Alliums, Level Zero

This is growing alliums, the onion family, at Level Zero for absolute beginner gardeners. Learn to grow these, and the rest of the Allium family will be yours to explore. The two most easy alliums to grow, and those we prefer here in our patch, are GARLIC and WALKING ONIONS.

STEP ONE: In Level Zero gardening,
we stick to the most basic methods and simple routines that can prepare the garden for anything we want to grow. Check them out here first.

Garlic stories

Garlic is about the easiest allium to grow. You don’t need special conditions or seeds, just a store bought garlic head. Just be sure it is AUSTRALIAN garlic, as those from overseas have been mostly bleached, roots gouged off, and sprayed with growth inhibitor. Ew. In the cooler regions, APRIL 25 (Anzac day in AU and NZ) is a traditional ideal day to plant garlic, but seriously folks any time is fine. You’ll harvest in summer when the plant leaves start to yellow off. See below for the easiest planting ever.

Walking onions are curiously named by their growth habit. They are bunching onions that multiply at the base, but also grow stems with bulblets that grow on top in place of flowers. These ‘sets’ become heavy and eventually bend the stem over to touch the ground, where they form roots and start to grow on their own. In the garden, if left, they seem to ‘walk’ away from the original location – GENIUS! We use these ridiculously versatile and useful onions all year, from root to set – the quintessential no-waste veg.

curious 'sets' atop walking onions
Funky sprouting ‘sets’ atop walking onions
freezing - such a great way to store onions
Ready-to-freeze walking onions

FUN FACT ~ The mini bulblet ‘sets’ on bunching onions are what are used to make the little cocktail pickled onions we trot out at parties. Small, round and perfect 🧅🧡

Why not try pickling some for yourself?

So, where can you get walking onions, you ask?
– You may find some at a heritage nursery.
– Next Summer we will be making ours available for sale by mail order within Australia. 😎
– (sneaky tip) some supermarkets sell ‘Shallots’ that are actually just bunching onions. Though perhaps not walking onions, they are worth giving a go. Why not pop one in the ground and wait. If it multiplies at the base, then BINGO!

>> LET’S TRY THAT RIGHT NOW <<

Went to the super and bought a garlic and some shallots to show you. Excuse the grainy picture. The Garlic will seperate into good size cloves to plant. The shallots you can see are even dividing (I took off the outer skin to show it), so will likely multiply nicely. Its a grocer’s trick to sell bunching onions as shallots, but it’s good for us. Happy days. I will plant them and see what happens.

>> GETTING THEM INTO THE GROUND <<

  • CHOOSE A WELL-RAISED BED that has been trenched, so that it has plenty of organics to feed the bulbs.
  • SEPARATE THE CLOVES AND ‘SHALLOTS’ so you can plant one in each hole, about a fist or so apart
  • PUNCH a hole with your dibber or super handy Japanese Hori garden knife if you have one, deep enough to fit the bulb with a few cms spare.
  • POP THEM IN and cover with soil (or not, if it’ll rain soon) and mark them so you know where they are.

Seriously, that’s it. Don’t fuss. As Autumn and Winter rains come, you will see new shoots, and they are away. We will check in again when they have popped up.

Look wide, grow well, folks. 🌿

plants can volunteer too

Volunteers welcome

Who wouldn’t want more volunteers in the garden? If you do trenching and rotate your crops, then you’ll have more show up than you could have hoped for, and every single one happy and tasty. Haha.

>> In the garden, a volunteer is any welcome or useful plant that shows up that you didn’t sow. 🌿

It might be a lone tomato from last years plantings, cucumber sprouts from the trenching, alyssum popping up from plants last year… you will be out in the garden doing some weeding or harvesting and – ‘heeeey, hello, how did you get here’ ☺️

a volunteer silverbeet in our garden
Turning over this bed, discovered a volunteer silverbeet. No idea where he came from…

If you choose trenching to bring vital organics into your soil, then kitchen vegie scraps will be the first thing to go in. As your skills increase, you’ll add more and more – digging in leftovers from the finished crop in that bed and other organic additives from your yard, like ash, dry leaves, and lots more. One of the marvellous consequences of all that good stuff are the communities of vegie volunteers that will sprout from nowhere. Last year, our pumpkins, golden cherry toms, sunflowers, rocket, parsley, coriander, all manner of flowers, gerkins, purslane, warrigal greens and rockmelon all came as volunteers to help out. No offers were refused 😉

This week’s trenching with last month’s cucumber leftovers sprouting already. It’s too cold for cucumbers now but we will grow these to about 5cm high, then chop and add to a salad. YUM.

Some volunteers can stay in-situ, some may need moving to another spot, and some may bring so many friends, you just have to dig most in. That’s okay – more organics in the soil is a good thing. If you want to get really tricky, you can even trench some likely candidates into garden beds knowing they will likely come up. It is only one small step away from saving and growing your own seed, except with none of the effort and all of the surprise.

Look out for Volunteers at your place. If you have started Trenching, then they are not far away 💚

Look wide; grow well, folks 🌿
**********

meet the members of the allium family

The Alliums

Let’s meet the Allium family.

☺️ LEVEL ZERO ESSENTIALS
🌿 Annual plant that begins, grows, is harvested and dies down every year.
🌿 Common vegetable alliums have edible bulbs and leaves.
🌿 Some reproduce from seed and some multiply at the base.
🌿 long stalkless leaves that grow from a swelling bulb at the base.


The alliums in our vegetable gardens are oniony, enjoy cool climates, are disliked by most pests, handy in the kitchen and mostly easy to grow.

Most alliums found in vegetable gardens are grown from seed – brown and salad onions, shallots, scallions (spring onions) and leeks (cheeky chives have a bet each way – more on them another time). They are lovely and worth experimenting with, but hardly ever grown in our garden here because we prefer super easy Level Zero vegies and have found our favourites already, GARLIC and WALKING ONIONS. Neither require pollination, nor seed collecting, and you can easily get a hold of starter bulbs at the super. Find out more, here. If we dabble in something though, we will share them with you.

TOP SNEAKY TIP: If you find an onion in a market that you really like, chances are it is grown from seed. Be sure it has roots, take a few home, plant them halfway up the bulb in any spare space you have, and let them keep growing until they go to seed. You’ll get a pretty white flower head, that dies off to brown. Bag the sead heads and when dry, little black seeds will be left to plant in winter or early Spring. Have a crack 🧅✨

🤓 LEVEL-UP PLANT NERD JUICY DETAILS
Alliums are in the Amaryllidaceae family – distant relatives of the lily and asparagus families. They are monoecious, flowering herbaceous annual or biennial monocots, originating in Asia but long since traded and naturalised globally. The name Allium is the Latin word for garlic.

Look wide, grow well, folks. 🌿