Onion Row

Onions are a high yield crop. Twenty to 50 onions can grow in 1 to 1½ square feet of space. But onions are easily grown in odd spaces alongside both slower and faster growing vegetables.

Green onions can be ready in 20 to 30 days after planting. Dry bulb onions can take 100 to 175 days to reach maturity.

Here are a few tips for growing onions:

• Seeds, sets, or transplants. Onions 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 five months. You will find seed for many varieties or cultivars of onions. Sets are easer to plant than seeds or transplants. Sets mature in as little as two months and are less susceptible to disease. But, cultivar selection is limited for sets. (Avoid onion sets with bulbs larger than a dime–they are likely to bolt.) Transplants are small seedlings that look like scallions. Transplants require about two months to reach maturity.

• Bulb or bunching onions. Select bulb or bunching onions depending upon your intended use. Bulb onions can range from the small pearl onions to very large Spanish types. Bulbs are white, yellow, or red at harvest. Bunching onions–also calle scallions or green onions–are grown for their tender, green top stalks. They are harvested before bulbs fully form.

• Long or short day. Onions grow tops in cool weather and form bulbs in warm weather. Temperature and day length control the timing of bulbing. Long-day onions require long hours of daylight–14 to 16 hours per day–to reach maturity. Long-day onions grow best in northern latitudes. Short-day onions grow best in mild-winter southern latitudes. They grow through the fall and winter and form bulbs when daylight increases to 12 hours per day in early summer. (Onions will be slow to grow if temperatures linger in the 30°s and 40°sF.)

• Garden site. Onions grow best in loose, well-drained sandy loam. Turn lots of well-aged compost and manure into the onion bed in advance of planting; turn the soil to at least 8 inches deep. Onions prefer a soi pH of 6.0 to 7.5.

• Starting seeds. Sow onion seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before the last average frost date. Sow seeds in pots, flats, or trays. Thin seedlings to one inch apart when they are four inches tall. Sow seed outdoors two weeks before the last average frost date in spring or four weeks before the first expected frost in autumn. Avoid sowing onion seed directly in the garden until the soil temperature has reached 50°F. Outdoors sow onion ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Later, thin to four inches apart. Growing onions from seed will give you the widest choice of varieties.

• Setting out starts. Seedlings (starts) can be transplanted to the garden in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked–usually about 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost when the soil temperature is at least 40°F; the air temperature should be at least 45°F. Set bulb onion seedlings one to two inches deep–depending on the size of the bulb–and four to six inches apart. Set starts for scallions one inch apart. To encourage development of bulbs, soak them in compost tea for about 15 minutes before planting. About four weeks after planting, gently push back the soil atop bulbs; this will help them to grow larger. Onions grown from transplants mature more quickly than onions grown from seed.

• Planting sets. Choose sets that have bulbs about ½ inch in diameter. (Larger sets may go to seed before producing decent-size bulbs. Sets with smaller bulbs may not grow well.) Plant bulbs with the pointy end up; the rounded end is the rooting end. Set bulbs ½ to one inch deep and four to six inches apart–depending on the size of the bulb at maturity. Onions sets are often labeled “red,” “white,” or “yellow”–you may not know the exact variety you are growing.

• Food and water. Onions are heavy feeders. Feed onions with a rich fertilizer, such as fis emulsion, early in the season to develop large plants and bulbs. (Or you canuse an organic fertilizer, 5-10-10.) Give a second feeding about a month after the first feeding or side-dress rows with a band of aged compost. Keep onions evenly watered early in the season. They require constant moisture during the bulb enlargement stage; dry conditions early on will cause bulbs to split. Give each plant about 1 inch of water each week (about 1.6 gallons). Transplants require more water than sets. At midsummer–or about a month before harvest after bulbs have formed and when the necks of the onions begin to soften, cut back on food and water and allow bulbs to mature in drier, less fertile soil.

• Weeding. Keep onion beds well-weeded. Onions are shallow rooted. Cultivate often and shallowly. Pull weeds by hand close to bulbs to avoid up-turning plants. Use a sharp hoe only to cut off weeds at soil level. Because onions leaves are thin and strappy they do not block the sun from the soil which, in turn, allows weed germination. Onion beds require more weeding than other vegetable beds.

• Mulch. After the soil has warmed, place a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch around onions to discourage weeds and conserve soil moisture. Use aged compost or chopped leaves around onions. Keep the mulch back from bulb tops once they start to develop. (To grow large onions, keep both mulch and soil pulled back from the top two-thirds of developing bulbs.)

• Harvest. New growth from the center will stop when bulbs start forming. When bulbs are ripe, leaves will begin to yellow and fall over. After about three quarters of tops have fallen over, use the back of a rake to horizontally bend over the remaining tops. The bent leaves will cause the plant to divert the rest of its energy to the bulbs and away from leafy growth. After the tops turn brown in a day or two, lift the bulbs with a garden fork on a sunny day, and leave them to dry in the sun. When bulb outer skins are dry and the tops withered in about a week, wipe off any soil, and cut away the tops. If the weather is damp, allow the onions to dry in an airy place. You can loop the leaves through the mesh of a fence or framed chicken wire or braid then into a garland to dry.

• Storing. Keep onions in a cool, dry place to prevent rotting. Hang them in mesh bags or braids. Cured onion bulbs will store from one month to a year depending on the variety.

How Long Does It Take for Onions to Fully Grow?

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Onions planted from seed are used as green onions within 40 to 50 days of planting. They are fully grown in 90 to 130 days, depending on the variety. Onions planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring are ready for the table by July. Successive plantings throughout the spring produce fresh onions all summer long. An abundant harvest of fully grown onions can be stored to last the winter.


Onion types are referred to as “short day” or “long day” onions, depending on the length of daylight needed for the plant to start making bulbs. Short day onions are well-suited to southern climatic conditions where they have 10 to 12 hours of sunlight during the summer. Long day onion varieties need 14 to 16 hours of sunlight to produce bulbs, and they are more suited to northern gardens. Gardeners in mild climates plant both types of onion seed in the fall as well as spring.

Onion Growth Cycle

The “Texas Early Grano” onion is a variety that is fully grown 50 to 75 days after it is planted. Onions produce best in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing plants to develop foliage and roots before bulbing starts. The higher temperatures of late spring and summer then help bulbs to develop. Onions need a constant supply of moisture for the best growing results. The size of the onion bulb is determined by the number of green leaves it has. Each leaf indicates one ring of the bulb. They are fully grown when the leaves have fallen over.

Heirloom Varieties

Heirloom variety onions have the same growth cycle as hybrid varieties. They are types that were introduced in previous centuries and are not grown in modern large-scale agriculture. “Siskiyou,” “Red Weathersfield” and “Rossa de Milano” are long to intermediate day heirloom onions that are fully grown in 110 days. Heirloom onion seeds are organically grown and non-genetically modified (GMO). Home gardeners are able to use saved heirloom onion seed from each year’s planting by allowing some onion plants to remain in the ground until they produce flowers and seeds. Hybrid onion variety seeds do not grow true to type the following year.


Fully grown onions are harvested when the tops fall over and dry out. Dig around the bulb carefully to loosen dirt without damaging the bulb. The roots are clipped and tops cut to within 1 inch of the onion top. They may be left on the ground to dry for a day or two before using or preparing for storage. Onions must be cured before storing for the winter. Place them in a well-ventilated warm area until the necks thoroughly dry out. They are now ready to store for the winter.

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Onions seeds for sale

Buy Onion seeds online?

Buy your onion seeds online. Onions are delicious vegetables and are an essential ingredient in many recipes. They can be stewed and eaten with potatoes, cooked, boiled or stir fried. You name it. Grow your own onions using the best quality onion seeds. Onion seeds at Seeds4Garden are top quality and an excellent addition to your vegetable garden. They will grow into the most delicious onions you’ve ever tasted. Take a look in our webshop and buy your onion seeds today!

When should I sow Onion Seeds?

You can sow onions in a cold greenhouse at the end of January. Loosen the soil well before sowing the seeds. If you don’t want to cultivate onions in a greenhouse or don’t have one, then sow the seeds outside, but be sure to cover them with glass. This will protect seedlings from rain and cold. Because the seedbed is covered it’s important to water your onion seeds regularly yourself. When the seedlings come up, remove the glass. Growing onions is very easy. Follow the onion package directions carefully for best results.

Buy Onion seeds

Buying onion seeds is an easy task for any gardener. Simply place your order by clicking on the “add to cart” button and pay by selecting the “checkout” option. You will receive your onion seeds within a couple of days and be able to start planting them in your vegetable garden right away.
Enjoy and have fun gardening!

Onion sets are small bulbs grown from seed for planting next season.

