Archived Monthly Posts

A Guide to Planting Onions

First for a quick planting update.  The weather here in Central Indiana has been fabulous for the last 5 days with sunny skies and warmer than normal temperatures.  Potatoes were planted in both of the raised beds on March 27th.  Onions were received on March 29th and planted on March 31st (see below) and peas were also direct seeded out into the garden.  Four seed potatoes were planted in the Grow Bag on April 1st.  I think I will wait a few more days to plant out the first lettuce seedlings.  This will give the seedlings a little more time to grow.

Now onto the planting of onions.  Now is the time, at least for gardeners in Zone 5, to get those onions into the ground.  I usually like to plant onions no later than the first week of April.  For this post, I am mainly dealing with the full sized bulbing onions and not any one of the specialty onions, like the egyptian/topsetting onions.  Up to about 5 years ago, I struggled mightily in getting the onions to bulb up to a decent size.  Also, my requirements for onions is that they need to be a fast maturing onion, as I like to sneak in a late planting of green beans after the onions have finished up.  I have recently settled on a great Intermediate-Day onion called “Candy.”  It is a fantastic yellow onion which has grown very well for me over the last 4 or 5 years.  It is also a good keeper, and will store well for about 4 months.  I am also trying Red Candy, a red onion, again this year.  It is also a Intermediate Day variety that matures about the same time as Candy.  While one can grow these onions from seeds, they must be started indoors extra early.  I find it easier to order my plants which are then delivered to my door at the time of my choosing.  You might also be able to find onions plants sold at your local nursery.  These plants our usually sold in bunches of about 50-75 plants.  If you cannot find onions plants locally, might I recommend that you order them from Dixondale Farms.  I have been ordering onion plants from Dixondale for at least 5 years, and they have never disappointed me.  I usually order 3 bunches, which sounds like alot, but I usually only plant the larger better looking plants for the large sized bulbing onions, and then plant the smaller ones for green onions, which I plant in another bed, just to the south of the garden peas.  The green onions can be spaced about 2 to 3 inches apart, but the full sized onions I space 4 inches apart in rows 5 inches apart.  The larger row spacing is helpful in cultivating and fertilizing around the plants.  Mel Batholomew recommends a spacing of 3 inches, but I have found this to be a little too close.  The onions should be planted about 1 inch deep.  After a few weeks in the ground, I like to side dress the onions with the organic Root Crops Alive fertilizer from Gardens Alive.  I do not mulch the onions as I feel that it promotes fungus, but I do try to keep them adequately, but not overly watered.  I have posted a step-by-step picture planting tutorial below.  For a guide on harvesting onions, please see a previous blog entry: Onions and Potatoes Harvested, Other Updates

Step One – Open delivery box  and store the onions in a cool and dry location.  Do not water the plants.  The onion plants will keep reasonably well for approximately 3 weeks, but it it best to plant them as soon as possible.
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Step Two- Carefully separate the plants and sort by size.  One pile for large plants, one for smaller plants which will be used for green onions.  Discard any mushy or damaged plants or any very small plants.
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Step Three – Trim the roots to approximately 1/4 inch long and trim off any soft or damaged leaves.  The picture below is what the plants should look like after they have been trimmed. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt the plant by doing this.  New leaf growth should develop from the inside-out in about 7 to 10 days after planting.
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Step Four- Plant the onions about 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart.  For a guide, use a small piece of scrap wood with 4 inch graduations marked on the side.  Also, a small wooden dowel rod (for use as a dibble) is helpful in making a small hole in the soil in which to plant the onions.  Make sure to pack the soil back around the onion after planting.  Water in well and sit back and enjoy the harvest.
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