Onion, shallot and garlic information

Onion, shallot and garlic information

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

We just received our onion and shallot sets and garlic bulbs.  Here is some useful information about these crops that belong to the Allium family.  This family is actually called Amaryllidaceae.   All members of this family are monocotyledons.  That simply means that they only have one seed leaf (cotyledon) while most other vegetables are dicotyledons and have two seed leaves.

A few practical tips:


Onion sets can be planted from mid March to mid April.  They require a reasonably fertile soil which should be quite firm.  If planted into loose soil – I think they are more prone to bolting as the roots can’t get hold of the soil.  Obviously I don’t mean a compacted soil.  After preparing the seedbed I lay a board of timber (about 3m long) on the bed and stand on it to lightly and evenly compress the soil.

Onion sets are planted half into the soil and the tops sticking out.  Birds are a problem in many gardens and the sets may need to be protected with a bird netting for the first few weeks until shoots appear.  The spacing is 10cm in the row and 30cm between the rows.

Onions should be harvested when nearly all the leaves have turned yellow and fallen over.  The variety Forum F1 is a very early variety and should be eaten by late autumn.

Winter storage onion sets will be in stock within the next couple of weeks.


Shallots can be planted from mid February until early April.  The same ground preparation as for onion applies.  Shallot bulbs divide to produce 6-10 shallots so the spacing is 30cm x 30cm.  Otherwise they are grown and harvested like onions.



Here are a few tips to growing good garlic.  I highly recommend increasing the spacing to 25cm x 25cm.  With this wide spacing you’ll get nice big bulbs.  The outside cloves make the best bulbs.  Cloves should be planted twice their own depth, this way they don’t turn green.  They should also be planted as early as possible ideally in February or into mid March.  They need a period of cold weather in order for the bulbs to divide into cloves.  If they don’t get the cold spell you’ll only get a solid round bulb.

Another important thing is to harvest garlic when the leaves are still standing and just turning yellow/brown.  If the leaves fall over the bulbs often split up and are not suitable for storage.  These should be eaten first.


Upcoming Talk:

I will give a talk on Organic Vegetable Growing on Monday 20th February at 7.30pm in Passage West at Church of Ireland Hall, near Cork City.  It’s organised by the local GIY groups and entrance is €5 and kids are free.  For more information contact Steven on pgmgrowityourself@gmail.com or on 086 2405573


Peple4Soil Campaign

We are still requiring lots of signatures to protect our soils.  This is a European Citizens’ Initiative and we need 1,000,000 signatures so that policy makers will bring in  legislation to protect our soils.  In Ireland, our target is 8,700 signatures and we are still a long way off this mark.  Please sign this petition and encourage others to do the same.  Our soils are under threat!

“A nation that forgets to dig the soil and to tend the earth, forgets itself”.  Gandhi

Here is the link to sign the petition:



Organic Growth

Great news – Organic Farming keeps on booming and people are continuously buying more organic produce.  IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) have just released the latest global statistics on organic farming.  The year is 2015.

Here is a summary:

  • The countries with the largest share of organic agricultural land of their total farmland are the Liechtenstein (30.2 percent), Austria (21.3 percent), and Sweden (16.9 percent). In eleven countries 10 percent or more of all agricultural land is organic.
  • Ireland has reached 2% in 2015. Still a long way to go.
  • Worldwide a total of 50.9 million hectares were organically managed at the end of 2015, representing a growth of 6.5 million hectares over 2014, the largest growth ever recorded.
  • Australia is the country with the largest organic agricultural area (22.7 million hectares), followed by Argentina (3.1 million hectares), and the United States of America (2 million hectares).
  • There were 2.4 million organic producers worldwide; India has the most organic producers (2.4 million), followed by Ethiopia (203’602), Mexico (200’039) and Uganda (190,670).
  • The country with the highest number of organic producers in the EU is Italy with 52,609.
  • The best organic consumers in the world (with highest per capita consumption) are:

Switzerland (€262 per capita), Denmark (€191), Sweden (€177), Luxembourg (€170), Austria (€127), United States (€111), Germany (€106)


A lot more information can be found on the publication: