Seven Easy Steps for Growing Onions

Growing onions is a pretty simple garden task.  Just follow these 7 steps for your best crop ever!
Growing Onions

Growing onions is on my mind this time of year. We’ve had ours planted for about a month.

I’ve read a million guides for growing onions. In fact I’ve even written some of them!  But all the onion growing guides are long and complicated.
So here’s a quick guide to get you started growing onions this year. Everything you need to know about growing onions in just 750 words and 7 steps!
Step 1 – Choose the proper onion for your region

Growing Onions 1

Did you know some types of onions only grow in certain parts of the country.  It’s all based on your latitude. Long day, intermediate day, or short day. Which are you? To find out, use this easy map from our favorite onion grower. Then choose a variety that is appropriate for your location

Step 2 – Choose seeds, sets or starts.

Growing Onions Starts

Unless you live in southern Florida you will be starting seeds indoors. Onions started from seed need 10 weeks before they are ready to go in the garden.  Sets are little baby onions that you simply poke in the ground and they grow into onions. This is the easiest way to start onions but they seldom grow as large from sets. In my humble opinion starts are the best way to plant your onions.  This way they get off to an early start and grow the biggest and healthiest bulbs.  (This post will teach you more about growing onions from starts)

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Step 3 –   Planting

Growing Onions New

Forget what you read about spacing when planting onions.  4 inches of space all around is perfect. This allows you to plant a ton of onions in very little space. We put as many as 150 plants in a spot just 4 by 8 feet.  Also you can plant your onions much earlier than you think. We often have ours in the garden the last week of March.  Onions are super hardy and don’t mind frost at all when they are small.  In fact more than a few times we have had 4 inches of snow on our onions and it has never caused a problem.

Step 4 – Fertilize!

Growing Onions 1
Onions like nitrogen! If you have good healthy soil they should do fine. But to get a bumper crop of big bulbs you will need to fertilize.  I like to water my onions a couple of times a year with a mixture of fish emulsion. 2 tablespoons in a gallon of water is good.  Or you can side dress your plants with an organic nitrogen fertilizer.

Step 5 – Harvest
Growing Onions Harvest

Harvest time arrives when the tops start to turn yellow and fall over. I usually give them a week or two after that point to do their final maturing.  If the weather is going to be clear and dry for a few days it is okay for you to dig your onions and then just leave them there in the sun for a day or two to start drying. But after 2 days you need to bring them into a protected area.  Be sure you don’t let them get rained on.

Step 6 – Curing (Drying)

Growing Onions curing
Proper curing is essential if you want your onions to store for any amount of time. I like to dry my onions on this little drying rack in my garage. The rack allows for plenty of air flow.  Plan on at least two weeks to dry.  Curing is complete when the top layers of skin are dry and papery.  The tops have completely dried and there is no moisture where the tops attach to the bulbs.  The tops should just pull off when they are done.  You can never “over cure” onions so when in doubt give them a few more days!

Step 7 – Storing

Growing Onions Storage
Onions should be stored  hanging in mesh bags or if you like you can leave the tops on and braid them and hang them some where.  Onions like to be store in a very cool spot and will last much longer if stored in temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Depending on the variety, properly stored onions can last 3 to 10 months.  Read this post to learn more about how we get some onions to last in storage for 10 months!

If you grow your onions properly, they may become one of those crops that you never have to buy from the store again.  If you grow a long storing onion like we do you will have onions in storage for 8 or 9 months. About the time your supply finally gives out your new crop will already be in the ground and you can use green onions to get you through till the new crop is in!  Early spring is the time to get your onions planted so get them in now!!


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  1. Daphne April 22, 2015 5:34 pm Reply

    I always debate the spacing of onions. Jeavons says 4″. I’ve tried it in the past and the onions just didn’t grow well for me. 6″ works well but uses more space. I’m thinking closer might be better. So this year a lot are 5″. I’ll see what the yield is like.

    • Mr. Stoney April 22, 2015 7:29 pm Reply

      I’ve been growing them at 4 inches for the past three years and have had pretty good success. We don’t get quite as big of onions as we used to, but I’ve found that smaller onions store longer anyway.

  2. Robin Follette April 24, 2015 5:12 am Reply

    I planted my onions and leeks in the high tunnel this year because winter didn’t want to let go. I’m going to try seeding them in August, weeding carefully, and covering them with a low tunnel for the winter (I’m in Maine). We go through a lot of onions each year so I’ll order sets again to make sure I have Plan B, just in case.

  3. Terri Presser May 1, 2015 4:18 am Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this informative post at Good Morning Mondays. I haven’t ever grown onions but my daughter does and she had a great crop, must give this a go. Blessings

  4. Karla May 2, 2015 3:59 am Reply

    Can you tell me the difference between sets and starts? Thanks!

    • Mr. Stoney May 2, 2015 6:41 pm Reply

      Sets are little dormant onions. You can buy them at your garden supply store. You simply bury them just below the soil and they will sprout and produces onions.
      Starts are live growing plants. They look like a very small green onions and they are planted with the bulb portion just below the surface and the tops sticking out. Planting buy starts always produces a stronger and larger crop. There are also many more varieties of starts available than sets. I hope that helps.

      • Karla May 2, 2015 7:13 pm Reply

        Thank you so much!!!

  5. Kristi Wheeler February 4, 2016 12:06 pm Reply

    This is a great post on growing onions! I wrote a post on things to read before starting a garden. I will add this to the growing list! Thanks so much!

    • Mr. Stoney February 4, 2016 1:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Kristi!!

  6. Jennifer A February 4, 2016 3:01 pm Reply

    Thanks! I just ordered our onions, I just need to figure out when I should put mine in the ground. I’m excited though! Those onions look amazing.

