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Growing Onions for Show – Starting Large Onions from Seed

John Trim

John Trim

Show grower John Trim has won the national championship with his onions. In this first of two articles on growing large onions for show, he reveals the secrets of starting large exhibition onions to get you the winner’s red card at the show.

This is the first part of a two part article. The second part is: Cultivating Large Exhibiton Onions

One of the most coveted prizes to win at any show is that awarded to the large exhibition onions. They are undoubtedly one of the most difficult vegetables to grow and rightly deserve to be awarded the top mark of 20 points.

The biggest feather in anyone’s cap is to win the National Vegetable Society National Show and I came close a few years ago by placing second. That was no mean feat in itself but it took a lot of effort and cash to obtain that result.

The traditional way to grow exhibition onions is in a raised bed filled with compost, covered with white plastic to conserve moisture and reflect the heat. Below the plastic is “lay-flat” perforated hose alongside each row of onions and these beds are all housed in a poly tunnel. Quite an expensive way to grow a few onions.

The above method was the accepted way to attain the necessary size of onion and where exhibition onions are concerned, size is important.

The NVS judges guide book states that the circumference of the onion should be 500mm/20 inches round to qualify for the maximum 5 points awarded for size . An onion of that circumference would tip the scales at 4lbs in weight.

Large Onions in Vegetable Collection

Onions are an essential vegetable in a winning collection. By Helen Vincent.

This year I followed the progress of a fairly new exhibiter, Helen Vincent from Hampshire. And in every show she entered she won the exhibition onion class with stunning 4lb onions and she did it by growing them all in 20 litre pots.

Based on the method used by show winner Helen Vincent to grow Large Exhibition Onions

First of all you must start with a good strain of seed. This year Helen used a reselected ‘Kelsae’ strain from Medwyn Williams Seeds. These were grown in a propagator set at 65f/18c on the 4th January using Levington F2s seed compost. (My own sowing date is on Boxing day 26th December.)

Do not bury the seed too deeply, instead scatter the seed over the surface of the compost then lightly sieve a little compost over them. In approximately 10/14 days the seed will have germinated. The seedlings are then placed under a fluorescent light to prevent the plants becoming drawn and leggy. This can be positioned quite close above the seedlings as the fluorescent light gives off very little heat.

The young seedlings are potted on into 3” pots at the crook stage before the seed leaf begins to straighten. Using Levington M2 compost. In addition I add 20g of ‘Rootgrow’ (mycorrhizal fungi) to every 20 litres of compost.

This compost is also used for the subsequent potting on into 5” pots with the addition of ‘Rootgrow’. The next move is into 3 litre pots using Levington M3 compost plus ‘Rootgrow’. At the end of April the onions are given their final move into the 20 litre pots, once again using Levington M3 compost.

A little tip. As you fill the 20 litre pot pack the compost around a 3 litre pot. When you come to plant up the onions remove the empty pot and you have a perfect ready made hole in which to plant your onion.

This is the first part of a two part article. The second part is: Cultivating Large Exhibiton Onions

Show Winning Onions

Show Winning Onions

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Growing Onions for Show - Starting Large Onions from Seed

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Show grower John Trim has won the national championship with his onions. In this first of two articles on growing large onions for show, he reveals the secrets of starting large exhibition onions to get you the winner’s red card at the show. This i...
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