HOW TO GROW WELSH ONIONS

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The Welsh onion - Allium fistulosum is a hardy non-bulbous perennial that also goes by the common names of 'ciboule', 'onion green' or 'Japanese bunching onions'. It will grow to an average height of approximately 12 inches tall and resembles a multi-stemmed salad onion. The pencil-thick stems grow together in close tufts or clumps. The shoots can be used as salad onions, while the leaves can be treated as chives.

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Despite the name, the Welsh onion is not a native to Wales or it it particularly used in Welsh cuisine. The world 'Welsh' is likely to have either originated from the old English word 'welisch' or the old German 'welsche' which means 'foreign'. The Welsh onion actually originated in Asia.

Welsh onions are very similar in taste and odor to the common onion, Allium cepa, however they do not develop bulbs, and possesses hollow leaves and scapes.

For best results plant Welsh onions in a moist, well-drained soil, which has previously been enriched with plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted farm manure or garden compost. They will need a sunny position and preferably a pH of between 6-7. That being said, Welsh onion will grow in almost all soils and will even tolerate a certain amount of shade. Rake in a couple of handfuls of bone meal per square metre before planting or sowing. Although they are fairly tolerant of drought, don't plant them in very dry soils as this will severely affect the size of your final crop.

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When growing from seed you can either direct sow in their final position in April or start off Welsh onion seed under protection in March. Using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' fill a modular seed tray and gently water in.

Sow one seed per module and maintain a temperature of 15°C to 20°C . You can expect the seedlings to appear in a week to ten days. Once germinated, growth them on for a further 4 weeks before hardening them off for planting outside.

Welsh onion sets can be planted out in March and April. As with the seedlings, set them in rows 12 inches apart and with a spacing of 8-12 inches between plants. Water regularly during dry weather, but it will not be necessary to fertilize the crop for the rest of their production.

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You can harvest whole clumps of Welsh onions from June onwards. However if you just want the leaves then do not lift the bulbs, just cut what you require down to the base of the plant. Replacement leaves will grow back rapidly and as such can be cut several times in the growing season to give a continuous harvest.

Plants grown from seed should not be harvested until the July of their first year. Also remove any flower heads as they form. This will give the young plants a chance to establish their root system before harvesting.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ONIONS
HOW TO GROW WELSH ONION