    • Mr. Stoney February 4, 2016 5:05 pm Reply

      Jennifer, Stay tuned. I have a post on planting onions from starts in the works, it’s around 2-3 weeks out.

  7. Ivonne May 26, 2016 3:57 am Reply

    A lot of the tops in my onions have flipped to the side.. I read it can cause disease if that happens.. It’s not harvest time test,what can I do to prevent disease? Thank you

    • Mr. Stoney May 26, 2016 10:28 am Reply

      Ivonne, Unless you are in an area where onion diseases are really prevalent I wouldn’t worry to much about it. It would be preferable to water them using drip irrigation, that would keep water off the leaves. But if the tops have fallen over then there really isn’t much you can do. I don’t know where you live. Are you sure they are not ready for harvest? How long have they been in the ground? Onions usually need 4 to 5 months to mature.

      • Ivonne May 26, 2016 10:38 am Reply

        I live in west Odessa tx.. I planted them 2 months ago.. And also how can I preserve them? I don’t have a garage the only place I can think of is the pantry but I don’t know if they will last long in there… Thank you!!

      • Ivonne May 26, 2016 10:40 am Reply

        I live in west Odessa tx.. I planted them 2 months ago.. And also how can I preserve them? I don’t have a garage the only place I can think of is the pantry but I don’t know if they will last long in there… Thank you!!

        • Mr. Stoney May 26, 2016 12:17 pm Reply

          It does seem odd that they have fallen over already if they are only 2 months old. It may have more to do with the variety than anything else. Have you had and big wind storms that blew them over? I don’t have any disease prevention advice for you now that they have fallen over.

          Storage has everything to do with Cold and variety. You need to keep them between 35 & 45 degrees to get the longest storage. So in your case that may be a fridge is your only option. Also depending on the variety you planted they could last from 30 days to 10 months if stored properly.

          • Ivonne May 26, 2016 12:20 pm

            Yes we have had very strong winds!! & also I didn’t keep track of the grass it grew as big as the onions ups.. .

  8. Jo October 23, 2016 9:47 pm Reply

    Please could you advise me as to whether the flower should be cut off when it starts to form

    • Mr. Stoney October 24, 2016 7:29 am Reply

      Yes Jo, you should always cut the flower off on onions as quickly as you see it start to form. Leaving the flower on will affect both flavor and storage life.

  9. M. Valentine February 22, 2017 9:11 am Reply

    Do you stop watering them at some point toward the growing season? I have just had no luck growing onions, they never fall over. I am in the Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon. It’s between the Cascade Mountain range to the east, and the Coast Range on the west. Great farmland, but this is a cool, moist, temperate climate.

    • Mr. Stoney February 22, 2017 9:43 am Reply

      It might have a lot to do with your moist climate. I always stop watering about 2 weeks before I harvest, AFTER the tops have fallen over. When do you plant your onions? Many people don’t realize how early you can get them in. I am in a Zone 5/6 garden (right on the boarder) and I plant mine the last week of March. They are quite hardy and you should get them in as early as possible.

  10. Mary Ann February 22, 2017 3:52 pm Reply

    We didn’t eat up all the harvested onions and now I got about 50 big onions that are growing in the bags. Will i get only stems if i plant my growing onions from last year?

    • Mr. Stoney February 22, 2017 5:51 pm Reply

      Mary Ann, Great Question. Onions are Bi-Annuaual plants. That means that in the second year of growth (harvest or not) they will focus mainly on growing a flower and setting seeds. The bulbs will basically be ruined in this process. I’m afraid what you can’t eat up soon are pretty much a loss for the year! Sorry. You might want to consider growing a different longer storing onion. Try Copra, they are a good tasting variety that can last 10 months in storage if stored under the proper conditions. Look at this post for a little more info:

  11. Jess Middleton June 25, 2017 1:20 pm Reply

    I’m in northern California; my onions were planted in March and it’s inching toward harvest. Want to make sure I have the sequence correct: tops yellow and fall over; wait 2 weeks; dig; 2 days in sun; air dry 2-3 weeks; store cold. When do I stop watering?

    • Mr. Stoney June 25, 2017 2:26 pm Reply

      I usually stop watering about 7 to 10 days before I harvest, so a week or so after all of the tops have fallen over.

  12. Emma @ Misfit Gardening September 13, 2017 10:23 am Reply

    Great post but I wanted to know of you have had less onions running to seed by growing with seed or sets. I grew from sets all the time in England but now I live in Utah I find that growing from sets means that nearly all my onions are flowering and I wondered if that was the norm here?

    I’m going to be trying from seed next year too!

    • Mr. Stoney September 13, 2017 10:36 am Reply

      Emma, My preference is to grow them from starts (either ones I grow myself or buy from Dixondale farms). I agree with you, onions grown from sets almost always go to seed. That is because Onion sets are onions that were grown the year before and pick when immature. So even though they are small, the onions “think” they are 2 year old plants, and as bi-annual plants onions always put up a seed stalk in the second year. This year I planted just over 100 onions from starts. Out of those 100 plants only 3 sent up flower stalks! That is a huge difference and makes for a much healthier crop! Here’s a link to a post where I talk a lot more about seedlings:

  13. Deb January 2, 2018 6:48 am Reply

    My problem is in the spring, it is usually too wet to get into my garden … I love planting onions, cabbage and early spring veggies ,but too wet…

    • Mr. Stoney January 2, 2018 8:13 am Reply

      One thing that I do to help make early spring planting possible is to make sure the planting beds and soil are all ready to go in the fall. If you have added you compost and done any digging before winter then in the spring as soon as the top dries just a bit you can get out and get things planted.

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