As we venture out from the depths of the dark evenings,  most of you will no doubt have been getting ready for growing this year.  You might  have bought your  seeds, seed potatoes , onion sets and shallot bulbs,  or you might have kept some yourself over the winter period.  So here's a few of my hints and tips to help.

Don’t forget to keep your seeds and seed packets  in a cool dark environment to keep them fresh and viable.

If you are selecting onion sets, give them a squeeze and pick the firm ones.  If they are soft or starting to sprout, they might not grow so well.

Start your onion sets off by pushing them into your soil or compost with only one third of them in the soil/compost and two thirds above the soil.

Get your shallot bulbs started off in some small 3½ inch diameter pots (similar to the onion sets -  ⅓ in the compost).  They might not look like they are doing much for a while, but their roots will be getting established. – keep an eye on the bottom of the pots for roots coming through. Once I see some roots, I plant them out in their final growing position.

Keep your seed potatoes in a cool (frost free) light (not sunny) area as you don’t want them to sprout and have long leggy shoots. 
It is not recommended to use soft seed potatoes, so like the onion sets, make sure they are firm. If your seed potato has scab on it, that’s ok as it is a growth due to the previous season’s dry weather, it’s not a pathogen  and it won’t pass on to the new potatoes that grow from it.

To better control the amount and size of your potatoes grown from each seed potato, you can  remove some of the sprouts. Check out the general growing leaflet on potatoes in the web site library on how to do this, there is a small table on quantities for a few varieties as a guide.

When starting off any seeds or bulbs, I try not to over water them at the start as they could dampen off.  Moist compost to start with is usually sufficient for them to germinate.


I hope you find these useful as we all get started.

Sandra Hall, NVS Chair

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