Tips and techniques for growing this hardy, cold-season garden favorite.
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 80-100 days
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Spacing: 2 to 4 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows
Easy to cultivate with a long storage life, home gardeners are growing onions in most areas of the United States. These glorious globes serve up a super-sized portion of vitamin C, are low in calories, and high in minerals and dietary fiber.
Records indicate that onions were grown in Ancient Egypt, and eventually arrived in Rome and became known as the word onion (from the Latin word UNIO, which means large pearl).
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Onions grow best in full sun and deep, fertile well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Work in a generous amount of organic compost prior to planting. Onions are shallow rooted and need constant moisture near the surface.
Onions form bulbs in response to day length. If you choose a type inappropriate for your area, it may make small premature bulbs or not bulb up at all. Long-day varieties, Sweet Spanish included, need 14-16 hours of daylight and are grown in northern climates. Short day varieties, Bermuda included, need 10-12 hours of daylight. These start making bulbs early in the year. Select an onion type that is suited to your zone for best results.
How to Plant:
You can grow onions from seed, seedlings or sets. Sets mature quickly and are easy to grow, but varieties are limited. Seed should be sown in the fall to set bulbs in spring or summer.
Allow 2-4 inches between plants in traditional rows spaced 1-2 feet apart. Feed the plants with a high quality organic vegetable fertilizer early in the season and apply Liquid Fish & Seaweed later in the season to improve crop yields, taste and appearance.
Allow tops to fall over naturally, then pull bulbs and let them air-cure for two weeks. Watering prior to harvest makes pulling easier. After curing, store the bulbs in a cool, dry place such as the cellar. Onions reach maturity 80-100 days after direct seeding; 30-40 days from sets.
Insects and Diseases:
To help prevent insect and disease problems avoid planting onions in the same area for three years. Damage to the lower part of the stem is often caused by the onion maggot. Thrips are suspected if onions becomes bleached and wither. Wireworms (the larvae of click beetles) can also cause serious damage as they feed on all underground parts.
Note: Take Down Garden Spray combines the fast knockdown of pyrethrin and the residual activity of canola oil to kill ALL stages of insects, including eggs. Best of all, it breaks down quickly in the environment and may be used on edible crops up to and including the day of harvest.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Biennial. Onions cross-pollinate and should be isolated by 1 mile from other onions going to seed. Select only the best bulbs and store 3-6 months at 32-45˚F. Plant out bulbs in early spring and allow them to form seed heads. When the heads start to dry, cut off, dry further and thresh.