A fast guide to planting onions fast

A fast guide to planting onions fast

It’s onion planting season in much of the southern United States, so I thought I would offer a guide to how to quickly obtain and plant onion plants for gardeners in the South (and other places when the season is right). So here we go with a quick list:

Get the onion plants. Onion plants can be purchased from us or from other places. Onion plants are grown from seed and harvested when immature to be bunched and shipped to nurseries, feed stores, and customers across the U.S. We’ve got them and we are shipping them to people within 24 hours of ordering. About 90% of the onion plants in the United States come from a single farm in south Texas!

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Till the ground. Onions need loose, well-tilled soil to produce the largest bulbs. They generally aren’t picky when it comes to soil type as long as the soil is well drained. Remove any rocks or roots that may deform the onions, and make a row of soil above the typical soil line, especially in areas with poorly drained soil (such as clay). Raised bed also work nicely.

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If there is some question on the soils fertility, till organic matter into the soil. Composted animal manure and/or compost is a good choice. Even though it’s usually associated with green leafy growth, onions need lots of nitrogen to make big bulbs. Composted poultry manure in particular is usually  high enough in nitrogen to promote healthy onion bulb growth.

If you’re planning to grow onions using conventional fertilizer, try placing some high phosphate fertilizer 2-3 inches below the soil where the onions will be planted. For best results, use about half a cup of high phosphate fertilizer (such as 10-20-10) per 10 feet of row.

Plant the onions! So you’ve got the onions. Unwrap the lovely rubber band from around the plants. Most onion plant bundles have about 60 onions in them. I generally like have a slightly elevated row, with a trench already dug down the middle of it.

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Some of the onion plants will be smaller than others – these will grow into onions, but they will probably be smaller than some of the others. If that bothers you, then they grow into excellent green onions.

For green onions, plant the onion plants 2-3 inches below the top of the soil. For bulb onions, plant then small bulb of the onion plant just below the soil line, being sure to cover it completely with soil (and with the roots down, obviously).img_8651

For larger onions, plant the transplants 4 inches apart. If you want to enjoy green onions, plant the onions 2 inches apart and pull every other plant over the next month, using the pulled plants as green onions. With either spacing, you can plant a bundle of 60 onions in prepared ground in just a few minutes.

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Wait and fertilize! Onions needs nitrogen so they should be “side-dressed” with a cup of high nitrogen fertilizer per 20 feet of row every month while they’re growing. High nitrogen organic fertilizer is also an option, though it will most like take more organic fertilizer to have the same effect on the onions. Composted poultry or dairy manure is usually relatively high in nitrogen.

Onions are easy to grow in containers too….

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Mulch! Mulch those onions – because nothing is more annoying or tedious than weeding around onions. Pine needles, leaves, and compost are all good options.

Harvest! Onions should be ready for harvest as soon as the tops die back. If the onion plant flowers (“bolts”) then it is still good – just use it first, since it won’t store well.

Store the onions. Onions do best when left to dry out in dry place with plenty of ventilation. More pungent onions keep the best; sweeter onions don’t keep as long. Onions will keep in a dry place in a mesh bag for an extended period of time. It’s also been reported that they will keep in a refrigerator for up to a year if the tops are clipped and the onions are wrapped in foil.

I planted 120 onions the other day with 2 four year olds and an 8 year old helping me and we were done in less than 10 minutes – including the tilling and fertilizer prep. I’ll spend a little extra time adding a mulch of composted forest leaves, and I’ll add some fertilizer, but the hard work is done. And it was done fast! 🙂

Onions and many other easy edible plants are included in The Lazy Gardener’s Guide to Easy Edibles, available on Amazon and, this spring, in bookstores! 🙂

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