Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing Onions {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

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So far, I have talked about growing peas, lettuce, and spinach. Onions are next on my list. If you think onions are good, just wait until you try one from your garden. There is no comparison to one bought at the store. Onions are something I feel like I have a lot to learn about. Every crop I have had has been just fine and great, but I still feel like I have room for growth here. This is a crop I would have assumed was an easy one to grow, and not everything about an onion is intuitive (at least to me). I guess they are complicated, with all of their layers and all...




There are many varieties of onions. I like to plant a yellow onion, a red onion, and a sweet onion. I don't always plant sweet onions because they are hard to find in sets, and I hate to spend more money on the plants. 

Once again, if you are new to gardening, don't miss my Gardening: Getting Started Tips.

What you need:
  • Dirt
  • Seeds, Sets, or started plants: I like "sets." These are what look like flower bulbs. In my area, I haven't had luck with seeds (though I know people who do). I also don't like the ones you buy with greenery. Onions are supposed to be hearty, but I have lost plants to late spring frosts (and have had friends lose them, too). So I prefer the set because the greenery doesn't come out right away and gives the plant a couple of weeks to get past the frosts. Sets are also significantly cheaper than the plant starts. 
  • Water
onion sets

Also handy: 
  • Hand shovel
When to plant:
I plant this the same time as I plant my peas, lettuce, and spinach. The rule here is you plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Onions grow the most when the days are longest with the sun, so if you live somewhere where the days get longer and shorter, you want them in the garden early enough to benefit from these long growing days.

Where to plant:
Plant them in full sun. Last year, mine were in part shade. They still grew fine, but they were smaller. One one hand, the size they were was actually perfect for my use--I usually get gigantic onions. They do grow best in full sun.

How to plant:
roots down
  1. Prep your soil. You want it loose. Again, we till in the spring (do not add compost in the spring--you want that in the fall). 
  2. Mark your rows where you want your onions. We do about 30 feet of onions. I divide them up how I want them. I find yellow onions store the best over winter, so I prefer to have more of those than other onions.
  3. My husband like to flatten the row with a landscaping rake (he does this for anything we plant. If he isn't around, I am lazy and don't do it. His way is nicer, my ways is faster). 
  4. Plant according to directions based on what you plant. If you plant a set, I plant so the roots are down and just a little bit of the top of the set is sticking up. 
  5. NOTE: My cats love onions. They go out and roll around with the onions. They often dig up the bulbs. I just replant them. 
  6. Water well after planting. 
prepping with the landscape rake

How to care for onions:
  1. The growing process is simple. If you planted them close together, thin them out once the greenery is up and you can tell which ones are going to make it and which didn't/won't.
  2. Onions like a lot of water.
How to harvest:
onions blossoming
the row on the right is smashed
  • The onion greenery will blossom. At this point, I take note of the date and mark two weeks ahead on my calendar.
  • Two weeks after they blossomed, smash the greenery to the ground, but leave the greenery on the onion. Leave the onions in the ground. 
  • Two weeks after you smashed the greenery, pull up the onions. Cut off the greenery. Set them somewhere in the sun to dry out for a couple of days. I usually put mine on our patio table.
    *CAVEAT: My neighbor goes out and just picks an onion when she wants it, no matter the size or status of the greenery. She doesn't mind it at all. So you can always try other things and see how you like it. If you want to store your onions for as long as they will keep, follow this process.



How to store:
I like to store my onions in nylons. After they have dried out, I put them in a knee high stocking with a knot between each onion. I then put them in my cool, dark, dry storage room. When I need an onion, I cut off the knot. 

Do you have tips for growing onions?









Also in this series:






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