Growing Onions the Easy Way
Whether you start with seeds or sets, growing onions can be an easy and tasty endeavor.
A sprouted onion rests in a clay pot.
Photo By iStockphoto.com/Alexey Ivanov
“It’s hard to imagine a civilization without onions.” — Julia Child
Indeed it is … and apparently, from their cultivation throughout at least 5,000 years of history, it has been hard for a civilization to imagine itself without the onion as well. Even as much as I fall into the camp of onion lovers, I can’t help but find it somehow odd that a root, even one able to garner such passion both in its enjoyment and its dislike, has become so instrumental in our evolution as gardeners and cooks. Still, every year, new lovers of the onion in its variant forms are born, and, every year, new gardeners try their hand at growing onions for the first time while seasoned growers work to improve their harvests.
The common onion (Allium cepa) is found and loved in many forms around the world. The yellow, white and purple (or red) onions; Welsh bunching onions; “walking” onions; and, of course, the scallion (or green onion) are probably the most popular, and many localities have their own favorites. Take, for instance, the “ramp” (wild onion/leek) of the Appalachian region whose fans hold festivals in honor of the vegetable’s arrival every spring.
Besides their pungent, sometimes sweet and always distinct flavor, onions have become popular for many of their other qualities as well. They are relatively easy to grow, whether from seed or starts; they are tolerant of a variety of soils; and they are transportable. On top of that, they can keep for a long time.
Once you’ve decided to add onions to your garden, the first thing to do is to figure out what you want to use them for — whether it be fresh summer salsas, green onions to top your favorite chili, storage onions to cook with all winter, or all of the above.
Choosing a variety can be a big decision if you have only a small garden, and it can be overwhelming if you have so much space you want to try them all. There are some easy ways to help narrow the search.
First consider where you are in relation to the sun. Many types of onion are dependent on the number of hours of sun a plant will get during the day to trigger the bulbing action itself. Typically these are referred to as “long-day” or “short-day” onions. Because onions are a cool-season crop, they grow best in the early or late season’s cool weather and have a long growing period before they’re harvested.
Areas in the northern parts of the country do better with long-day onion varieties that can be planted in the early spring and grow through the longer summer days. If you’re in the southern part of the country, where the cool weather needed for good growth is found during the shorter winter days, then you’ll want to choose a short-day variety and plant in the fall.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>