A few years ago my baby, a budding gardener, called me from Philadelphia, where she was thinking about growing onions, and asked me, “When you plant one onion, how many onions do you get?”
Wow ! This one question completely re-framed things for me. I had never quite thought about each vegetable in this way .
And when I told her she would get one onion from planting one onion, she said, “Oh, then I’m not going to plant them. It won’t be worth it.”
Of course I had to laugh when she said this, because one of my favorite annual rituals is growing onions !
But, our change was a fantastic admonisher that what ’ s “ worth it ” to grow our gardens is a strictly personal decision .
Since you ’ re here reading this post, I ’ thousand going to assume you feel enthusiastic about growing onions this season .
I don ’ t know about you, but most of the recipes we cook at home start with onions and garlic in the pan with a fiddling olive oil. We cook most nights of the week, so that means we use a lot of onions throughout the year .
That ’ randomness why they ’ re one of my favored vegetables to grow in my garden .
I normally plant between 300-500 ( largely storage ) onions so we can eat them all winter long. A fun challenge I set for myself is to never have to buy onions at the store .
Some years are more successful than others !
One thing I can say is that over the years, I ’ ve mastered the art of growing amaze onions. Every July, my onion crop is pretty epic for a home garden, as you can see from the photograph in this post .
unfortunately, a fortune of gardeners confide in me that they struggle to grow onions successfully. I understand, because onions there are some identical specific techniques you need to emply to grow onions to brag about .
The goals of this post are to share the best practices for growing onions and get you excited about including them in your garden plan this jump. And you don ’ t have to grow 500 like me to join the onion fancier club !
This post contains affiliate links .
8 Tips for Growing Great Onions
#1: Plant Early
If you ’ re having fuss with your onions producing courteous big medulla oblongata, it could be because you ’ ra planting them excessively belated. The total of daylight your garden gets during onion growing season will dictate when they start forming a bulb .
If you garden in northerly latitudes, your summer days are much longer than gardeners to the south of you. That means you should plant long day onions .
These onions start forming a medulla oblongata when the days are 14-16 hours long. This type is best for latitudes between 37-47 degrees in the US .
I live in Wisconsin in zone 5, so I normally notice my onions starting to truly produce a bulb around the summer solstice .
By then, my garden is receiving over 15 hours of sunlight every day. See, there are some advantages to living in the north !
Short day onions are full suited for southerly gardens located between 25-35 degrees. They ’ ll start producing a light bulb when the day duration is 10-12 hours .
There are besides intermediate day onions, which you should plant if you live between 32-42 degrees latitude. They ’ ll start the process of bulbing up when the day length is between 12-14 hours .
Johnny ’ s Selected Seeds has an informative map of the US highlighting which areas should grow each type of onion hera .
Why does this matter? As I wrote above, in zone 5 here in Wisconsin, my onions in truth start growing bulb around the summer solstice. The sum and size of the green leaves on the plant at that fourth dimension will help determine the size of the bulb I harvest in July .
Let me repeat that – if your onion leaves are puny, you ’ ll get puny onion bulb .
That ’ mho why it ’ randomness critical to plant your onions early – four to six weeks before your average last freeze. If you implant them besides late in leap, the onions won ’ t have time to grow adequate green leaves to encourage large bulbs .
This is one of the most common reasons gardeners aren ’ thyroxine happy with their onion size. That ’ south why I put it beginning on the list. If you don ’ thymine know your average last frost, enter your zip code code into this site to find out .
Depending on the weather, I normally establish my onions the third base week in April .
#2: Evaluate Your Options for Planting Onions
When you ’ rhenium making your onion growing plans it ’ sulfur important to understand the three options for selecting plants .
Option #1: Start Your Own Seeds
I ’ ve gotten the best results by far when I ’ ve started my own onions seeds in the winter. Starting your own seeds gives you the ability to pick precisely the correct kinds of onions for your situation – long day, short day, storage, sweet, bolshevik, yellow and more .
