Off the Menu

Sitting down to write this week’s post has been quite the challenge for me. It’s not that I haven’t much to say, in fact, quite the opposite. You see, there’s been a drama over at Agents of Field HQ that I’ve hidden away in the back of the shed, pretending it’s not there, hoping it’ll go away if I ignore it. However, life doesn’t work like that, Pandora’s Box has been opened and there’s no going back.

When I began to think about this week’s post, Agent Soph suggested I should write about it. At once I recoiled in horror. ‘No!’ I abruptly told Soph, ‘I cannot share this with the world! They must not know my weakness! My achillies heel shall remain firmly in the wellie, hidden from curious eyes!’

But a day passed, and as with most things, the voice of reason kicks in. ‘If I don’t come clean then I’m not only running from the truth, I’m letting our most beloved readers down’. When Soph and I started this blog, we both agreed we would share the good, the bad.. and the ugly. Not only are we hoping to provide an entertaining read but, on occasion, you might be able to learn from our endeavours, the successes and the failures. So here it is.

Recently, with my RHS exams approaching, my time has been at a premium; my trips to the plot have been occurring at the oddest of hours. Nevertheless, one of the great things with unusual timekeeping is that you see no-one else on the allotment, which gives me the opportunity to have a nose at other peoples’ plots. One evening, taking my usual scenic route, I couldn’t stop looking at some of the onion beds. It struck me they all were showing similiar signs of wilting. Normally, at this time of year, the onion beauties are swelling nicely; sitting proudly on the veg bed. Initially, I thought they must have under-watered their crops, but then, as always, that nagging voice at the back of my head whispered the most gentle yet fearsome of words: ‘Your onions look the same as theirs.’ on2 Collage

One of the first field crops I ever grew was onions. Over the years, I feel I’ve become quite the little expert, from Red Baron to Stuttgarter, I’ve dabbled in most varities without a care in the world. However, this year it would seem my lack of respect for the allium has encouraged Mother Nature to take me down a peg or two.

Upon closer inspection of my onions, the reason became clear: I had onion fly.

on Collage
Onion fly pupae on my thumb (left) and there are two visible on the onion (right)

Now, as a gardener, part of our remit is to deal with pests and diseases. Allotments and gardens rarely look like something out of the Chelsea Flower Show, that’s not the real world for many of us. Instead, we battle the invading slug, squash the unwanted vine weevil and remove the sap-sucking aphid. Neverthess, the realisation that my precious onions had been violated by both fly and larva, well, I took it hard. I didn’t feel quite the main man anymore, I had gone from onion whisperer to garden eunuch. This will be the first year I can’t proudly walk into the kitchen and show my bulging onions to my wife. Pardon the pun. Whenever I see an onion tart from now on, it’ll make my eyes water, and not because I’ve been busy chopping the buggers, but because I’ve been stung by failure.on3 Collage

So anyway, getting up early this morning I knew what had to be done. Taking a slow, cheerless walk up to the plot, I proceeded to dig up and remove all signs of my precious onions. I’m guessing there was roughly a hundred, both red and white, and every single one showed signs of onion fly. I’m guessing they came in last year’s numerous deliveries of free manure to the allotment site, as other plots are also affected.on8

So, they’re gone, an entire crop wiped out. The bed has been cleared and cultivated. And although I may continue to mourn, it was the right thing to do. Which brings me to the next question? What shall I grow in the empty bed? Already I’ve sown more beetroot and planted some celery I had sown in the polytunnel. But they haven’t filled the allium void. I know there’s a vegetable out there waiting, and when the time’s right, we’ll find one another and this talk of onion fly will be but a bad dream. AdeSignature