I have a “stick them wherever they’ll fit” attitude towards onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks. While most edible alliums grow to be their biggest and best when the soil is rich and the sun is bright, I often start the season with more allium seedlings and sets than ideal space in which to plant them. Rather than tossing the surplus away into the compost bin, I tuck them into any little space I can find, regardless of the growing conditions. The end of the season is like a treasure hunt as I gather these little treats from their hiding spaces underneath bushes, alongside taller crops that grew and shaded them out, and even stuck into pots.
How to Make and Lay the Pathway
Step 1: Define the Path
I began this project two years ago so my path was already defined. To do that I laid down twine, and tied the ends to twigs to hold it in place. Some people use a hose to accomplish this, but I prefer twine because I can leave it in place and live with it for some time before committing to the final layout and pathway width.
When I moved in, the yard I inherited was barely more than a lumpy patch of “grass.” My theory is that the yard was once a vegetable garden that was left to go fallow and was eventually seeded without being levelled. It was extremely sloped in multiple directions, and full of large lumps and even larger potholes that I often tripped in while trying to walk across. Our goal for the space was to remove all of the lumpy “grass” and level the sloped yard as best we could to improve drainage. Digging it all by hand, shifting the soil, and building raised beds along the west side (where it is lowest) in addition to getting plants in on time, sowing seed, building a compost bin, etc was, quite simply, enough for one year. As a compromise, we made a pathway halfway up and left a small patch of “grass” at the back. In the second year we decided to change things up, extending the garden in front and moving the main entrance to the right. I also marked out new paths and smaller beds on the east side of the garden. By the time that was done, I was simply too tired to tackle that patch of “grass.”
This spring, as soon as the ground was workable, Davin and I were out there nearly everyday working away at that patch, digging it up a few inches at a time. We were determined that this would be the year that we would finally get it all out — no more hand-clipping the tenacious, miss-matched patch of this and that. No more stumbling and tripping in the potholes.
And we did it! Last Friday we got it all out and laid down a layer of mulch in its place. The following (broken down into two parts) are the ins-and-outs to how we did it.
The other day I wrote about hardening off onion and leek seedlings. This week I am planting out onion and shallot “sets”. Planting sets may seem redundant since I already have seedlings on the go, but I assure you there is a method to this madness.
In my house, we cook with shallots and onions everyday and we never seem to have enough. This year I plan to step up my game and grow more than ever. I don’t want them to be ready for harvest at the same time. Now THAT would be madness. Starting from a range of sources (seed, sets, and even store-bought transplants) allows me to have a steady stream of edible alliums (as well as tender onion greens) available for use in our meals throughout the growing season and well beyond. Not only have I already been using the fresh greens clipped from my onion seedlings, but I have even harvested some of the full-sized perennial bunching onions that I planted last fall! Over the years I have found that if I take care to plant at intervals and protect the plants, I can have some form of edible allium available almost year-round!