Growing Onions from Sets, Seeds, and Scraps at Home

Growing Onions in the Home Garden.
Growing Onions in the Home Garden.

A step by step guide for growing onions in the home garden

The onion is also known as the common onion or bulb onion, is a staple in many kitchens. Planting onion at home garden is very simple. The onions can easily be grown in your home garden such as inside the kitchen, in the balcony, on the terrace, in the backyard. If you are restricted by space, you easily plant the onions in pots or containers. Onions can be grown from sets, seeds, and scraps. Onions are one of the most popular growing vegetables in home gardens and are one of the first crops of spring. The onions can be stored over winter thus making a versatile crop. They are used in a huge range of culinary dishes, both raw and cooked and are easy to grow.

Onion varieties for your home garden

Onion varieties are mainly classified into two categories. They are Long-day (better for cool climates) and short-day (better for warm climates).

Varieties of long day type of onion are;

  • Walla Walla Sweet
  • White Sweet Spanish
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish

Varieties of short-day type of onion are;

  • Georgia Sweet
  • Sweet Red
  • Texas Super Sweet
  • Texas Sweet White
  • Yellow Granex (Vidalia)
  • White Granex
  • White Bermuda

Soil and location importance for onion planting

Onion Seedlings.
Onion Seedlings.

Onion plants can grow from sandy loam to heavy soil in almost any soil. For this, firm soil is very good. If the soil of the garden is heavy, you should use some organic manure, perlite or sand to maintain moisture in the soil. Onions prefer a little acidic soil, for this pH level 5.5-6.5 is an excellent level.

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Water requirement for growing onions:

Water is important to grow onions in containers or pots in gardens because your container onions will have little access to naturally stored rainfall from surrounding soil like onions developed in the ground do. Onions grown in containers will need at least 2 to 3 inches of water a week, perhaps even more in hot weather. Check onions daily, and if the top of the soil is dry to the touch, give them some water.

Temperature requirement for onion plantation:

This onion plant grows very well in the temperature range of 13-24°C, its growing period and when the bulb is formed, the ideal temperature is 16-21°C. When the bulb is mature and the time of onion harvest 30-35°C is favorable. In the case of cold, heat and excessive rainfall, excellent performance can be affected.

Propagation methods of onions:

Onions are generally propagated by seeds, but can also be propagated with bulbs as well. The bulb should be planted in the soil so that the stem is in the soil, and after a while, you will find multiple bulbs in place of the single one. However, in this process, as many bulbs will be competing for the same nutrients, the overall yield and quality do not match that of seed production.

Onion planting methods:

Let us discuss different planting methods of onions;

Seeds, sets, or transplants:

Onions planting can be grown from seeds, sets (young, small dormant bulbs grown the previous year), or transplants. Growing onions from seed can take as much as 5 months. Sets are easier to plant than seeds or transplants. Sets mature in as little as 2 months and are less susceptible to disease. However, cultivar selection is limited for sets. (Avoid onion sets with bulbs larger than a dime and they are likely to bolt.) Transplants are small seedlings that look like scallions. Transplants require about two months reaching maturity.

Onion Plantation in the Home Garden.
Onion Plantation in the Home Garden.
Onion sets:

Create a shallow furrow in a prepared bed and plant onion sets tips up, 4 to 6 inches apart or about two inches apart for green onions. Gently firm the soil around them, leaving the tips protruding above the surface. Allow 12 inches to 16 inches between rows.

Sprouted bulb onions:

Place the whole onion in a prepared bed in a hole that’s about the same diameter and depth as the sprouted onion bulb. Cover it with the soil till only the very top where the leaves originate sticks out above the soil. For green onions, plant the bulbs two inches apart in rows that are about 12 to 16 inches apart. If you want to experiment with growing more bulb onions, allow 4 inches to 6 inches between planted onions.

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Planting onion using sets

Sprouted Onions.
Sprouted Onions.

