Growing onions are so darn easy I don’t know why more people don’t grow them. I grew about 25 red,yellow and white onions for the first time last year. For years I struggled with onion seeds and never grew a bulb to be proud of. With onion sets, I finally harvested nice size onions by July.
Growing From Seed
Before all the gardening purist jump on me, I have tried growing from seed but my climate isn’t hospitable for good growth. (I am zone 6 ish but more towards 5b.) Perhaps if I started the seeds in January, maybe I would have grown nice size onions. However, the onions that I grew were the size of small golf balls.
Honestly, I wish I could have grown onions from seeds since I heard that the onions from seeds don’t bolt as easy as onion sets. (“To bolt” mean the plant flowers and the energy of the plant goes to the flower not the onion bulb.) Um, if you want to give me some advice, go ahead. I would love to learn why I am having so much trouble with onion seedlings.
Growing Onions from Sets
So after a couple years of frustration, I started to give up growing onions. Last year, at a farmer market, a farmer was selling onion sets. They called to me. (Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up.) He had red, yellow, and white onion sets. I was a kid in the onion candy shop.
Last year, I planted them in a small bed. Sadly, some animal or animals kept digging holes in the dirt. Don’t ask because I can’t figure it out. (Or if you know, tell me.) Despite this disruption, I grew some nice size onions. They weren’t huge but nice size.
I made the mistake of curing them and just letting them sit in my pantry. (Honestly, I forgot about them.) Onions don’t keep forever and the red onions shriveled up. Some even sprouted. So, lesson learned. Use or lose the onions in a couple of months.
How to Plant Onion Sets
This year, I decided to grow onion sets again and bought two bags. When buying sets look for onions that are about 1/2 an inch in diameter. The larger the onion set, the more likely it will bolt.
I planted them in a bed far away from those animal holes. (I will take pictures of my animal issue for another post.) Watch my video below as I explain how to plant the onions. (Go see my look of disgust as I notice someone’s finger is in the video. Priceless.)
1. Use some sort of markers whether it is twine, a yardstick, or a big twig to guide you in making your rows. Previously, I haphazardly planted the onions in crocked rows and wasn’t sure where I planted them.
2. Onions should be spaced 3 to 4 inches apart in rows of 12 to 24 inches apart. (There is so much conflicting information on the internet that it can make your head hurt.) Honestly, I think the large row width instruction is to make it easier to weed. Onions don’t like the competition.
3. Plant onions in late March or early April in the North. In the Deep South you can plant in the Fall for winter onions.
4. Buy onion sets according to your location. The University of Illinois Extension states:
“Long-day onions are bred for best performance in the North and short-day varieties perform best in southern locations. Short-day varieties may perform acceptably in the North if the plants can be set out very early in the season. Long-day types may not get the bulbing signal in the Deep South and so should be avoided there.”
5. Plant rounded side down. On the video I show you the difference of the top and bottom.
6. Make sure you have lots of compost or rotten manure mixed into your soil. Some people add fertilizer. (My favorite is Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer.)
6. Dig a small hole. Everyone on the internet seemed to disagree as to how deep the hole should be. Some say 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Others stated the hole should be an inch deep. Some even covered their onion sets. I left about 1/4 of the onion out of the hole and put loose dirt over it.
7. Make sure you water your onions. Don’t forget to weed around your onions.
Places to Buy Organic Onion Sets:
Check back with me in the middle of the summer to see how my second year of growing onions is going.
Join the Conversation:
- Do you grow onions from seed or sets?
- What advice do you have about planting onions?
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