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9 Tricks For Growing Onions

Written by Hilary on May 21st, 2010

Most gardeners also love to cook, so they tend to plant and grow a lot of onions.

That said however, onions can be tricky to grow. So in order for you to have the most success possible, here are 9 growing and care tips to grow healthy, flavorful onions:

1. During the early stages of growth, onion plants don’t like too much heat or nitrogen. For better onions, don’t over fertilize or subject them to high temperatures when they are young and just starting to grow.

2. Onion sets are easier to plant and give better results than planting seeds or transplants. Onion sets will mature earlier and are less prone to disease.

3. Purchase 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) diameter sets. Bulbs that are any larger tend to go to seed before they have produced a good-sized bulb, and sets that are smaller don’t always grow well.

4. Keep planted onion beds well weeded. Onions don’t like weeds so you can either:

  • Put down a newspaper mulch by laying down 2 to 3 sheets of wet newspaper and then plant your onion sets by punching holes in the mulch.

  • Keep the onion plants well weeded by using a sharp hoe or knife to cut weeds off at soil level. Try not to pull weeds around onions because that can damage the onion’s roots which are quite shallow and tender.

5. Once the soil has warmed up with rising summer temperatures, put down a layer of mulch to help keep weeds in check and to help conserve water. (For more about mulch read: The Wonders of Mulch – A Complete How To Use Mulch Guide)

6. Dry soil can cause onion bulbs to split, so water onions regularly allowing the soil to slightly dry out in between waterings but not get completely devoid of any water. Even soil moisture is key for healthy onions.

7. When bulbs start to form, new growth from the center of the plants will stop.

8. After the bulbs form, and the tops start to die back, water should be withheld to help the onion crop cure properly. Too much water at this point can reduce the bulb’s storage life.

Note: That’s why it’s always a good idea to grow onions in their own bed away from other plants. That way the onions will get the curing time to dry. But if you plant onions among other plants that need water, you can rot the onions.

Note: You can still plant onions as companion plants in other parts of your garden, but if you plant the bulk of your main onion crop in its own area, you won’t have plants that need different watering needs right next to one another.

9. Harvest onions by first using the back to a rake to bend over the yellowed onion tops horizontally. Leave them that way for a day or two and when the tops turn brown, pull or dig the bulbs on a sunny, dry day.

Leave the onions out to dry. If the sun is too hot in your area and sun scald is possible, allow the onions to dry somewhere out of direct sun, but still warm with good air circulation.

When the onions’ outer skin is dry, wipe off any soil and remove the tops. Store onions in a cool, dry area, or hang them in mesh bags or braids in an airy place.

For more Gardening Tips and Gardening Advice visit our main gardening website at Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine

Have great week!

 

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2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Chiko says:

    I live in Lusaka, Zambia, a country in southern Africa & summer in my country starts in late October early to mid November.
    Q: Today, I have transplanted onion seedlings with the hope of harvesting in April when summer is ending. Now, is it possible to have a good yield & possibly manage to dry the onion completely?
    Q: Is it possible to transplant onion seedlings in later December early January & expect to have a successful crop with a good yield?

  2. Hilary says:

    Hi Chiko,

    I think it will be easier to go over the optimal temperatures that onions need to do well and then you can apply those temperatures to your situation.

    Now from your question I am assuming you are talking about bulbing onions and not bunching onions like green onions or scallions – so my answer is for growing bulbing onions.

    Optimal temperatures for bulbing onions is on the cool side. They are considered a cool weather crop and do best in air temperatures of 55 to 75 degrees F (13 to 24 degrees C).

    They can take air temperatures as cold as 30 degrees F (-1 C), but freezing soil can make onion bulbs soft and waterlogged.

    When temperatures reach 85 degrees F (29 C) or higher, soft, gray, watery bulbs can result.

    Generally – onions need cool temperatures in the early stages for top growth and warm temperatures later for bulb formation.

    Onions planted from transplants or set should be ready for harvest in 90 days.

    From what you said, it sounds like it may be too warm right now, but if you can follow optimal temperature guidlines in addition to the information in this post, about how to get a better yield, you will be just fine.

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