Grow your own onion sets from seed. It is not difficult, does not require much time, and can put you ahead in both time and money.

Onion sets are small, dry onion bulbs grown the previous season but not allowed to mature. Planted the second season they produce an early crop of bulb onions in long-season regions—well ahead of the main crop, and in short-season regions, they produce larger onions than naturally possible.

There are several advantages to growing your own onion sets rather than buying sets from a nursery or big box garden center. Growing your own onions sets:

  • Gives you a wide range of varieties suited to your region—long-day, short-day, or intermediate day—otherwise not available. Onion sets sold in garden centers are commonly labelled by color not by variety or day length; growing form garden center sets, you often don’t know what you are growing.
  • Saves you money. Onion sets are more expensive that onion seed. A bag of 40 onions sets is more expensive than a packet of 150 onion seeds.
  • Allows you to choose the size of the sets you plant; you can cull out sets that will be poor growers ensuring the crop you grow next year will be successful.

More advantages of growing onions from sets:

  • Onion sets produce the earliest onions—well ahead of seed-started onions.
  • Growing from onion sets saves time—40 to 60 days depending on variety; this is an important consideration if you live in a short-growing season region.
  • Growing from both sets and seed in long-season regions allows for two harvests; one early in summer and the second in late summer and fall.

Growing Onions from Seed and Sets

Onions can be grown from seeds, sets, and plants (transplants). Growing from seed is difficult for many home gardeners because onion germination rates are often poor. Sets purchased at garden centers are commonly sold as red, white, or yellow onions—the cultivar is very often not listed. Growing from plants (seedlings purchased at a nursery or garden center) is easy, but the choice of varieties offered by commercial growers can be limited.

Growing your own sets means growing from seed. But since you are growing sets for planting the following season, poor germination rates or seedling failure when growing to sets does not mean you are risking entire crop failure or poor yield from this year’s crop; rather you are growing for the future. You will plant more seed than sets you need; you can choose the best sets for planting next season.

How to Grow Your Own Onion Sets

  • Set aside a planting bed for growing from seed. Choose a sunny location. The seed-starting bed should be compost rich, well-drained, and free of pebbles and garden debris.
  • A planting bed is a 3-foot-square bed is big enough to grow enough sets for the following season.
  • Time the sowing of sets if you like: the soil should be at least 45°F (7°C)—usually within a couple of weeks of the last frost in spring; if you sow seed for growing sets in late spring (May in the Northern Hemisphere), you can be certain the soil is warm enough and ensure plants will not develop large bulbs too large for planting next season.
  • Sow the seed thickly; broadcast seeds evenly across the planting bed; this is much easier than sowing seed-by-seed. If you sow seed individually, space the seed ½ inch apart in all directions. Cover the seed lightly with ¼ to ½ inch of soil.
  • Let seed germinate and grow on without thinning. Do not fertilize the seedlings; this can lead to green top growth at the expense of bulb formation.
  • Bulb formation will be triggered by day length; be sure you choose a variety suitable for your region.
  • Keep the planting bed just moist; do not let it go dry.
  • Let the plants grow on until most of the developing bulbs are ½ to ¾ inch in diameter (usually in July when the tops start to dry).
  • Cull the bulbs. Do not save sets larger than 1 inch in diameter for planting next season; large sets will likely bolt and flower quickly when replanted next season. (If you do save larger sets, they can be grown as green onions next season.) Do not save sets less than ½ inch in diameter; very small sets will likely not have enough stored energy to produce large onions next season. (Take the sets you are not saving for planting next season to the kitchen.)
  • A set about ¾ inch (2 cm) in diameter is ideal; it will quickly produce green onions when planted next season; if left in the ground until late summer, it will produce a good-size bulb.
  • Cure the sets you are saving in a sunny place for about 10 days–until the tops dry.
  • Remove the tops then store the sets in a mesh bag in a cool, dry place until planting time next spring. Be sure to label each bag.

Planted next season, sets just smaller than a nickel in diameter will develop into mature onions. Sets larger than a nickel often bolt (produce a flower stalk) and do not produce good-sized bulbs; if saved these larger sets are best used to grow green onions.

Plant sets 1 to 1½ inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart to grow bulb onions; sets grown for green onions can be planted closer.

More on growing onions at How to Grow Onions.

When it comes to planting onion sets vs. onion seeds or seedlings, is one method really better than the other?

When should I plant onions? And what varieties are best for my area?

These onion growing questions are always at the top of the list as the spring garden planting season begins to swing into full gear. (See : 6 Spring Crops To Start Growing Now)

The Low Down On Growing Onions

To be exact, onions can actually be grown three different ways. From sets (young immature onion bulbs), from seeds, or from seedlings (transplants).

Knowing which onions grow best in your climate is a big key to success – no matter if you plant sets, seeds, or seedlings.

So, which one is the best?

Well, in reality, all three have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

And choosing the right method all boils down to knowing what types of onions you want to grow, your specific climate, and how many hours of daylight the crop will receive.

We will get back to the onion sets vs. seeds and seedlings question in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at understanding how onions grow, and how to know which variety is best suited to grow well in your climate.

How An Onion Grows

There are two important things to know about onions before selecting how you want to plant them.

Onion sets being planted in the early spring.

One is their growth cycle. The second is understanding which onion varieties are best for your climate.

First, let’s talk about an onions growth cycle.

Onions As A Biennial Crop

Onions are a biennial crop. This means they grow, mature and seed over a two year period.

During the first year, an onion grows from a tiny seed to a bulb. If planted early enough from seed, these bulbs will grow large enough to be harvested and used that year.

But if the bulb is allowed to overwinter, it will resume its growth in year two. It is in this second year that the bulb matures to complete it’s growth cycle.

During the second year of growth, the onion will flower and set seed in the bloom head.

When this happens, it sends up a “bloom” and sets seed on the head of the flower. Thus completing the two year growth cycle.

Now on to the second subject, choosing the right variety for your growing zone.

Selecting The Right Onions For Your Growing Zone

The second important fact is that onion varieties are separated into three distinct categories. All of which are based upon the climate, sunlight, and days needed to mature.

Short Day Onions

Short-day onions are mainly grown in the south and southwest. They are the “warmer” climate onions.

These yellow Granex onions are a wonderful short day onion variety.

Short days need around ten to twelve hours of average daylight to begin forming their bulbs.

Although short day onions can be grown in northern climates, the bulbs do not mature to full size.

Long Day Onions

Long day onions are mainly grown in the northern climates. These onions are planted in the spring from sets or seedlings.

Long day onions need to get between 13 and 16 hours of daylight to begin maturing.

Walla Walla onions are a big favorite among long-day onion growers.

Long day onions cannot be grown in southern areas because the daylight never extends long enough to form or mature bulbs.

Day Neutral Onions

Day-neutral onions are a bit different in that they will form bulbs no matter the hours of sunlight.

These onions can be grown anywhere except the extreme south, where it gets a bit too hot for them to mature.

Day-neutral onions need to be planted in the fall in warm climates, and early spring in the north.

Spring onions are easily grown from onion transplants or sets.

So that all leads us to onion sets vs onion seeds and seedlings. And of course, choosing which is best for you.

Here is a break down of each planting method, along with the advantages and disadvantages of planting each way.

Planting Onion Sets Vs. Onion Seeds & Seedlings – Choosing The Best Method To Plant

Growing Onion Sets

Onion sets are small onions grown from seed the previous year. Instead of being allowed to mature, they are harvested as an immature bulb. Then, they are kept dormant until the following spring and planted.

Planting onion sets in the early spring.

Once planted, they mature into full-grown onions during their second year.

The advantage with bulbs is they already have a head start on their growth. Not only can they be harvested sooner, they can also lead to harvesting larger bulbs.

But, there is a disadvantage. With onion sets, you are limited to very few varieties.

In the world of onions, there are hundreds of available varieties available. But with sets, they are usually found only in only the more common white, yellow and purple varieties.

Onion Seeds And Seedlings

The advantage of growing from seed is that you open yourself up to a wide range of varieties.

Although you can direct seed into the ground in warmer climates, onion seeds take a long time to grow and mature.

Planting seed directly can be a tedious process. And, very hard to weed as they sprout.

That means for warmer climates, they need to be sown in the fall or late winter.

For northern climates, seeds should be started indoors 10 weeks prior to moving outside to transplant.

In essence, this is the process of planting onion transplants or seedlings. And, it is a much better way to plant with seeds.

For starters, it allows the onions to get a head start. In addition, it makes weeding and bed care much easier than trying to see the tiny seeds against any weeds as they sprout.

Here is to growing your own delicious crop of onions this year!

Seed Links :

Short Day Seeds :

Long Day Seeds : Walla Walla Onion Seeds

Day Neutral Onion Seeds : Sierra Blanca Seeds

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This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.

