photo credit: Mike the Gardener
|I love growing onions from seed. While I have nothing against growing onions from onion sets that you can purchase at a local home or garden center, growing onions from seed is a lot cheaper and just as easy.
WHAT ARE ONION SETSIf you are wondering what onion sets are, they are what it sounds like. They are sets of small onion bulbs that you plant in the ground to grow onions. The advantage of using onion sets is that the growth process has already begun. You have a small onion bulb, and all you need to do is plant it in your garden and let it finish. The downfall is that they are far more pricier than growing from seeds. Not to say onion sets are very expensive, but a pack of onion seeds will cost you about $1.50 whereas a pound of onion sets runs roughly $10 to $15.
ONION SEEDSGrowing onions from seeds is very easy. The seed itself is easy to handle, making onion seeds a perfect candidate to plant one seed per starter pot (indoors), or per hole location in your garden (outdoors). Although see my tip below if you are starting your seeds indoors due to a shortened gardening season.
WHEN TO START ONION SEEDSOnions are a hardy root crop, so in most zones, you can start your onion seeds directly outdoors when the fear of frost has passed. If you have a short growing season, you may want to start your seeds indoors. In the past, I have taken an eight inch diameter pot, filled it with potting soil, and threw in about a half a packet of onion seeds, put some more potting soil on top, and started them on my window sill indoors. As the seeds germinate and the onions get larger, I will then separate them and plant the small bulbs (see onion sets above), in my garden. Thus making my own onion sets.
WHY GROW ONIONSWhy not grow onions? Obviously if you don’t like the taste of onions it will be hard for me to convince you to grow them, however, there are a lot of choices when it comes to onions. You should be able to find a variety that matches your taste preferences. Also, as with anything else you grow at home, onions taste far better fresh from the home garden than any supermarket.
WHERE DO I PLANT MY ONIONSOnions like a sunny location, so try to find a spot that gets about 6 hours per day. Onions are a root crop, therefore you need a location where the soil drains very well. If your soil is loaded with clay, onions are going to have a tough time growing. You can either fix that issue by mixing in a lot (and I mean A LOT) of compost, or building raised beds above your soil.
HOW DO I PLANT ONION SEEDSWhen starting your onion seeds, try not to plant the seed any deeper than a half inch. You can get away with deeper if you have a soil that is very friable, but a half inch should suffice. Spacing between seeds will depend on the variety that you are planting. If you are planting a bunching onion such as the Heshiko you can plant them every two to three inches. If you are planting something larger, such as a Yellow Spanish, I’d recommend six to eight inches. Eight would be more ideal.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE ONION SEEDS TO GERMINATEYou can expect your onion seeds to germinate in about ten to fifteen days. Shorter if you hydrated them for 24 hours first, but if you see no activity by day 16, you should consider starting some new seeds.
WHEN CAN I HARVEST MY ONIONSThis is the number one question I receive when it comes to onions and just about any root crop. You can’t see the onions since they are underground, so how do you know when to harvest them.
Onions take about 60 to 75 days to fully mature, and as long as you have well drained soil (noted above), you are in no danger of harming your onions if you do not pick them for sometime after the 75 days. Some varieties will get a bit spicier if you let them grow longer, at least to me anyway. I grew some White Globe onions two years ago, and waited nearly 100 days to pick the last one and they had far more bite than the ones I picked two weeks earlier.
FINAL NOTES ON ONIONSDon’t forget to top layer compost over your onions so that they are continually fed with some healthy organic matter.
Onions contain Calcium, Iron, Vitamins A, B1, B2, Niacin and C, making onions a healthy choice as well.
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