Growing onions is easy even if you are new to gardening! This is because you can start them using little immature onion sets. These are easily available in early spring in most garden centres as well as online from seed companies.
I would definitely recommend that you give these a go even if you are a beginner as homegrown onions are delicious!
Growing Onions from Sets
Sets are miniature onions and there are different varieties, all ideal for the beginner to gardening. Onion sets are sold in packs of about 25-100, depending on the size of the packs. If the pack size is too big, you can always share with a friend or neighbour!
Sow them in a bed or planter that is prepared with fresh multipurpose compost and a smaller proportion of top soil. I top my raised beds with fresh compost every spring and this is perfect for the onion sets that I sow. Mid March is a great time to sow these little sets in the UK.
Sow by either making holes in the moist compost and dropping the sets in before covering. I keep a space of about 10 cm in between them. You can also push them in if the compost is loose and moist. Sow them deep enough for the top tail to be seen on the surface of the compost.
These little tails can be enticing for the birds, thinking they may be tasty little worms! So you can cover the bed with a net to allow your little onion sets to grow in peace. I also have the pleasure of squirrels visiting, so a net is a must for my garden!
I keep the onion rows to about 15 cm apart in my raised beds. In between, I sow seeds of vegetables like radishes which will grow quickly and be ready to harvest in less than 2 months. Carrots and beetroot are also great to grow next to the onions. Nasturtiums, which are beautiful edible flowers are ideal to plant in the corners of the raised beds!
Caring for Growing Onions
It goes without saying that onions love the compost to be kept moist, so do not let them dry out. It is better to water deeply (a lot) every few days than to water little amounts everyday. This is important as the roots of the onions are developing and they will appreciate water at that level.
Onions also love a regular feed once their bulbs start forming. I use a diluted solution of seaweed extract for feeding my onions, every week or every other week.
By the middle of summer, the onions will be looking strong and proud! Once the leaves start flopping, they can be harvested. Of course, I can not resist harvesting them even earlier … to eat them fresh!
However, if you are going to store them then wait for the leaves to flop before pulling them out. They are very easy to harvest and don’t take much effort at all!
Drying and Storing Onions
Once you lift the onions, they will need a drying period. Here in the UK, it is a great advantage if you can plan for harvesting in a week when lots of sunshine is forecasted! It makes all the difference as the onions will lose their extra moisture more effectively. This will in turn mean they can dry well for longer storage without any mould forming or rotting.
Of course, you can be a little fancy and braid the drying onions and hang bunches in a cool dry place like a garage or shed. However, simply storing them in a well ventilated, cool dark place is sufficient!
Ensure that their leafy tops have become completely dry and turned brown. Then you can trim their dry leaves and the roots off, as you can see in the picture below.
So from miniature sets to full grown delicious onions a few months later … have I tempted you to grow your own?
If you’d love to know more about the different types of onions and how to use them, then you will enjoy Jessica Gavin’s post.