How to Grow Onions from Seed

comments (12) March 10th, 2009

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Click To Enlarge Photo: Lynn Karlin

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Harvest, store, and cure
As the end of August rolls around, you should see signs that harvest time is near. At full maturity, the plants go dormant: The inner leaves stop producing blades, and the hollow-centered neck weakens, causing the tops to bend over. It is important to let the plants go dormant before harvesting, or they won’t store well.

When most of the onion tops have toppled and started to brown, and the bulbs have developed skins, tipping bulbs over to break the roots will speed drying. Do not bend the tops over before maturity, as this will only invite disease.

  Drying onions
  Cure onions on screens, out of the sun, heat, and rain.
During a dry spell, after the tops have withered, pull the bulbs and place them in a warm, dry, airy location out of direct sun and out of contact with moist soil. Curing onions in hot summer sun will bleach and soften the outside tissue and allow disease to enter. This is especially true for the large sweet onions, which have the greatest water content. Spreading onions out on a screen and drying them on a warm porch or in a shed or garage works well.

Onions take up to three weeks to cure before they’re ready for storing. Once the onions have dried adequately, cut the foliage back to 1 to 2 inches from the top of the bulb. (Keep the tops on if you intend to make a decorative onion braid.) Store the crop in a cool, dry location and remember that good air circulation is a must. Onions can be stored in the traditional onion bag or in a shallow box with newspaper dividing the bulbs. Or place an onion in a pair of pantyhose and tie a knot above the onion; tie knots between each additional bulb. When you’re ready to use a bulb, cut below the knot.

Not all bulbs, however, are meant for long-term storage. The large, sweet types like ‘Lancastrian’ and ‘Ailsa Craig Exhibition’ must be used within a couple of months of harvest. Typically, onions with thick necks should be used soon, as well. Keepers have firm, dry bulbs with tight necks and layers of protective yellow or brown skin. These onions are usually pungent and sweet and become milder in time.

by Leslie A. Clapp
October 1999
from issue #23

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Comments (12)

VaneelaCharon writes: One of the great info for gardeners!!
Posted: 1:43 am on May 25th
Reechoclara writes: I love this info, it's truly valuable. thanks for sharing this!!!
Posted: 5:45 am on March 31st
APZ writes: Am delighted to have found this site. Am new into farming infact havent lasted even 3 mnths but have got the resiliance to give it a shot. Have started with onons and seams tricky,My onion starts shot up quickly and then flopped over and the foliage disintegrated. What did I do wrong or what should I do. Thenks for the article
Posted: 12:17 pm on October 10th
chuck50 writes: I have successfully grown onions from sets, with this drought not many producers in our area are planting for sets. I am planting seeds for the first time, both in the garden and in a flat to use as sets. I will see which works best here in central Texas! Thanks for the article

Posted: 4:16 pm on November 5th
AmandaMomRoss writes: My onion starts shot up quickly and then flopped over and the foliage disintegrated away. I read that the planting depth could have been to shallow or its possible I overwatered. Any thoughts? BTW: thanks for the article! This is my 4th year gardening and I still feel like I know next to nothing! Glad to have found a website with decent articles.
Posted: 10:25 am on April 2nd
Ruth writes: Good one, myseasons. I haven't exactly flunked Onions 101, but I've never gotten higher than a C-. Onions are one of those tricky crops for me (along with eggplant and melons). But I keep trying, and I hope you will, too. Even undersized onions have a lot of flavor.
Posted: 9:11 am on January 20th
myseasons writes: I have failed Onions 101 three times now. With this instruction sheet I will try one more time. Wish me luck.
Posted: 11:03 am on January 19th
gardengrower writes: Thanks for the great information. I'm going to link to your article on my gardening blog. Can't wait to try my onions from seed this year, last year even my sets didn't do well.
Posted: 10:56 am on January 19th
HunkieDorie23 writes: I am starting my onions from seed this year and appreciate the pic. I already started with individual seed trays but will try the trays next year. I planted my onions in rows of two last year and it worked great. Planning to do it again this year.
Posted: 9:52 am on March 30th
maybee writes: We live in Mississippi and last early summer planted onion seeds. Went out today to start cleaning the old beds and we have about 20 green onions growing. What a surprise!
Posted: 4:55 pm on March 16th
lettucegrow writes: The best article on growing onions yet. I have done ok. A little less than ok actually. Small bulbs but still tasty. I want big bulbs! I'll be using your tips this year. Thank you.
Posted: 2:47 am on October 18th
Lorithyme writes: This is a great article - so complete. Thanks
Posted: 12:47 pm on March 14th
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