Garden tips: Secrets to growing onions, leeks and garlic

You can’t cook a savory meal without using at least one of these alliums — onions, garlic, shallots, leeks or chives — but many of us shy away from growing them in our gardens.

We shouldn’t, says Contra Costa Master Gardener Janet Miller, who also oversees Our Garden in Walnut Creek. Besides being tasty, alliums — the family that includes all of these slightly smelly, wonderfully tasty bulbs — are loaded with anti-oxidants and nutrients that our bodies need.

Growing them can be a bit tricky, Miller says, but she has tips to make sure we succeed.

Whether you’re growing onions or garlic, all members of the allium family need full sun.
Alliums need good drainage. They actually grow best in sandy soils, but in the Bay Area, most of our soils are heavy clay, so to develop a better growing medium, add lots of amendments and compost to your beds before planting. Don’t skimp.
Loosen soil down to 18 inches to create lots of room for water and air flow, and to help the roots make their way through the soil.
Alliums are heavy feeders of nitrogen and phosphorus, so add blood meal or cotton seed meal for nitrogen, and bone meal for phosophorus.
Alliums don’t do well if they get too much water, and they don’t care for overhead or popup sprinklers. Drip irrigation systems provide the best results.
Just as you do with your tomatoes, you need to rotate your crops, avoiding planting alliums in the same place each year. Alliums are prone to soil-born diseases so allow at least two seasons to go by between plantings in the same spot. That’s not hard to do, even in a small garden, because alliums don’t need a lot of room.
There are three ways to plant onions — by seed directly in the ground, by sets and by seedlings. Growing from seedlings is the easiest and the most likely to produce good results.
Most seedlings come with several in a pot. You’ll need to separate them and plant one by one, about 6 to 8 inches apart.
You can plant seedlings in the late winter to early spring.
Onions also come in varieties based on day length — long, interim and short. This is determined by the amount of daylight they need to produce. In our area, interim day length is the best, although you might be able to grow long day.
You can plant onions now, but they will be

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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