Onion is a versatile vegetable belonging to the family of Allium genus to which garlic, chives, shallots and leeks are belonged.
Onions are available in different taste, shapes and colors.
There are two different cultivators of onion. They are:
- Long day bulbs
- Short day bulbs
Both varieties requires sunlight to thrive but comparatively long day bulbs needs more exposure to sunlight.
These bulbs are more pungent and can be stored better when compared to short day bulbs.
Some Onion Varieties To Consider:
- Candy Yellow – Short Term
- Copra Yellow – Long Term
- Ebenezer Yellow – Long Term
- Walla Walla White – Short Term
- Walla Walla Yellow – Short Term
- Sweet Sandwich Yellow – Long Term
- Red Burger Master – Long Term
- South Port Red Globe – Long Term
- Sweet Spanish White – Short Term
Onions are perfect for a beginner gardener since they are easy to grow and tends to yield a plentiful crop. The leaves of this vegetable corresponds precisely with rings which the onion contains. i.e., if there are 10 leaves, onion consists of 10 rings and if the leaves are large, the rings will also be large.
Always aim for 13 leaves/rings per onion as this is the indication of a perfectly developed crop.
How To Plant Onions?
Onion requires full sun in order to grow properly.
When onion planting is done in the soil which is well drained, well cultivated, slightly acidic(pH ranging between 6.2-6.8) and rich in organic matter, it gives high yield.
Avoid growing onions in heavy soils like clay and silt unless they are mixed with organic matter to improve their aeration and drainage.
Onions stands up pretty well against the frost but if the temperatures drop below -6°c, they will be damaged.
Onions can be grown from seeds, transplants or by sets.
Growing From Seeds:
Growing from the seed is the cheapest way to grow onions but also needs lots of work.
Sow seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 1 inch apart.
If the seed is being started indoors, they must be sown 4 to 8 weeks before being placed outside. Also, it is important to slowly harden the seedlings by setting them outside a week before planting.
You can directly sow the seeds into the garden in spring season when the soil is workable.
Growing From Onion Sets:
Onion sets are small, dormant bulbs which can be planted straight into the garden. They come in red, white or yellow color and won’t have cultivator specified. The flavor, use and shelf life of this onions will differ due to this lack of distinction.
Plant the bulb 1-2 inches deep and 2-3 inches apart from each other.
Once you observe, that the leaves are coming out then thin them out to get a growing space of 3-4 inches between the seedlings.
You can use thinned seedlings as green onions.
Growing From Transplants:
Transplants are onion seedlings that can be purchased from garden centers. Unlike sets the cultivator of each plant is clearly labeled.
When planting, roots and 1 inch of the lower white portion of the plant should be completely buried in soil.
The optimum time to plant hardened seedlings, transplants, and sets outdoors would be around 7-10 days before mid of the spring.
If you are planning for winter storage, they need to be planted 7-10 days after mid of the spring.
Spacing Your Onions:
Maintain 12-15 inches of space between each row. Within each row, the sets or transplants of green onions must be planted about 1 inch apart.
If large mature bulbs are desired, spacing should be about 2-3 inches apart.
If you maintain 1 inch spacing between the plants, thinning should be done to get a space of 3-4 inches between the plants.
What Is Bolting?
Sometimes an onion will produce flower which is called bolting and is due to weak growing conditions such as hot, dry or cold weather conditions.
The moment when bolting starts, the quality of crop quickly drops. Bolted plants must be pulled and used as soon as possible rather than being stored.
Larger onion will bolt easily and used immediately as green onions.
How much Fertilizer?
Onions requires bit more fertilizer when compared to other plants.
Before planting purchase an all purpose garden fertilizer that has nutrients of ratio 10:10:10 and mix into the soil at a rate of 1 kg per 200 square feet.
About one month after the crops have been planted, sprinkle the same fertilizer over the plants at the rate of 1 kg per 200 square feet in the row.
Fertilizer must be sprinkled in thin bands i.e., roughly 2-3 inches from the base of each plant.
During dry weather conditions, plants must be watered about 1-2 times a week.
Place 1-2 inches of organic mulch like straw around the base of the plant to control the weeds and conserve the moisture.
If you observe the sign of weeds, remove them by shallow hoeing or simple hand pulling. Regularly cultivate the soil that is surrounding shallow roots of the plants.
If the temperature is too high, cover the plants with floating row covers. If the temperatures goes down, remove them.
What Is Average Yield?
If the plants are properly cared, each 10-foot row can give the yield of 30 kilograms.
How To Harvest and Store Your Onions:
When bulbs starts growing, plant growth slows down and will stop. Similarly, when bulbs are ripen the leaves starts changing its color to yellow and finally fell of. When 70% of leaves are fallen, carefully dig up each bulb along with remaining leaves .
Once the bulbs have been gathered dehydrate or cure them in a well, dry and in well ventilated area.
After 2-4 weeks or when the outsides of the bulb are frail and papery, cut off the leaves by 1 inch above the bulb.
Regularly examine the each onion and throw away the decayed or damaged ones.
Pay close attention to the neck size of onion. If the neck size is thick, they should be used immediately for consumption.
The thin necked onions can be stored for several months by placing them in mesh bag, wire basket or open crate.
The Onions should be placed in cool( 0-4 degree centigrade) and dry area.
Freezing temperatures damages the bulbs where as warmer temperatures makes the bulb to sprout. So, check them regularly to discard the onions that shows the sign of deterioration.