Planting and Caring for Onions

by Debra Wyatt
(last updated June 19, 2017)

Out of all the vegetables the onion is one of the home gardener's favorite. There are several reasons for this. The onion is easy to grow, doesn't require much space, and has lots of medicinal and culinary uses. Onions also have such a variety that a gardener can find at least one type of onion that will fit their needs.

There are many different types or varieties of onions. Listed here is just a sample of the more commonly known onions and what they are known for.

  • Vidalia onions: known more for where they are grown then the type of onion.
  • White, Yellow, or Spanish onions: great for slicing and have great flavor for cooking also great for long-storing.
  • Purple onions: a very mild taste and used a lot in salads.
  • Green onions or Scallions: a long stem with little or no bulb.
  • Pearl onions or pickling onions: used for pickling.
  • Leeks: very mild, yet have their own distinct taste.
  • Shallots: a small bulb with a very mild taste also great in the garden as they have an attractive summer flower.

While there are many different varieties of onions there are actually only two different classes: long day and short day. Short day onions are mainly grown in the South, and the long day onions are more for the North. The short day onions develop bulbs with about 12-14 hours of daylight while the long day onions require 14-16 hours of daylight.

There are three different options that can be used to grow onions:

  • Seed: If planting onions from seed (this option takes the longest) they should be started indoors and then transplanted. This type of plant will need to be "hardened" before planting. They are ready to be transplanted when they are about the size of a lead pencil (about 7-1/2 inches) and stocky. To "harden" the plants, gradually expose the plant to the temperatures outdoors and less water.
  • Seedlings: These are hardy and help to cut down the time between starting and actually harvesting the onions. Seedlings have been growing about two months and are available from the nursery. They are usually ready to plant right away.
  • Sets (bulbs): When planting by the set, remember to plant so that the green shoot is upwards. The set takes the least amount of time between planting and harvesting. If gardening in a small area it is best to use sets. The onions that are planted in sets grow quickly for easy harvesting.

In general, onions should be planted three to four inches apart. Double rows that are about eight inches apart (give or take a couple of inches) won't hurt anything.

When it is time to harvest onions it is usually fairly easy to tell. When the tops have fallen over it is time to pull them. After pulling the onions rinse off the dirt and then allow the onions to dry in the open for a couple of days. Then cut the roots and the tops off. Leave the onions to set out in the open again for a couple more days.

Author Bio

Debra Wyatt

Deb has a communications degree and applies her talents to her position as Marketing Specialist at Sharon Parq Associates. In her spare time she spends time with her children and grandchildren and devotes time to her church. ...


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