Grow Onions {How To}

This past year, I tried to grow onions.  I started with seeds and grew it exactly according to the instructions I read in several places, placing them in front of our large living room window (on a table) that gets plenty of sunshine in the winter.  However, when it was close to when I was to plant them outside, more than half of them died!  The only thing I could think of is that I really needed an artificial light, which I didn’t have, or could afford to get one.

So, my suggestion is to just get onion seedlings from your local nursery.  It’s just easier this way, unless you have a greenhouse with artificial lights!  (Also, the transplants I planted were twice the size of the ones I grew from seeds.)

Plant your onions seedlings outside once spring has started.  For us in the Mid-East, it can be from middle of March to the beginning of April.  Make sure the night temperature doesn’t get below 20°F.  Plant seedlings 1-inch deep, with 4-5 inches apart, and 12-18 between rows.  Make sure you plant in full sun.

Onions need a loose, well-draining, fertile soil to grow well.  The onions are shallow rooted, and don’t like to compete with weeds.  You either have to stay on top of the weeds daily or weekly, or use mulch to slow weed growth. Mulch also keeps the temperature lower and the moister more even.

Onions don’t need a lot of water, but they do need even waterings.  Make sure they don’t dry out.  Increase the waterings when the bulbs form.  Once a month, fertilize them with kelp fertilizer or fish emulsion.  This is stinky, but worth it!

Onions are ready to harvest when the green stops topple over.  For me in the mid-east, they were ready around the middle of August.  A month before they are ready to harvest, start gradually pushing the soil away from the bulbs.  By the time harvest time comes, 1/3 of the onion should be exposed.  When they are ready to be harvested, dig them out.  Don’t pull them up as you could tear off the leaves, without which the onions won’t cure well enough to store.  Handle them with extreme care—even one little slightest bruise will encourage rot to set in.  Shake off the excess dirt and keep the green tops on while they cure for 2 weeks in a warm, well-ventilated spot, out of direct sunlight.   When they are fully dry, cut off the tops and store in a well-ventilated spot.

That’s it!  They’re a fairly easy plant to grow in the spring and summer once you know what you are doing.  It’s also great to always have onions available in the house all winter long!

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3 Comments on “Grow Onions {How To}

  1. You mentioned that your attempt at starting your own onions from seed indoors failed because a lot of them died. For the last 2 years I’ve done what you did (I start them on my south facing window sills) and had great results (lots of large, 6″ diameter on average, yellow cooking onions). You didn’t mention whether or not you hardened your baby onion plants off before transplanting them outdoors. If you didn’t this may be why they died. They may have simply died from the shock of transplanting. I encourage you to try again. Good luck.
    P.S. Something else that I’m going to try with this year’s onion starts is to keep clipping their tops down a bit as they grow otherwise they get too spindly and interfere with each other when I try to separate them out for transplanting into the garden.

    • AH, I forgot to mention that part! I did bring them out a little at a time, lengthening the time every once in awhile. I also trimmed them when they got about 3 inches high. I’m at a loss what happened—maybe a disease got to them?

      Thank you for the suggestion! I’m hoping you’re comment will help others.

      This year, no onions as I’m doing garlic instead. They’re doing very well, even though it’s been cold! I can’t wait to start my garden very soon!

  2. This year I am planting 5 different kinds of onions as opposed to 2 last year. 3 will be from seed and 2 will be from onion sets. Just for the fun of it I’m growing some giant onions (called “globo”) which should get to the size of a small soccer ball if all goes well. They aren’t very practical because they aren’t supposed to store well but I thought it would be fun. I’ll probably have to give most of them away. My yellow onions kept well through this winter. I still have about 10 left in the cellar and they’re still hard with no sprouts.
    I’m growing garlic too (for the second year) and I more than doubled my planting last fall to 260. My garlic stored well too. I’ve got about 15-20 heads left hanging in an onion bag from a beam in the cellar. Some of them are getting a little shrivelled. Do you have any suggestions about storing garlic so it keeps well?
    It’s great growing your own food, isn’t it? It’s like having a licence to print your own money.

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