I can’t imagine life without a ready supply of green onions. I use them three times a day; they go, snipped, into my standard breakfast of omelette or scrambled eggs, turn up in my mid-day salad, and appear again in the evening in whatever I happen to be making, from soups and fritters to stews and Asian dishes. My preference, when it comes to this family of alliums, is the spring onion (or scallion, as the north Americans like to call them), and the best time to sow the seed is autumn. This ensures the seedlings are up and at’em when spring arrives with warmer weather to fatten them up. Of course, even now, it is not too late to sow the seeds of spring onions. It simply means you’ll enjoy using the vegetable a little later on, and have it on stream for summer and autumn.

But spring onions are not the only green alliums to look forward to. By sowing the seed of red bunching onions, you’ll have green tops and lovely pink-red stems to slice up the whole year. These hardy opinions, sown in autumns or spring to mid-summer, survive even the bleakest winter. Cover the fully grown onions with a cloche at the end of autumn and you’ll have green onion tops for winter soups, and new green growth come spring. These onions can be left in the ground in bunches (which may help shield them from the bitterest days of winter) or divided and planted out in ones or twos.

Another source of green onion comes in the form of shallots. Pressed into the ground in early to mid spring, the bulbs produce green tops 3-4 weeks later. Left untouched, the bulb divides and produces more shallots; however, you can also choose to sacrifice one or two bulbs in order to snip up a top or two for the kitchen.

Whichever green onions you choose, provide them with rich soil containing plenty of organic material in the form of compost and well rotted animal manure. And if you want the very best of onions, feed them (with the exception of shallots) with liquid manure at fortnightly intervals. Although slugs and snails are unlikely to touch mature onion plants, they are not averse to having a nibble of young seedlings, especially as they are just coming through the soil so protect with slug and snail bait. Birds, too, enjoy pulling young onion plants out of the ground, especially at nesting time when I suspect they consider them to be building material! I always net my onion seedlings until such time as the plants are firmly anchored in the ground.