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How to Grow Onions Without Crying

By Edited Aug 1, 2015 1 2

You'll cry at how easy it is to grow these!

There is a huge variety that are grown for different culinary purposes. They come in white, yellow and red bulbs.

There are small ones for pickling or very large for eating. Some people call the small, green onions you use for garnishing 'scallions'.  

Once you find the perfect onion, you can pull off some of the bulbs and save them for next season and have the same type from year to year.

After growing your own, you will never want to eat the bland, super market stuff again.

Planting Tips

Use these tips for easier growing

Red Onions
In order to grow, you can start with seed, transplants or sets. Starting from seed is the best yet hardest way to grow. Transplants are the bulbs that have been started this year. Sets were started last year and so are a year old.  

Sets are the easiest for beginners to grow. They harvest earlier than seeds or transplants and have the most resistant against diseases.  

Onion sets may bolt easier and more often than seeds or transplants.  Bolting means that the flower stalk grows earlier so the plant is maturing too early for lots of uses. But this is normally not a huge problem.

Using seeds will give you the greatest amount of varieties to choose from.  
In most mail order catalogs you'll see that onions are identified primarily by color: white, yellow and red.  

  • White : Used mostly for their green stalks. Use these for salads and garnishes.
  • Yellow : Here is your old standby for cooking.  
  • Red : These are great for roasting, grilling and cooking on a charcoal cooker.

You'll need about 4 months to maturity if growing from seeds. If you live up North, give them a good start by starting indoors about 6 weeks before spring transplanting.

When ordering onion sets, try to get ones that are about 1/2 inch in diameter. There will be less chance of us bolting. They should be planted as soon as the weather permits.

Growing Guidelines

White Onion
Keep weeded for sure. Use a hoe to weed with. Pulling the weeds up will most likely result in you hurting the tender roots.

Use lots of mulch during the growing season. Onions love mulch so much. It helps keep weeds to a minimum, keeps the ground moist for longer periods and helps improve the soil giving them a better chance to produce some great produce for you.

Use a good all around vegetable fertilizer as these are really heavy feeders and need lots of nutrition.



Keep soil about as moist as a squeezed out kitchen sponge. If the soil gets too dry, the bulbs will spilt and this is not good for the bulbs or you.  

Soaker hoses work well. They'll need about 1 inch of water per week.  

You can also flood the trenches between rows if you plant that way.

Self watering containers work extremely well. It lets them soak up all the water we need and yet don't drown.

These are very flavor-full and grow really easy with just a little care.


Is it too hot or cold?

They like cool weather the most. Plant as soon as you can after the last frost danger is gone.

Start indoors if you need to get an early start. You'll notice that the tops grow best in cool weather and bulbs grow when it warms up.  

They need about 6 - 8 hours of daylight to grow optiminally.

Where Are They?

Growing Outdoors

Onions love being outdoors.

Sow seeds thickly about one half an inch deep. Sow a few radish seeds to help mark where they are planted. Radish grow extremely fast. Plus radishes will help trick root maggots from getting to them.

Growing onions from seeds is harder than using transplants but you can pick different varieties and try them.

When using transplants, dig a hole about two inches deep. Keep us about four to six inches from each other. You'll need about one pound of transplants per 50 row feet.  

You can grow about 2 or 3 per 5 gallon container if using pots.

Onion Problems

Sliced Onion
They are pretty safe from most diseases and insect pests. So onions are really great for the novice gardener.

Onions maggots do affect them. This is a 1/3 inch long, legless white larvae that will travel from one bulb to the next. It will then burrow up to the onion stem and feast away. Spread a little sand around the top of the soil when you plant and it will help keep the fly from laying eggs.  

When it gets really hot, onion thrips may attack. You'll see that the stalks look deformed and have leaves with silvery blotches on them. These thrips come from weeds so keep weeds down to a minimum.  

If it is really humid, then you may notice that around the neck the leaves have a swelling or the leaves will harden. This is caused by fungi in the soil where we are planted. Rotating crops is the best defense for this.

Caring for your onions!

Harvesting Onions

Pick the best at the right time!

Small Green Onioons
Wait till the tops start turning yellow for the best crop. You can then bend the stalk over to stop the sap going to the tops. This puts all the growth into the bulbs.

Give them a day or two and then they are ready to harvest when the tops have fallen over. Pull the bulbs up and let dry in the sun all day.  

Once the skins are really dry, wash off the dirt and if not braiding them together, cut off the tops. Keep in a cool dry place.

When braiding keep in a cool place with a little air flow. Bulbs will last for about 4 months to roughly 1 year.

How to Grow Onions Conclusion

Let's round it up and eat!

As you can see, how to grow onions is pretty simple.

These are extremely easy to grow and taking the advice above shows that there isn't a lot to getting a bumper crop.

Weed well, keep soil moist and get ready for some great tasting onions in about 2 months.



Oct 12, 2013 8:10pm
Great helpful article on growing onions. You cannot beat growing your own fresh vegetables.
Oct 13, 2013 5:09am
Thanks for the comment.

You are right. Fresh grown vegetables taste so much better than the supermarket crap that they advertise as 'fresh'.
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