How to grow onions

I think one of the easiest vegetables to grow is onions. It might be because you can start them from plants or bulbs making putting them in the ground really fast and simple. Unlike something like carrot seeds which are so small, if you do decide to start onions from seed, those seeds aren’t so difficult to work with.

This year for the first time I planted onions using plants. The plants came from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine and are of two varieties. When you choose onions to plant you will find several different characteristics in each variety. Some onions, if stored properly will last for over 6 months while others are meant to be eaten during a much smaller window of time.


Onions come in many flavors from mild to strong and of course yellow, white and purple with some variation within these colors. Onions love loose well-drained soil with a lot organic matter. Heavier clay soils are not good for growing onions. The pH of your soil should be around 6.5 and you can have your soil tested at the local extension service.
Make sure your onions are getting lots of sunshine. I have planted them in as little as 6 hours of sun, but they prefer a full 10 hours or more to really do well. Onions don’t need a lot of water, but like any vegetable don’t want to dry out too much either. If the tops of your onions are wilting it’s likely time to give them a drink.
I plant my onions only 2 inches apart which is too close. However, I remove every other one during the season and use them as green onions leaving at least 4 inches of space between the plants which are what they require.


When your onion plants have matured you will likely notice the tops of the onion pushing up through the ground. As the plant is getting ready to be harvested the green tops will brown and eventually fall over. This is time to harvest. Unlike garlic which has a very small window to harvest, onions are more foregiving. I harvest my onions on a hot summer day and then let me dry in the sun for a day or two. Don’t let them get wet. If you don’t have sunny dry weather available dry them in a cool dry spot in the house.
Onions should be stored in the dark and ideally in a mesh bag like you would see in the supermarket. The cooler and drier the place you store them, the longer they will last.
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