Here we discuss the process of planting onion using sets;

  • If you have a set of onions sets and important garden tools, then it is a good time to plant.
  • First, divide the small, soft onion sets with a large anion. Large ones are also appropriate for planting; separate the ones that are bad.
  • With the help of travel, eliminate the weeds, pebbles, and stones from the ground, and loosen the soil thoroughly.
  • Make a straight line with the help of a long rope, and create holes in the soil with the help of your trowel 10 centimeter apart. Each row approximately 25 cm apart and the hole is about one inch deep.
  • Planting it in the upwards point, its green shoot is some over from the soil. Now fill the firm with around the sets. After planting, water your onion plants well.
  • In addition to the sets, you can cut down the lower part of the onions and develop it.

Planting onion by seeds

Here we discuss the process of planting onion using seeds;

  • You do not want to use onion sets, or none of your local nurseries can bring the onion plant, so you can use onion seeds. However, they grow a little slow, and it takes about 3 months.
  • Loosen the soil before planting process and clean any weeds and stones.
  • Compose the soil hard with your feet. And draw a straight line with the help of the rope and create a row. Hole ten centimeter apart and make each hole deeper about 1 inch deep.
  • Separate row 25 cm apart. Cover it with mild soil and give it water supply.

How to grow onions in containers:

Generally, growing onions in containers allow you to be growing onions indoors or in a small space in your backyard or in your terrace.

There is no special trick or method to grow onions in the home garden. Onions grown in the garden, you just have to make sure that you provide enough sunshine, water, and fertilizer support to the plants and they will thrive in most conditions. Here, we discuss how to grow onions at home in pots;

Selecting the right pot or container:

Small pots are not useful since you would generally want to grow more onions in a single pot. It is, therefore, ideal to select a larger container that is 10 to 12 inches in height. The mouth or opening of the container must be bigger to be able to adequately accommodate the growing onion plants. Remember that one onion needs a space of about three inches for proper growth. You can even use plastic buckets or tubs for planting as it will be economical. Just make sure that make drainage holes at the bottom of the container. 

Providing the right environment:

Sunlight is an essential element for growth, and you must keep the pot in full sunlight whenever possible and ideally for about 6-8 hours a day. Some types of onion plants could need partial shade. One more important point to remember is that onions require cooler temperature during the seed germination process. When the plant starts to grow, it needs a higher temperature for good formation and growth of the bulbs.

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The best sowing season for onions:

An onion is a cool-season crop and it must be planted at the beginning of the cool season, depending on your climate.

Sowing method of onions in the home garden:

The seeds must be started indoors about 6 weeks before moving them outdoors. Once the shift takes place, plant them about 2cm deep and space them 8 to 10cm from each other.

Planting procedure of onions:

Onion can be developed by sowing seeds or planting transplants in the container soil. Seeds must be planted ½ inch deep and about 3 inches apart in the soil. When grown from the seeds it takes about 4 months to mature. Since onions seeds are short-lived, it is very important to sow fresh seeds each season.

While growing onions from transplants make sure that you bury the stem up to the start of the bottom plant leaves. Keep a distance of three inches between them.

Onion plant care:

Let us discuss how to care for onions;

  • Fertilize every few weeks with nitrogen to obtain big bulbs. Cease fertilizing when the onions push the soil away and the bulbing procedure has started. Do not put the soil back around the onions; the bulb need wants to emerge above the soil.
  • Normally, onion plants do not need consistent watering if mulch is used. About 1 inch of water per week (including rainwater) is sufficient. If you require sweeter onions, water more.
  • Onions will appear healthy even if they are bone dry, so be sure to water during drought conditions.
Pests and diseases:

Rot: In damp soils, you can encounter neck or stem rot or bulb rot. Avoid soil drainage and air circulation.

Splitting: Bulbs will split or double if the soil is allowed to remain dry through the bulbs are forming.

Thrips: To control thrips tiny insects about as far as a sewing needle and take a dark piece of paper into the garden and knock the onion tops against it; if thrips are present, you will mark their tan-colored bodies on the paper. A couple of treatments with insecticidal soap kill them. Follow the given package directions. Spray the plants twice, three days apart, and the thrips must disappear.

