When we planted our spinach last fall I noticed that the dirt smelled like onions. Then I remembered that our green onions (sometimes called repeater onions) went to seed last summer and instead of pulling the head off the plant, we just let them fall. Some were already starting to send up green shoots. So we gathered them all up and made a bed just for them. Since I will just continue to let them go to seed, I didn’t want to try to rotate them around our garden. We have been eating green onions all winter and they are now sending up seeds again. Esther has picked about 1/3 of the “pretty flowers” but the rest we’re letting go.
Last year we grew enough storage onions to last through December and to use when we canned our tomatoes. It was by far our best year for onions. However, I still feel like we are novices when it come to onions. Part of the reason is that I “think” we always do the same thing and yet sometimes we get different results. For instance, I know that we planted transplants the fall before last and I don’t remember any of the onion sending up flowers. We did the same thing this year, and we have been diligently picking the flowers from the onion. These onions won’t store as well, so the ones that had flowers will be the ones we use first. Then I found this handy article written by Texas A&M which suggests if you’re going to plant onions in the fall in our zone, you should use seeds not sets. It is the temperature fluctuation that causing the flowering (or bolting). We certainly have had that this year. When we planted the onions, we only planted sets. However, we got some from one nursery and they were quite large and some from a friend and they were much smaller. So… maybe the smaller ones won’t bolt???
What I have learned about storage onions (this will be for sets since that is all we ever plant):
- Official planting times for my area (Zone 9): seeds – Oct 1 – Nov 15; transplants or sets – Jan – Feb)
- It takes 2 years for an onion to grow from seed to produce a seed. However, if there are large flucuations in the weather, it can produce seeds prematurely.
- Once an onion bolts, it will not get any bigger and should be used early as it won’t store well.
- Plant onions close together and you can eat the ones you thin.
- Onions will begin developing their bulb when the days lenghten. It depends on the variety, some are 10-12 hours of daylight and some are 14-16 hours.
- When they begin developing their bulbs, the green portion will stop growing. The bigger the greens the bigger the bulb.
- Once you notice the bulb growing, gently pull the dirt away from the bulb. Not too much just so that the bulb is exposed a little.
- Supposedly, you are not supposed to plant onions where beans or peas have been or vice versa.
Pests and Problems
- I have never had a pest problem with onions, in fact when they are planted with other plants they tend to ward off bugs.
- Bolting is really the only problem we have had with them
Havesting and Storing
- Onions can be harvested at any time, but if you are going to store them you want to wait until at least half of the greens have turned brown and are falling over.
- The longer you can wait the longer they will store
- Do not water for a week or so before harvesting
- Dig them up, don’t pull them up
- Let them cure in a well ventilated area for a few days until the neck (the place where the greens meets the bulb) shrivels up
- Leave the greeens on and braid the onions
- Cut the greens off and store in mesh bags (we save our grapefruit bags for this)
- Dehydrate the onions and grind them for onion powder – we will have to do this this year since so many bolted.
Overall onions are very easy to grow and do not take up much space so even a small garden can have onions in it. You could even intersperse them in your flower gardens.
Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.