All About Growing Onions

Learn all about growing onions. When to plant, how to plant, harvesting and storing, saving seeds, pest and disease prevention tips, plus more.

| December 2009/January 2010

  • growing onions
    For gardeners interested in growing onions, shown here from left to right are ‘Bianca di Maggio,’ ‘Red Torpedo,’ scallions, and a yellow onion with its stalk buds. The robust, exceptional flavor they add to meals is worth the few teardrops that may end up on your cutting board.
    ILLUSTRATION: KEITH WARD
  • Growing leeks
    Leeks can play all sorts of scrumptious roles in the kitchen. They are great for drying, and also give tasty punch to soups, stews, and other dishes that cook for a long time.
    KEITH WARD

  • growing onions
  • Growing leeks

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Packed with vibrant flavor, onions are a staple food throughout the world. Familiar bulb onions are easy to cultivate as long as you plant varieties adapted to your climate, and you can expand your onion season by growing leeks, scallions, and other non-bulbing varieties. Fertile, well-drained soil that’s slightly acidic (a pH between 6.0 and 6.8) is best for growing onions of all types.

Bulb Onion Types to Try

Bulb onions mature in response to changing amount of daylight. The longer the plants grow before they begin forming bulbs, the bigger and better those bulbs will be. In North America, days become shorter after the summer solstice, about June 21. Summer days are longer in the North than in the South.

Short-day varieties grow best in the South. They begin forming bulbs in late spring, so they need to be planted in fall in the far South and in late winter in colder climates in order to produce large bulbs.



Intermediate-day varieties are the best main-crop onions for the country’s midsection (Washington, D.C., to northern Arizona), and they can be grown as early onions in the North. 

Long-day varieties are best grown in the North. These onions have spicy, well-rounded flavors and store well.

JACQUELINE HALLER
12/23/2010 12:14:15 PM

GREW UP LOVING ONIONS, SHALLOTS AND THE LIKE. MY DAD USED TO CALL ONIONS 'NORWEGIAN LEMONS.' HE WAS SOMETHIN' ELSE.


GinaMO
1/4/2010 2:35:53 PM

I have never had much luck growing onions! I'm wondering how many people actually grow onions from seed (starting the seed in late winter)? I would SO MUCH love to grow those big beautiful onions I see at the farmers markets, but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I usually plant onion sets. But they just sit there and don't do anything. We had an awful lot of rain this past summer so maybe that was the problem this past summer. So, mostly I'm curious what success most folks have at starting onions from seed? Do you start them in newspaper pots or something so that they can be transplanted without much abuse to the roots happening? What are some of the easiest kinds to grow? Thanks for any help!







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