Fall is harvest time for a lot of the long season crops; it wouldn’t feel like fall around Stoney acres if you weren’t tripping over the makeshift table we use to cure our onions in the garage. I’ve grown onions most years in my garden. Until recently I grew my onions from sets and had decent success, but pretty small and flat onions. Three seasons ago we started searching for a longer storing onion. By January our onions were either rotten or starting to sprout so we wanted an onion that would last until the green onions were ready to eat in early June.
That’s when we discovered a variety named Copra. This was a great discovery for two reasons; Copra’s can last up to 10 months in storage and here’s the best part this variety is not available in sets; instead we had to get starts. What a difference growing from starts makes.
Planting starts instead of sets gets the whole process going earlier. We put our starts in before the 10th of March this year, you can do the same with sets but you won’t see any real growth for 4 to 6 weeks when spring really kicks in. In our northern climate, onions need as much time in the ground as they can get. Onions are really tough and can handle a lot more than you might think. Last year ours dealt with a very cold spring and several snow storms that nearly knocked them flat.
Onions are really easy to grow and don’t need a lot attention. Make sure they are planted in a well-drained bed enriched with compost; fertile soil will really make a big difference. They need plenty of sun in order to grow to a good size. This year we took advantage of a spot that used to be very shady because of a neighbors tree. Lucky for us (and unluckily for our neighbor) the tree died and they took it out. This gave us a great bed that now gets tons of sun. Keep them watered and weeded, onions are shallow rooted so they don’t tolerate competition with weeds. A side dressing of compost part way through the year is helpful but not necessary. I never got around to it this year and everything still worked out. If you find your onions are forming flower stalks cut the stalk off immediately. An onion that is allowed to grow a flower and set seed will never get very big. Also onions that are allowed to grow a flower stalk will not store as long.
In part 2 of this growing guide I will cover harvesting and storing your onions.