And you ’ ll have access to a overplus of interesting varieties – way more than you would likely find at your local nursery. Onions are one of the first gear seeds to get started in the winter, about 10-12 weeks before your final frost .
In my house onions kick of the seed starting season around the last week in February .
If you ’ ve never started seeds you ’ re in truth missing out on one of the most fun parts of garden. You can find lots of semen starting inspiration here .
Option #2: Buy Plants
In this option we ’ ra talking about onion plants, not sets. If you ’ re not going to start your own plants, this is a adept second choice .
When you buy onion plants from a farmer or greenhouse, they ’ re grown from seeds that were started a few months before, most probable in a greenhouse .
This makes them superscript to onion sets, which we ’ ll talk more about below. The benefit of planting a good-sized onion plant is that it can compete with the weeds better ( onion hate weeds ! ) and will normally produce a better sized medulla oblongata than an onion set .
You might be able to find onion plants at a local greenhouse or farmers marketplace. Buying from a local anesthetic farmer is constantly the best option because you can check to make surely the varieties being sold do well in your area .
If you ’ rhenium buy from a memory, use your earphone to look up the varieties and confirm they grow well in your region .
You can besides order plants online. I ’ ve purchased onion plants from Dixondale Farms in the past and was very happy with the results. They even carry some of my darling varieties .
never buy onions that don ’ t have any variety listed, or precisely say loss, white, or yellow on the tag. Who knows what you ’ rhenium getting !
Option #3: Buy Onion Sets
Onion sets look like bantam little onion bulb. They are broadly started the former class. This means when you implant them it ’ s technically their second season growing outside .
This is debatable because onions are biennial, which means they flower in the second gear year .
A blossoming onion is very pretty, but it ’ s not going to produce a very big bulb because it ’ ll be focusing all of its energy on that flower. If you ’ ve always planted onion sets and been surprised when they flower, immediately you know why !
At one of my local nurseries the onion sets are never labeled with a variety. But rather are named Red, White, and Yellow. Variety is important, so no-name onions are another cause to stay away from onion sets .
If you ’ re committed to trying to grow quality onions I highly recommend sticking to the first two options in this list .
And a final examination notice, you can not plant onion seeds immediately into the establish in form. They won ’ t have adequate clock to turn into bulb. You need to use a plant or a set .
#3: Choose the Best Varieties for Your Garden
There are a few different characteristics of onions to understand before you pick which varieties you want to grow .
Step 1: Choose the Right Type for Your Latitude
As we discussed in lean # 1, you need to choose a variety that ’ second allow for your latitude. Your choices are long, intermediate, or short day. You can use this map of the US here assist you in figuring out the best type for your garden .
Step 2: Choose Fresh or Storage Onions
The second step is to think about when you want to use your onions. Do you want to eat them in the weeks following harvest ? Or do you want to store them long term so you can use them in favorite recipes all winter long ?
If you ’ re only growing a handful of onions in your garden you probably want to choose a fresh eating variety. These tend to be sweeter and have more water system content, but they don ’ t store well over the long term .
I normally grow one variety of sweet, non-storage onion in my garden. I keep them break and try to use them up before my other onions, ideally during the month or two following their harvest .
If you want to keep your onions for many months you should choose a storage variety. This is the majority of the onions I grow in my garden. Depending on how you prepare and store them you can expect them to last from 3-6 months or more .
Finding storage varieties can sometimes be a challenge when you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate start your own seeds, but you may have luck discover storage kind plants at your local farmers market or nursery. I ’ ll share some options for ordering on-line below .
Step 3: Choose Your Color
There are three colors of onions – red, white, and yellow. The differences between the colors are more connect to the varieties than the actual color .
Some store better than others, some are balmy, and some more potent. Read the diverseness descriptions to aid in your decision-making .
I encourage you to plant a mixture of different colors and varieties so you can find your favorites. In my garden I tend to plant about 2/3 yellow onions and 1/3 crimson onions .
