7 Tips for Growing Large Onions

Onions are one of this crops I completely overlooked my first 2 years gardening. It’s insanity really because if I had to list out the top three things we utilize and consume in my kitchen it would be onions, garlic, and butter. Probably in that order. When I first planted onions, I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve comprised a list of the most helpful tips, collected from both personal experience and tips from professionals to start you off on the right foot!

Before we get into the good stuff, first you need to determine your growing zone. You growing zone will dictate what type of onions you need to grow based on various environmental factors, including the amount of daylight per day.

There are 3 different types of onions: long day, short day, and intermediate.

If you are unsure of how to identify and correlate your zone and appropriate growing time, click here.

Now, let’s get into the growing tips.

First, onions need a lot of sun and good drainage. You will want to plant your onions where there is no shade and no collection of water following irrigation routines or rainfall.

Next, look at your soil. Is it loose and easily manipulated or clay-like and dense? Onions like healthy soil that is comprised of the good stuff–meaning organic matter that allows the roots to stretch and grow as needed. They also prefer your soil to be slightly acidic.

Soil too acidic = add limestone

Soil too alkaline = add peat moss

When planting your bulbs, think trench and not a hole that covers over the bulb. If the soil smothers your bulb, it inhibits the onions bulbing ability. However, if your goal is to grow for green onions, then covering the bulb and planting closer together is sufficient.

A couple of years ago, I ready that if the greens of your onions are getting too tall, then cut them down to approximately 3″ above their necks so that more energy is being put into bulbing vs. bolting. All plants have a desire to reproduce and do so by bolting (a.k.a flowering) and allowing their seed to disperse. If you prevent that from happening, more energy is spent in the root system which is the key to large, healthy, flavorful onions.

I’ve tried both and in my opinion, I did get bigger bulbs with this method. It’s important to keep in mind the scale to which I am growing as well. If you are growing rows and rows of onions totaling in the thousands, it might not be reasonable to walk through and lop off the tops.

Onions communicate with us really well and tell us their needs, as well as when they are ready to be harvested. Once onions are ready to be harvested, the necks of the plant will fall over once becoming flimsy.

Overall, it is important to focus on 2 main players in your onion growing journey: soil health and sunlight.

Happy growing, garden friends!

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