Did adding biochar work on the onions?

It happens, just gardening and living your life is easier to do than write about the garden happenings (for me that is). However, I do love a good New Year’s Resolution and sharing what has and hasn’t worked in the garden is something I am going to work on being more consistent with.  Given the last thing I wrote about was adding biochar to where I was planting onions it seems fitting to report back on what I thought about it.

I am happy to admit that growing onions at our home hasn’t been hugely successful in years past.  The 2015 crop was a huge improvement on the 2014 crop (it may have been only 3 poor little onions so you can tell that an improvement was very achieveable).  The hiccup has been my stubbornness to grow our onions from seed.  This always takes a long time in the middle of winter and the seeds have so often had very poor germination success. So last year I spread the risk and bought beautiful, uniform, upright, healthy onion seedlings – plus sowed seed. The purchased seedlings were a joy to plant, my seedlings less so (and what are the odds – seed raising success this time around!!).  The seedlings were planted into the prepared ground that had the biochar mixture added to it.

The result :

Some of 2014 onion harvest. a mix of red and white/brown onions.

Some of 2014 onion harvest. a mix of red and white/brown onions.

You know that this was  improvement!  You can see that there is quite a bit of variation in the sizes.  We have eaten many a number of the onions already. So did the biochar help?  The soil that these plants grew in is terrible.  These onions I do think were helped by adding the biochar.  Generally the soil they were in doesn’t retain water at all, can be hydrophobic (where the water just runs off it) and any sign of added organic matter such as compost and mulch disappears very quickly.  There was an improvement in all these areas.  The size variation is also due to trying a mix of planting onions in clusters verses individuals.  For our site I will keep the plants as individuals (some commercial growers often plants in sets of 3-4).

So – I will continue to add biochar to new beds over the coming seasons. I will also aim to improve on the 2015 onion crop (I think I will propagate the seed much earlier in the season) and I STILL have plenty of biochar in the shed.

Happy Summer harvesting.