Growing onions is a pretty simple garden task. Just follow these 7 steps for your best crop ever!
Growing onions is on my mind this time of year. We’ve had ours planted for about a month.
Step 1 – Choose the proper onion for your region
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.
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)
Step 3 – Planting
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!
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
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)
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
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!!