Planting Onions from
Sets or Seed

I love planting onions; they are one of the first vegetables I set out in the early spring.

Onions are of the same genus as the lily with hollow leaves and purple or white flower heads and can be planted by seeds or sets.

The onions we cultivate today are from three main types. The most common is the American onions.

The American onions have large yellow bulbs and store well.

The European varieties include the Spanish, Bermuda and Italian. The European onions are milder and don’t store as well and the American varieties.

The Egyptian onions are perennial and are called top onions, or walking onions because they grow bulb lets instead of flowers.

Growing onions may be planted in many parts of the country at most times of the year.

Young onions are very hardy to cold temperatures. Planting onions from seed do better if grown in cool weather while the foliage is developing and when the weather warms it helps bulb development.

Varieties for Planting Onions

Onions can be planted using seeds, sets or transplants.

    Sets are small bulbs these are the easiest to plant but usually only come in three types, yellow, white and red onions. Sets come in packages of about 100 bulbs and reach maturity in 70 to 80 days.

    Transplants offer a wider variety of onions. Transplants can be started from seed in the winter for spring planting or ordered from seed companies. Your local nursery may carry transplants in the spring. Transplant’s come is bunches and look like small salad onions. Transplant bunches contain 60 to 75 plants and mature in 80 to 90 days.

    Seeds offer the widest variety of onion choices. Seeds can be sown directly in the ground in the spring. Seeds can also be sown indoors in the winter starting in November or December for spring transplanting. Planting your own onion seeds in the winter offers you the most choice in onion variety. Small bunching onions mature in 60 days and large storage onions mature in 100-110 days.

Planting Onions

he best soil for growing onions is light sandy loam with good organic matter. To prepare soil, till or work in organic matter like composted manure in the early spring when soil is dry enough to work.

Onions can be planted in a single row or wide rows. I have planted onions in single rows and wide rows.

Weeding can be harder in wide rows, but it allows for a larger harvest in smaller spaces.

Make your single rows 12 inches wide and 8 to 18 inches apart or

wide rows 30 inches wide and 8 to 18 inches apart. Smooth the top of your rows.

For planting onions sets lay them on top of the row 4-6 inches apart.

After you lay all your sets down come back and push each onion set 2 inches deep with root end down into the soil.

For planting onion transplants, dig a hole with a dowel or small trowel and place onion transplant into the hole. Cover with soil. Plant the onion transplants 4-6 inches apart for mature onions and 2-3 inches apart for salad onions.

If you plant them close together you can harvest some when the bulbs just begin to form for salads and leave some to develop for storing onions.

To plant onion seeds make a small furrow with dowel or small stick. Lightly sprinkle onion seeds down the middle of the furrow. Lightly cover seeds with soil and pat down.

Water soil lightly and keep onions moist. Seeds will germinate in about 7 to 10 days depending on soil temperature.

Optimum soil temperature is 70 degrees F.

When the onion plants get to about 10 inches tall, place mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.

It’s important to keep the soil moist through out the growing season. If the soil dries out the bulbs can split and cause two bulbs to form.

Harvesting and Storing Onions

Onion plants may be harvested through out the growing season at different stages. For young salad onions pull onions when bulbs begin to form.

For large storage onions let the onion grow through the summer. As the bulbs grow larger their tops will be exposed above the soil. This is normal.

As the onions begin to mature the stalks will begin to yellow and fall over. When this happens, stop watering your onions.

When the stalks dry out the onions are ready to harvest. Pull the onions from the ground and lay them on top of the row. In the summer cover the onions with a cloth to protect the onions from the sun.

Let the onions dry out. The skins will become papery. This usually takes a week or two.

When the onions are dry and the stalks are brown and shriveled, cut the stalks 1 inch above the onion for storage.

Store the onions in a cool place with good ventilation. Eat any damaged onions first.

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