Step 4: Select Your Varieties
I ’ ve grown a lot of fantastic onion varieties over the years ! And, each year I trial a few new ones. I decidedly have my favorites, which I ’ ve collected in the lists below .
Remember, I live in a northern climate, so the varieties I ’ meter recommend are best for those gardens.
other ways to find varieties that perform well in your region are to talk to fellow gardening friends, chat up local farmers at the Saturday grocery store, and visit a authentic nursery in your sphere .
Favorite onion varieties:
fresh Red : long Red firenze
fresh chicken : Ailsa Craig
storage loss : Cabernet, Redwing, Red Baron, Red carpet
repositing scandalmongering : New York Early, Patterson, Cortland
I order most of my garden seeds from Johnny ’ south Selected Seeds and High Mowing Seeds .
For rest of browsing I ’ ve gathered up my favorite onion varieties in several different places so you can shop in the way you prefer .
Find my favored onion varieties, a well as other tools and supplies, on Amazon here .
Check out my onion assortment list on Etsy, vitamin a well as my other front-runner lists here .
My husband prepping the onion seam in our community garden plot .
#4: Prep Your Garden Beds for Planting
I ’ ve never tilled my garden in 17 years and I don ’ thymine recommend it because it destroys the land structure over time and besides causes a lot of unnecessary sour of setting up your garden every single jump .
alternatively, I recommend you establish permanent wave beds and paths. This style layout will decrease the long term preparation and maintenance involved in your garden every temper .
And as a bonus, with already established garden beds spring garden homework is a breeze !
Onions have shallow rout systems, so they grow best in unaffixed, crumbly territory that ’ s complimentary of large chunks of debris like stones and land clods. Because their roots stay near the surface of the territory, you only actually need to worry about the top 7-8 inches .
This means there ’ s no reason to dig deeply, flip over territory, or disturb your territory besides violently. If you have clay dirty like me, you can use a arduous rake to loosen and break up the crown few inches of dirt before planting your onions .
One of my newfangled darling tools ( I bought it for myself for my birthday a few years back ! ) is the broadfork. It ’ south great for heavy soils like mine because it allows me to lift and aerate the territory ( kind of like fluffing it ) without having to use a tiller .
I use to prep all of my garden beds before planting. And this one is made in Wisconsin !
I recommend mixing a balance organic fertilizer into your dirt before planting all seeds and plants. You can sprinkle it onto the dirt with your hands and then use the scan to mix it into the lead few inches of dirt .
#5: Use Correct Spacing for the Plants
Onions can be planted pretty close together – six inches on all sides. This means you ’ ll be able to fit a distribute of onions in a small distance. I normally fit my 500 or indeed onions in two to three garden beds .
For planting, we use a handmade dibbler that has prongs spaced six inches apart. ( See photograph below. ) It creates our planting holes for us thus all we have to do is place the transplant into the hole and cover it with soil .
Planting a fortune of onions can be a bit long-winded since they ’ re indeed humble. Using a dibbler very speeds up the process. It ’ south besides handy for garlic planting since they ’ re besides spaced at six inches apart .
If you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate want to make your own you can purchase a dibbler like this which will besides double as a flower bulb planter. ( I plant a batch of those, excessively ! )
Plant your onions one inch abstruse. If you haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate been regularly trimming them you can cut off the top five inches of the plant so it doesn ’ metric ton dry out while the roots are getting established .
#6: Give Your Onions What They Need
How well your onions will ultimately grow is the resultant role of temperature, soil nutrients, dirt moisture, and competition. Until the plant receives its critical sum of daylight to start forming a bulb it will be focusing on growing its leaves .
#1 Need – Water!
Because onions are so shallow rooted they need frequent water. Try to keep the top 3-4 inches of territory damp. Remember that after planting raw transplants you ’ ll need to give them some excess water while their root systems get established .
Depending on the spring rains and weather I try to water system fresh transplants every 2-3 days for the first week or indeed .
