Small bunches of salad or spring onions are ideal for stir fries and they provide a substantial source of calcium, iron and vitamin C. They can be harvested even at the ‘grass-like’ stage. Treat as you would chives and chop into small pieces and add to salads or a cooking pot.
There are a number of varieties available but ‘White Lisbon’ is an ideal crop for overwintering because of its exceptional hardiness and one that I regularly grow. This cultivar is best sown outdoors from August to October and then harvested from the following March onwards in the next year.
Cultivation Of Spring Onions
Sow March to August. For overwintering, sow seeds from September to October.
Plant: March to August.
Harvest: Throughout the year except November to January
Sowing Methods For Spring Onions
Grow salad onions in troughs of multi-purpose compost. This is a great idea if you have struggled to grow them in the open ground. Grow them in containers closely sown. as they grow, thin them out and eat the thinnings. Eventually allow some of them to reach maturity and bulb up.
In winter, sow a few in a pot and place on a warm, sunny windowsill for winter pickings. Harvest when just grass-like.
Spring onions can also be sown straight into the ground. About a week before sowing take time to prepare the soil really well by digging over some fertiliser such as Growmore or chicken manure pellets or 6X. Rake the soil to create a fine crumbly surface. The onion seed is sown thinly into shallow drills (shallow grooves), about 1.5cm (1/2in.) deep and where they are to crop. If planting in rows, allow 15cm (6in.) to 30cms (1ft.) between them, so a line is ideal in this situation. Sow about 2.5cm (1in.) apart in the row and as they grow, thin out to about 5cm (2in.) apart.
Keep the ground moist. A few days after sowing check and trickle some water along where you have sown.
Alternatively, sow into cell trays using good sowing or multi-purpose compost. Sow two to four seeds per cell.
When the seedlings are a few inches high they can be transplanted on to the plot of land. You can plant the group of seedlings together or separate. The beauty of having some sown this way is you can dot clumps of spring onions in gaps or between brassica plants. This is known as inter-cropping. The spring onions will be harvested long before the brassicas have made a lot of leaf.
Plants benefit from cloche protection over winter especially when weather can be severe. Thinning of seedlings is not required as the onions can be pulled up when they are young and tender. Further sowings can be made throughout the year to garnish winter seasonal recipes.
Issues: Pests & Diseases
Fortunately, salad onions are quick growing and don’t tend to suffer from many pests or disease. If your soil has onion white rot this can in theory affect spring onions. the soil-borne fungus will show up as yellowing leaves and a white fluffy fungus may be seen at the base of the bulb. If this is a problem simply grow in containers in multi-purpose compost.
Spring Onion Varieties
Simply Seeds offer the following well-established varieties for sale but we also give names of well established suppliers too:-
Spring Onion cv. Guardsman is an F1 Hybrid White Lisbon / Japanese cross which is now a classic. It is vigorous and high yielding with medium green foliage, tall and erect plants which are resistant to bulbing and the mould Botrytis. The shaft is long and white and remains in good condition for a good while when mature. Also available from Mr Fothergills.
Probably the best salad type for later sowings, it has very good winter hardiness.
cv. Lilia. A beautiful deep red spring onion that will bulb up nicely if left to mature or harvest while still small. Available from Mr Fothergills.
cv. North Holland Blood Red. has a lovely red outer skin producing a bulbous base and a remarkably mild flavour. A great variety to grow and looks excellent when cup up in salads. Available from Mr Fothergills, Unwins and DT Brown.
cv. Purplette. This one will form a bulbous base quite early in its maturity and it is purple-red skinned as well. Turns a lovely pink when pickled. Available from Thompson & Morgan.
Spring Onion cv. Ramrod is a very high performing variety. It is a tall winter hardy and stiff leaved Lisbon type with lots of white shaft. Developed for spring, late summer and autumn cropping. Available from Suttons too.
Spring Onion cv. Redmate is a very versatile British bred variety. It can be used not only as a salad onion, but also be left to grow on and picked as a large bulb. It’s intense red colour makes it very popular with the restaurant trade.
Spring Onion cv. White Lisbon is an old favourite and rightly so. It is the standard variety for bulbing salad onions. It bulks up relatively quickly. Has a medium green foliage. Offers a good mild crispy bite. Can be sown in the autumn to overwinter. Cover with a cloche in the winter for best results and generally available from most seed suppliers. One major supplier in the UK is JustSeed.
In The Kitchen
Scrambled Egg & Onions
This is really a tasty lunch. Fry in a pan until crisp and then add some beaten egg, salt and pepper to taste. Cook and place on buttered. Sprinkle finely chopped spring onions on top.