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Why do my onions have scapes & no bulbs?
In How to Grow Onions & Garlic
Little Green Growers
Jun 25, 2021
Hi Fiona, how frustrating! There are two parts to the challenge you're facing: 1) Bolting onion sets: Sometimes the fluctuating Irish weather can cause onions (and other plants) to bolt. This is because it fools them into thinking they are further in their life cycle by making them think they have gone through many more seasons than they have actually gone through. Unfortunately once onions bolt, that's the end of their life cycle. You did the right thing by snipping off the flower head, as it stops the plant putting more energy into making seeds. However the bulb itself will not develop any further from this point on so you can harvest it now - don't wait for it to turn brown. Always harvest bolted onions before non-bolted onions to give those that haven't bolted more time to develop. They won't store well so use them up as quickly as you can. In future years, you can try to minimise the chances of this happening by mulching around the onion sets, and keeping well watered (but not waterlogged) so the soil temperature stays cooler and fluctuates less. Don't cover them with fleece etc since they are a cool weather crop. 2) No onion bulb formed: there can be a few reasons for this happening and it can be trickier to pin down why. Space: Onion sets need space to develop into bulbs. Sets that are planted too close together may lack the space to develop bulbs - ideally sets should be 10cm apart. Similarly the bed should have a depth of at least 10cm. If growing in rows make sure they are 25-30cm apart. Another place things can go wrong if the bed is the right depth but the onion sets are planted too deep within it. Nutrients: If the soil is very high in nitrogen/if a lot of plant food has been added, this can cause the leaves to develop at expense of the bulbs being formed. Water: Onion sets need regular water to develop. Ireland can be deceptive in sometimes giving the impression there is a lot of rain but then following that up with periods that are not necessarily very warm but might be dry, reducing the water available to onions so they can develop. Soil: Onion sets need a loose well draining fertile soil to develop. If the soil is compacted, rocky or heavy clay soil they may struggle to form bulbs. Ph balance: It the Ph of the soil is off, onion bulbs won't form. Weeds: Onion sets should be kept well weeded so they don't compete for nutrients - I doubt this is your particular issue though! Pests: You didn't mention seeing any pests so unlikely to be the case, but these can sometimes attack developing bulbs. Temperature: While unlikely to stop bulbs forming, fluctuating temps may affect bulb size as the bulb starts to swell when consistently warmer temperatures arrive. Time: Sets planted in October should be ready from July onwards to early autumn depending on when they were planted and local conditions. The sets shrink first to put energy into developing leaves, and then when the ground starts warming they swell again to develop bulbs. Be sure not to harvest too early - the challenge is to prevent bolting before the bulb is fully developed.
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How do we replenish the soil for growing potatoes?
In How to Grow Potatoes
Little Green Growers
Feb 10, 2021
Its good that you were rotating the crops (ideally potatoes should only be grown in the same spot every 3-4 years), but you might be right about soil depletion as potatoes are very heavy feeders. Also is the soil was left bare at any stage after harvesting, rain and sun will deplete the nutrients further - in this case weeds are actually better than bare soil:) Digging also destroys the soil structure and leads to nutrient loss, so converting to ’no dig’ gardening methods, and putting in cover crops each winter might be an idea too.  There are places you can send soil away for testing if you’d like, but looking at what weeds did spring up is another way to identify deficiencies e.g. clover indicates low nitrogen, creeping buttercup may indicate soil compaction, dock leaves may indicate low calcium and high magnesium, potassium, phosphorus. Living locally ourselves, we’ve found through soil testing that land which has had cattle on it previously (even if many years ago) tends to have nutrient imbalances.  Adding a thick layer of well rotted organic horse manure or compost (bought or homemade) should give the soil a good boost and provide nutrients for the potatoes, and putting a mulch on top will also minimise weeds and replenish the soil over time.  There are also organic plant foods you can buy which are concentrated versions of seaweed to condition the soil quickly. We do have a new product, Hexafrass which we are excited to try ourselves this year, it’s pre-charged with microbial colonies that slowly release nitrogen over time. Do you have any tips to share with Padraic & Bridie?
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