Planting, Growing, And Harvesting Onions
Onions are a crop of cold-season. Growing onions is easy because of their hardiness. Here’s are the steps to grow an endless supply of fresh onions in your own garden!
Generally, onions are planted early in the spring season. They are harvested in the fall just after their tops start to die. In the southern U.S., few of the onion varieties are also planted during the fall.
We always recommend using onion sets. They are easy to plant. Also, you don’t have to worry about the frost damage. As compared to direct seed or transplants, they have a higher success rate.
Method of Growing onions on raised beds is usually preferred. Onion plants grow well on raised rows or raised beds that are at least 4 inches high.
How to Plant Onions?
- Plant onions around spring, that is Late March or April. You can work to prepare your land well during this period for growing onions. Make sure that the outside temperatures does not drop below 20°F (-6°C).
- Select a location with plenty of sunlight. Also, ensure that onions won’t be shaded by some other plants.
- Soil should be well-drained, rich in nitrogen and loose. bulb development is affected by compact soil.
- Adding manure or compost to the garden soil. Do this in early spring generally before planting. This is beneficial for the growth of onions. Onion plants are always in need of constant nourishment to produce big bulbs.
- During the time of planting, add some nitrogen fertilizer. Humic acid can also be added during planting.
- Onion seeds have a short life. If you plan to plant seeds indoors, start with a batch of fresh seeds every year. Start planting the seeds indoors nearly about 6 weeks before transplanting to the garden.
- Consider onions more as a leaf crop, not a root crop. When planting the onion sets in your soil, do not bury them more than an inch under the soil.
- For sets or transplants, ensuring a spacing 4 to 5 inches between plants. The gap between the rows should be 12 to 18 inches.
- Try practicing crop rotation with the onion plant. This will help the soil to retain its productivity and fertility.
- If possible, add mulch between the rows or beds of onions. This will help the soil to retain moisture and stifle weeds. Thus ensuring proper growth.
Can you Plant a Sprouted Onion?
Yes, you can always plant a sprouted onion. But you will not get many onions from it. However, you will get lots of tasty and delicious green sprouts. Here’s how you can do it.
- Fill a pot with garden soil. Make a hole in the middle of the pot. The size of the hole should be about the depth and width of the onion.
- Now, place the onion that you want to plant in the hole. After that cover the onion with soil.
- Water the pot and place it where it will receive enough sunlight.
- Now the green sprouts are ready for harvest. Harvest them whenever you need them for cooking.
If you see a sprout with a flower, don’t harvest it. wait until the flower converts into a seed. You can use this seed for planting during the spring season.
How to Take Care Of Onion Plants?
- In order to get big bulbs, fertilize every few weeks with nitrogen-based fertilizer. Stop fertilizing the onions when onions push the soil away and the bulbing process of onions has begun. Make sure not to put the soil pushed away back around the onions. The bulb has to emerge above from the soil.
- Generally, onion plants do not require regular watering if we use mulch. About an inch of water, every week (including rainwater) is enough. If you need sweeter onions, only then water more.
- Onions do look healthy even if you water them less. make sure to water them even during drought conditions.
- Thrips: Thrips are very tiny insects. To identify them, take a dark-colored piece of paper to your garden. Now, knock the onion top against it.
- If thrips are present on your onion plant, you will see their tan-colored tiny bodies on the dark paper. A couple of mild treatments with insecticidal soap can is to kill them. You can also use bavaria bassiana to get rid of them.
- Onion Maggots: Cover your entire onion crop emerging from the soil with a fine mesh netting. Seal the netting by mounding soil around the edges. The onion maggot mostly lays its eggs at the base of onion plants. Thus the netting will prevent that.
- You should make sure to keep mulch away from insects because they like decaying organic matter. Make sure to harvest your onions completely as the season reaches its end.
- Onion maggots are generally a problem during the periods of heavy rain. Therefore, no need to take the above precautions during the dry season.
When to Harvest Onions?
- Pull out all the onions that send up flower stalks. Flowers stalks indicate that the onions have reached maturity and have stopped growing. It is difficult to store these onions for long. But we can use them in our homes for a few days.
- When onions begin to mature, the tops (foliage) become yellowish and start to fall over. At that point, bend the tops of onions down or stomp on them to speed up the final and last ripening process.
- Try loosening the garden soil around the bulbs to speed up the drying.
- When tops of onions are brown, pull them.
- Make sure to harvest the onions in late summer, just before cool weather. Mature and fully grown onions may spoil in fall weather.
- Clip the onion roots and cut the tops back to an inch.
- Let all the onions cure on dry ground for some days, depending on the weather. Always handle them with utter care. The slightest bruise will lead to rotting.
- Allow onions to dry out for a few weeks just before you store them in root cellars or any other onion storage areas. Spread the onions out on an open screen so that they become dry completely.
- Store at 38 to 50°F (3 to 10°C) in braids. Also, you can store them in a mesh bag or nylon stocking with stems removed.
- Make sure not to store onions with pears or apples, as the ethylene gas from the fruits will hamper with the onions’ dormancy. Onions can also ruin the flavor of these fruits (as well as potatoes).
- A pungent onion will always store longer than a sweet onion. Always eat the sweeter varieties first and then save the pungent onions for later use.
Onion varieties are mostly classified into two main categories:
- Long-day (better for cool climates).
- Short-day (better for warm climates).
- ‘Yellow Sweet Spanish’: large, round shape; yellow-white.
- ‘First Edition’: high-yielding, stores well, flavorful, creamy-yellow.
- ‘Red Wethersfield’: flat bulbs that store well, white flesh, red-skinned.
- ‘Stuttgarter’: early maturity with slightly flat, sold in sets, shape, yellow
- ‘White Bermuda’: extremely mild, with flat, thick bulbs; white
- ‘Burgundy’: good table onion with mild, white sweet flesh, red-skinned