Autumn Sown Onion Sets

Autumn Champion

Last autumn we decided to try out some autumn sown onion sets. We were likely to be away at the critical time in the spring when we would normally plant sets and this seemed like a good idea, it would also give us an early onion crop.

The varieties that we decided to try out were:

These were available last autumn as a special offer, 1 small pack (about 35 sets in each) of each type. We planted them out in mid October in a raised bed in ground that had been used for a previous crop of potatoes and french beans after weeding it thoroughly. Before we planted, we top dressed with a light dose of Growmore. Planting was such that the tips of the sets were just visible above ground. Spacing was about 7 to 8 inches (~175 – 200mm) so as to encourage large bulbs.

At first we had some trouble with birds attempting to pull them up and we lost a few but after a while small roots had developed that discouraged the birds although several sets were at awkward angles in the ground. As the really hard cold weather developed, we were worried that we would lose the crop through frost but it soon became apparent that there was signs of growth and so we persevered.

We were away during much of February and March and when we returned we were surprised to see that the sets had started to grow quite well despite the severe winter.

Autumn Champion at end of May

By mid May, the crop was growing well and it looked as if we were going to get a good crop but continuous watering was essential as the weather was not helping us. We also needed to keep the weeds suppressed to prevent the onions being overgrown! Regular hoeing was necessary with a 3″ onion hoe.

At the end of June it became apparent that the bulbs were swelling well although one or two were running to seed. We removed the seed stalks near the tip but a couple of plants started splitting badly.

We started using the crop at the end of the month, using the mis-shapes and split ones first. We were amazed by the flavour! These onions are really sweet and are not too strong despite being very “green” at the time.

Once the leaves had started to fall over in mid July we started gently easing the bulbs up from the ground to help the crop ripen and the leaves to dry. That is when the weather turned and we had almost continuous rain. So as to not risk getting too much rot, we decided to lift the crop soon afterwards

The results were very pleasing and a good reward for our efforts.

Of the 70 or so sets planted, approximately 60 succeeded. There were more failures in the Autumn Champion (7) trial but the quality and size of those that survived was very good. Of the Senshyu there were only 3 failures.

425g Autumn Champion

The heaviest onion was a Senshyu at 600g (with leaves) but we had several Autumn Champion at around 425g and 4″ in diameter. We have not weighed all teh crop but I estimate that we have about 14kg (30lb) in total. We will update when we have weighed. One significant observation is that there are a larger number of large bulbs than usual, few medium sizes and very few small – maybe 10 out of the whole crop.

All the onions have very good flavour but one thing that we did notice is that the Senshyu were certainly not as yellow as they show in the catalogue!


These varieties will probably not store as long as later cropping varieties. However, we will dry them out, probably in the greenhouse as it is still raining, tie the onions into strings, and then hang them for use later in the year. So far it looks as if these onions will be suitable candidates for the local Autumn show – we will let you know how we get on!

We will keep you updated as the trial progresses – now to start digging the potatoes!

One Response to “Autumn Sown Onion Sets”

  1. Great post…

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