Are Red Onions Easy To Grow: Tips On Growing Red Onions

Eighty-seven percent of the onion variety used in cooking is culled from the common yellow onion. While there are many varieties of yellow onion, its less utilized cousin, the red onion, has its place in the kitchen for its mild sweet flavor and brilliant color. So, are red onions easy to grow? When is planting and harvesting time for red onions? Read on to learn more.

Are Red Onions Easy to Grow?

Growing red onions is as easy as any other type of onion. All onions are biennials, meaning they take two years to complete their life cycle. In the first year, seed grows, forming modified leaves and tiny underground bulbs.

In the succeeding year, red onion bulbs mature until they’re ready to harvest. Most gardeners plant onion sets, the second year small red onion bulbs, to hasten the maturation and harvest of the onions.

Planting and Harvesting Red Onions

With regards to white vs. red onions, there’s no difference when growing red onions as opposed to growing onions in general. There is a difference in flavor with white onions milder than red, and having a shorter storage life than red onions. Both types of onion come in a multitude of varieties with varying planting times, thus different harvesting times.

How to Grow Red Onions

To get onions off to a good start, mix an organic or time release fertilizer into the soil prior to planting. Make sure the fertilizer is beneath the planting furrow. This is called “banding” and makes sure the nutrients are exactly where the young onion roots can find them. Mix a 2-inch layer of compost into the soil before adding the fertilizer.

All onions need plenty of sun and well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Set the onion bulbs 1-2 inches deep so the roots are well covered but the neck isn’t set too deeply. Space the plants 6 inches apart in furrows 12 inches apart. Water the onions until they are wet, but not drenched.

Onion roots are shallow, so they need a consistent supply of water, which will also garner you sweeter onions. You can lay a light layer of grass clippings or other fine mulch around the onions, but be sure to keep it away from the onion tops which need full access to the sun.

When to Harvest Red Onions

Okay, so you have patiently waited throughout the summer and are itching to dig up the red onions and try them. The question is, when is the right time to harvest red onions? You can pull onions after a few weeks if you just want to use them as scallions, but for full size onions, you must be patient and let them mature.

Onions are ready to harvest when the bulbs are large and the green tops begin to yellow and fall over. Stop watering the onion when around 10 percent of the tops begin to fall over. You can now harvest the onions or leave them in the ground to be stored and used as needed.

To harvest the onions, dig the onions up and shake off the loose soil. Lay them out to cure with the tops still attached, in a warm, airy place. Keep the onions dry with good air circulation so they don’t rot. As the onions cure, the roots shrivel and the necks dry out. Allow the onions to cure for seven to 10 days and then either braid the tops for storage or remove the tops and roots with pruning shears. Store the cured onions in a cool, dry place between 35-50 F. (1-10 C.).

The first time I grew onions was a total flop. I am such a fanatical feeder of my crops, the soil was just too rich and the bulbs never formed properly. Meanwhile, my good buddy Julie Ray from OG Harvest, a novice gardener at the time, completely ignored her onions and the bulbs grew beautifully… and she’s never let me live it down! So now I have learned the art of ‘backing off’ when it comes to fertilising onions, I just plant into a spot where the previous crop was heavily manured, and with little more than a regular drink, my onions form consistently plump and rounded bulbs, the way they’re supposed to.

When are onions ready to harvest? The general rule is to wait until the tops have died off and fallen over. They certainly won’t be growing any bigger after that! They tend to slow down as soon as the tops start to yellow. This is an important stage – you need to gradually reduce your watering to no water at all before lifting them out of the ground. Excess moisture spells trouble for mature onions – it can cause rot – so if you’re expecting a rain event close to harvest, get in and pull them out of the ground.

Be gentle. Any nick or bruise will create an entry point for rotting bacteria. Avoid serious cleaning at this stage. Just lift them carefully, tops and all, shake off a little excess soil and sit the plants in a warm, dry, shady spot for a few days to air dry. After this they are ready for the curing process.

How to cure onions. Trim off any slimy leaves and lightly rub off the soil, keeping as many outer scales intact as possible, and then place the bulbs in a single layer on an undercover table outdoors. Once two weeks have passed, clip the roots and cut back the tops to within 5cm of the bulb. Give them a wipe with a damp cloth and leave them there to dry for another 2 weeks. Now they are fully cured and ready for storage in a cool dry space such as a downstairs cupboard.

First published: November 2012

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