of host plants including weeds. It should then be possible to replant with onions and similar plants after two full years."


  3. Thank you for taking the time to post that info, Greenmantle - much appreciated.
    This is going to need quite a bit of thought, as clearly we'd like to be free of the eelworms but it looks like we'll only be able to grow lettuces and brassicas on the whole plot for the next 2 years.

  4. Hazel, I wonder if it would be possible to lay a sheet of that weed-suppressing fabric on the soil and build a purpose-made Permanent Raised Onion Bed on top?

    Professional onion growers have Permanent Onion Beds, so as to build up the fertility of the soil to suit.

    Only an idea to play with.....

  5. Good idea to thing about (clever girl!) - we'd have to do the membrane/raised beds for everything but the lettuce and brassicas too - but on the bright side we know we would like raised beds in due course, so that could be a place - and a good reason! - to start. Wonder if you can get a membrane that will break down after 2/3 years (i.e. after the problem has gone)

  6. Love the bir on the canes pic. Robin?

  7. Oh, yes, JG - it's my mate the cheeky robin! If you click in the pic he's (fairly!) clear, but he's a bit shy so it's been tricky to get a good shot of him so far.


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