In general, most garden vegetables need one inch of body of water per week. More on watering your vegetable garden .
I ’ ve made the err of underwatering my onions in the by and they didn ’ triiodothyronine grow equally well as I had hoped. now I make certain to give them enough of water .
#2 Need – Weed-Free Existence
Onions don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate compete well with weeds. Try to keep your onions beds adenine clean as possible and you ’ ll be rewarded with a leading reap .
I hate weeding and try to avoid it at all costs. That ’ second why my garden is always covered in a thick layer of mulch. It ’ randomness best to get your onions mulched a soon as possible after planting .
It can be unmanageable to get the mulch around the small onion transplants. I find it easier to wait a copulate of weeks until they get bigger and then mulch with a layer of marsh hay. You can besides use pale yellow, grass clippings, or leaves .
An lend bonus of mulch is that it traps in land moisture so you ’ ll need to water less and the dirty around your onions won ’ thyroxine dry out as promptly .
Mulch your onions with hay to keep down the weeds and trap in moisture .
#7: Know When to Harvest
In recently June to early July you ’ ll beginning to notice your onion tops falling over. Don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be alarmed ! This is part of their natural process and an indication that the bulbs have stopped growing and are ready for fresh feed or cure .
Harvest bracing onions when about 25 % of the tops have fallen over and repositing onions when 80 % of the tops have fallen. If you harvest repositing onions excessively early they ’ re more likely to rot in storage .
But, don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate leave them in the ground for weeks beyond when they ’ re ready to harvest. Get them harvested and into the curing process in a seasonably manner .
Plus, the clear garden outer space where your onions once lived is the perfect spot for planting fall vegetables .
You can start eating your fresh onions right away – yum ! I even cure mine for a morsel in the garage, but they ’ re ready to eat the even of your harvest day .
#8: Prepare Them for Storage
If you ’ ve grown a minor measure of fresh onions and plan on eating them in the adjacent calendar month or so, you don ’ t have to worry about curing them. just bring them in the house and start using them in your favorite recipes .
storage onions require more of a curing serve to help you successfully keep them over the winter. I actually love this depart of onion growing because I feel so rich in onions when I ’ m lining them up in my garage .
It ’ randomness fun to think about all of the dishes I ’ ll be using them in throughout the winter .
ideally, onions are cured at 80-90 degrees and abject humidity for several weeks. The temperatures where I live in Wisconsin are by and large in the 80 degree range in July, when I ’ megabyte harvest and curing my onions .
But, the humidity can be equally thick as soup. still, I ’ ve had no problems with curing my storage onions. Don ’ triiodothyronine be excessively worry about the humidty, there ’ s not a lot you can do to control it .
Cure your onions out of directly sunlight. At my old house I spread them out on my east-facing covered porch. now I have a garage, so all of the onions go true in there .
It ’ mho best to provide them with some air circulation, so spreading them out on previous screens set atop sawhorses is one choice. Another choice is using your alloy seed starting torment. After seed starting temper is over I move my metallic element rack into the garage and use it to cure my onions .
Don ’ t cut the leaves off the onions until after they ’ re cured. I like to bend mine at the neck when placing them on the curing rack to seal off the bulb from moisture .
A properly cured onion has a dry extinct peel and a dry neck ( the separate of the plant where the bulb meets the leaves. )
You can check out my article on how to store garden onions or watch the video below to see precisely how I harvest and cure my onions for storage .
Onions are a capital accession to your vegetable garden, particularly if you ’ re a gardener who loves to cook ! They can be a small slippery to grow .
sol if you ’ ve tried to grow onions in the past and have been disappointed, I encourage you to put them back on your design for this class ’ sulfur garden .
If you incorporate these eight best practices into your onion plant and growing routine this temper you should have a much more successful crop !
Want to read more about growing vegetables?
- #1 Tip for Growing Red Peppers
- What Kind of Garlic Should You Plant?
- Unique & Colorful Varieties to Grow in Your Garden
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