Basics for Onion Plant Care -
When you take on the task of growing large onions in containers, there are a lot of factors that can influence the overall productivity of your plants. Oftentimes, when growth and yields are less than satisfactory, one of the following three requirements may not have been fulfilled properly:
|Yellow & Red Onions growing in|
- Selecting the Correct Type - Large bulb onions are broken down into two types, long day and short day. Short day onions are generally good for growth in southern latitudes, whereas long day types are normally grown in northern latitudes. It's important to find out which varieties grow best in your area. To ensure the greatest success, obtain seed or onion sets that were locally grown and already suited for your climate.
- Rich Fertile Soil - Although onions have rather small and shallow root systems, they are extremely heavy feeders. To maximize onion production, choose a garden soil high in composted organics. Further amending with compost will help boost nutrition levels and also create a soil that has better moisture retention.
- Available Sunlight - Onions are a full sun crop that base bulb production on their available photoperiod. If the critical photoperiod falls short or exceeds the requirements of your variety, onions may fail to produce bulbs altogether. Typically, short day varieties require 10-12 hour days to commence the bulbing process, whereas long day varieties will need 14-16 hours of daily sunlight to do so.
- Container - If you're looking to grow onions in containers, surface area is the key for maximum productivity. Seek out planters that are wide and shallow instead of narrow and deep. When searching for a container, keep in mind that onions will grow healthy in only 6-10 inches of soil!
Onion Seeds, Sets or Plants?
|Bag of Onion Sets.|
- Seeds - Onion seeds are the most inexpensive option for the gardener, but going this route requires much more patience. The seeds must be started a few months before the average last frost in your area for good bulb production. On the upside, gardeners will be able to choose the exact variety they wish to grow.
- Sets - Growing in containers, onion sets are the best way to start gardening. These small dormant bulbs were harvested before bulbing occurred in the previous season. These small onions generally set quicker and produce larger bulbs.
- Plants - These ready to transplant onions are normally grown from seed and are sold in nurseries. Due to their unreasonable expense, it would really only make sense to purchase young onion plants if you got off to a late start in the season.
Gardening Onions -
For the sake of beginner gardeners out there, I'll be discussing how to grow onions using sets. Remaining relatively inexpensive in price, onion sets allow beginner gardeners the ability to bypass germination and young seedling care.
|This photo illustrates the varying|
sizes contained in bagged onion
- Planting - Four to six weeks before the date of the average last frost, or as soon as the soil can be worked, prepare your garden beds and containers. From your bag of onion sets, select bulbs that are roughly 1/2 - 3/4 inches in diameter. Using a block style planting, bury each bulb root side down, spaced 6-8 inches from each other in all directions. The onions are to be planted at a depth of 1-2 inches, covered up, and then watered in well. Green onions sprouts should start to emerge within the next couple weeks.
- Watering & Fertilizing - Once the onions begin to spring from the soil, a regular watering regimen should ensue. Water onion plants deeply on a twice weekly basis, or once the top couple inches of sol has become dry. During the first month and a half of growth, feed onion plants with compost tea. This can be done once weekly to boost available nutrition.
|Onion plants nearing|
- Harvesting - Nearing the end of summer, the onion foliage will start to die back and fall over. It's during this time that onions can be harvested. For the biggest bulbs, allow the foliage to die back 50-75% before picking from the ground. If sunny weather is on the horizon, harvested onions can be laid atop the garden beds for a day or two. This will help start the curing process.
- Curing & Storage - Harvested onions should be moved to a warm and well ventilated area for curing. Lay out the onion plants in a single layer on drying racks or newspaper. After a couple of weeks curing, the onions should have nice papery skins and foliage that is pretty much completely dry. To store, cut off the foliage about an inch above the onion bulb. Move long storage types to a cool (35-45°F) and dark area. Under the proper storage conditions, some varieties will keep in excess of ten months!
So, that pretty much concludes our basic guide on how to care for onion plants. While it seems like a lot to digest, onions are very hardy plants and are actually quite forgiving! Growing incognito in the garden, onions will surprise you late in the season with bountiful harvests. Thanks for reading this guide and good luck growing!
|Yellow Rock Storage Onions.|