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How to Grow Onions

For all their flavor and bounty, onions are very easy to grow from seeds, sets or started plants. Pulling up a homegrown crop is rewarding enough to make you teary eyed. All you need to provide is plenty of sun, a deeply tilled bed of rich soil and periodic thinning and weeding. Onions lend a savory and pungent flavor to just about any dish and stay fresh for months in storage, making them a valuable staple for your edible garden.

Choosing Onions

Purchase onions as started plants or sets of small bulbs, and plant them in cool weather. You can start onions from seed, but it's much faster and easier to get a head start with bulbs and started plants. In northern climates plant in spring, and in the South plant in fall. Choose varieties that are adapted to the day length in your region. For example, plant short-day varieties in the South, long-day varieties in the North, and intermediate varieties in between the two regions. Prepare a sunny, well-drained plot of the garden by deeply tilling or "fluffing" the soil, and mix in as much organic matter as possible, such as compost, humus or chopped leaves . Rich soil makes for flavorful onions.

Planting Onions

After preparing the soil, plant individual bulbs 2 in. apart and 1 to 2 in. deep with the pointed ends up. Fill in the planting hole with soil, and water well. Add a layer of straw or pine straw mulch to prevent weeds, retain moisture and protect the tops of the onion bulbs from a nasty sunburn. Provide 1 to 2 in. of water a week and feed every three weeks with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

After two months, thin onions by removing every other bulb. This gives the remaining onions more room to grow. Eat the thinnings of small bulbs and green tops to hold you until the big harvest. Carefully remove any weeds by hand as soon as they appear. Avoid using any damaging garden tools around the fragile bulbs. Continue to add mulch around the onion bulbs as they grow, keeping the layer 2 in. deep.

Harvesting Onions

Harvest the onions when the tops reach 6 to 8 in. tall, clean off the soil, and remove the tops and roots. To prepare onions for storage, stop watering when the green tops flop over and dry out, and harvest after a couple of weeks. Let them dry outdoors in the shade for a week, cut off the tops and roots, and store in a cool, dry location such as a garage or basement. Then enjoy!

TSC Growing Onions Supplies:

  • Soil
  • Tiller
  • Compost