Growing and Harvesting Onions

The second year of our marriage, we created a little plot in our backyard to plant a garden.  We didn't have much room or really know what we were doing, but we wanted to have our own fresh produce.  We decided to plant tomatoes, onions and corn.

Even you can learn how to grow onions with this tutorial.

    It was a success.  In fact, it might have been the best corn we have ever grown.  It was also our first experience with growing onions.  They were also super successful and that just pushed us to try other varieties of vegetables and fruits.

    All these years later, we've tried so many different crops, but you can always count on us planting onions.  And we never really plant enough.  Every year we wish we had more.  Why?  We cook a lot with onions.  

    Each year we made try a new variety or two of onions, but we always keep with the classics like the yellow onion or Walla Walla.  This year will be no different.  Let me walk you through how we grow and harvest our onions successfully each year.

    How to Plant and Harvest Onions

    Preparing the soil

    Onions grow best in loose, well-drained soil.  We've had success in both sandy and clay type soils.  Just make sure the soil can drain.  You can always mix your soil with compost for better results.

    how to plant onions

    Planting onions

    Onions can almost be planted year round in most areas.  Onions are a cool-weather crop, which means they thrive in temperatures of 55°F to 75°F.  But we grow onions through our 100°F weather with success.

    Onions grown from seed will take longer to mature than those grown from on onion set, or the small bulb.  You can buy seed or sets from your local farm store.  You can also start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside.

    When planting your onion sets about 3-4 inches apart in rows that are about 12-18 inches apart. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep in rows that are 12- 18 inches apart.  You can always thin onions that are too close together.

    how to grow onions

    Water and Sun

    Onions require consistent moisture for proper growth. We've found that onions actually really like water but can do well even with less water.  Water can change the taste of certain varieties of onions.  For sweeter onions, water more often.  For a stronger onion flavor, water a little less.

    Onions also need full sun for at least six to eight hours a day to grow properly. You can also use a shade cloth to protect your onion plants if you live in a hotter climate.  We've never had to do this.  If you are worried, you can always plant onions under a vegetable trellis or behind some vertical growing plants.

    how to plant onions

    Harvesting onions

    Onions are really ready to harvest when the tops start to yellow and fall over.  You can stop watering your onions two weeks before harvesting to allow them to naturally dry out and cure.

    We have been known to harvest them when their tops are still a bit green.  This makes for a little easier storing by braiding the onion tops.  

    how to grow onions

    Once you've harvested the onions, let them rest in a warm, dry place for about a week. We usually put them on a table either outside in the shade or on our kitchen table.  Once they are fully cured, cut off the onion tops, and store them in a well-ventilated area or you can make an onion braid.  Which is just like it sounds, you braid the onions together and hang them to dry.

    how to plant onions

    Storing onions

    Onions can last for months when stored in a cool, dry place with good ventilation.  This will help prevent mold and bacteria from growing. Also, avoid storing onions near potatoes or other vegetables that emit moisture. Onions can also cause fruits to ripen faster and begin to decay.  It is best to store them away from other fruits and veggies if possible.

    how to grow onions

    Some great ways to store onions are in mesh bags, wire baskets, or hanging them in a cool, dark place like with the onion braid.  If you want even longer storage times, you can dehydrate or freeze dry onions and place in mylar bags or air tight jars.  These methods can help onions last for years and make it easy to simply add onions to soups and other quick dishes.

    how to plant onions

    Growing your own onions really is cost effective and they taste so much richer.  We love our homegrown onions and are always sad when they run out.  Which is why every year we plant more and more. 

    how to grow onions

    Now it is your turn.  Go plant yourself some onions and enjoy skipping the onion section at the grocery store.

    Even you can learn how to grow onions with this tutorial.


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