Onions and I have a love/hate relationship. I love them and they hate me. I have attempted to grow onions from seed or onion sets numerous times. What do I get? Puny onions! Don’t get me started on red onions. Talk about really small-why-did-I-bother-onions.
Growing Onions from Seeds
Normally onions grown by seed need at least four months to mature. Northern gardeners have to start their seeds inside in order to eek out an onion. Cool weather causes the tops to grow and warm weather causes the bulb to grow.
I start my seeds in the middle of February and their baby hair are just now getting wispy. (See the picture above.)
Word of Caution!
Choose your seeds wisely. According to Organic Gardening,
“Short-day onions, such as ‘Red Hamburger’, will form bulbs as soon as days reach 10 to 12 hours long. They’re suitable for southern latitudes only. Long-day types, like ‘Sweet Sandwich’ and ‘Southport Red Globe’, need 13 to 16 hours of summer daylight in order to form bulbs. They’re the type to grow in more northern latitudes.”
I grow an heirloom variety, Yellow of Parma onion which is a long-day variety.
When to Plant Outdoors
When the seedlings are about four inches tall, you can start to harden them off to be planted in the garden. If you are sowing seeds into the garden, then plant four to six weeks before your last frost date. Sow your seeds 1/2 inch deep.
Some like to grow their seeds closer together and then thin them to six inches apart.
I never sow my seeds directly into the bed. I plant my indoor grown seedlings 6 inches apart. Once the soil warms up I mulch the seedlings with leaves. Be sure to use markers where your seedlings are planted. They look like weeds and you might pull them accidentally. (Done this.)
Onions don’t like weeds so be extra vigilant in weeding.
Growing Onion Sets
Onion sets and I have a really tempestuous relationship. Some rot right away and the majority of them bolt too soon so my onions are small. Again, my issues may be weather related so if you have been successful with onion sets, simply disregard my frustration.
If you want to try your hand at onion sets, plant onion sets four to six weeks before your frost date. If you live in a mild climate, you can plant onion sets in the fall. Read here on how to plant onion sets–complete with a video of me planting those cute little sets.
Organic sets can be purchased here.
If you buy onion sets locally, smaller is better.
Word of Advice
Be sure to evenly water your onion plants. Too much water, they will rot and too little, they will split. There are no “do-overs” with onions. They are not very forgiving. (Again, been there.)
This Year May be the Year of the Onion!
This year I started my seeds early. In years past, I started in March. *Fingers crossed* this year will be a winner. I will be planting red onion sets since I don’t have red onion seeds.
Hopefully this year’s weather will be better. Last year, it was cold then hot then cold again. My onions bolted (flowered) and that was the end of my onion career for last year.
Also, one my G+ gardening friends suggested I plant onion seedlings in the fall for a Spring harvest. He said I would be much happier with the results. So, what do I have to lose?
Join the Conversation:
- Do you grow onions?
- Any advice for this frustrated gardener?