Onion Maggots: Cover your emerging onion crop with fine mesh netting. Close it by mounding soil around the edges. The onion maggot likes to lay its eggs at the base of plants, so the netting must prevent that. You should keep mulch away because the insects like decaying organic matter, and make sure you completely harvest onions as the season progresses. Onion maggots are generally a problem in very rainy periods, so these precautions may be unnecessary if you have a dry season.

How and when to harvest onions:

Onion must be pulled out by hand or with the help of Khurapas and immediately shifted to shade for curing. Harvested bulbs must never be left in the main field as scorching may affect the crop.  There is a steady increase in volatile sulfur until the plants get to the maturity stage. The peak is making just before the tops begin to fall. In Kharif, after harvesting crop must be left in the field for few days for drying of leaves.

In addition to good planting, you require to know when to harvest onions for the best flavor. Harvest tops for green onions as soon as they reach six inches in height.

Onion crop harvesting is ready in five months for dry onion. However, for marketing green onion, the crop becomes ready in 3 months after transplanting. The onion crop which is raised from dry sets is not fit for the production of dry bulbs as it starts bolting and then is fit for marketing as given onion two and a half months. Actually, onion harvest time must be early in the morning when temperatures are not too hot.

When the onion bulbs are as large as they will develop, the tops become weak and fall over. When one half or more of the tops have fallen over, onions are prepared for harvest. Pull or dig the onions with the tops attached, hang in bunches or spread them out in a warm, airy location out of the direct sun, for two to four weeks, until the tops and necks are dry. And you can use an electric fan to speed drying. Nothing improves the keeping quality of onions more than thorough drying or curing process.

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Storing of freshly harvested onions:

  • Allow onions to dry for several weeks before storing them in a root cellar or any other storage area. Spread onions out on an open screen off the ground to dry.
  • Store at temperature 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C) in braids or with the stems removed in a mesh bag or nylon stocking.
  • Mature, dry-skinned onion bulbs like it cool and dry.
  • Don’t store onions with apples or pears, as the ethylene gas formed by the fruits will interrupt the onions’ dormancy. Onions may spoil the flavor of these fruits (as well as potatoes).
  • A pungent onion will store longer than a sweet onion variety. Eat the sweet onion varieties first and save the more pungent onions for later.

Some facts about growing onions:

  • Growing onions are a high yield crop. 20 to 50 onions can grow in 1 to 1½ square feet of space. But onions are simply grown in odd spaces alongside both slower and faster-growing vegetables. Green onions can be completed in 20 to 30 days after planting. Dry bulb onions can take 100 to 175 days to attain maturity.
  • Spring onions will grow in any excellent fertile soil provided it’s well-drained. You can sow spring onions into containers or pots on the windowsill.
  • Onions can be harvested when the foliage starts to turn a yellow color and topple over. For spring-planted onion sets, this will be in late summer to early autumn. Although it’s sometimes recommended to bend over the foliage or gently lift the bulbs to break the roots, this is no longer recommended.
  • Red onions grown for bulbs generally require 3 to 4 months to reach maturity while green onions are ready to pick in as little as three weeks. Reduce watering when the foliage begins to yellow color.
  • Generally, the flowering season for onion is spring that is late March to early May.
  • Bulbing of onions is controlled by the selection, temperatures, and length of the day. The onion will bulb when the necessary conditions are met. Removing soil around the base of the onion plant will not increase bulbing, although it appears to because the bulbs are visible.
  • Onions are biennial plants, which means that they sprout from a seed and produce a bulb their first year. That’s when bulbs are generally harvested. Onions can be grown from any of life stages that are seed, seedling or dormant bulb.
  • Onion plants need a steady supply of nitrogen to form large bulbs. Side dress growing onion plants in early and midsummer with 1/2 cup nitrogen-based fertilizer. Use ammonium sulfate if the soil is alkaline because this fertilizer lowers the pH slightly. Ammonium nitrate works well for home gardens with acidic soil.

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