Growing Onions

Meet Karen Weiland, one of our guest bloggers. Karen is a master gardener and business woman in LaGrange County. Not only does she author a gardening column for several local newspapers, she also runs Village View Bed and Breakfast in Howe. Karen also spearheads LaGrange County’s Barn Quilt Tour, having organized the event and painted many of the beautiful barn quilt murals that dot the LaGrange County landscape. Karen shares a wealth of knowledge about gardening. Thanks for sharing with us, Karen!

Onions grow best in loose, well-drained soil with a high level of organic matter.  Being a cool season vegetable, they are frost tolerant and should be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.  The best production occurs when temperatures remain cool over an extended period of time during which the foliage and root system develop before bulb formation occurs.

To grow good onions, the surest way is to plant sets.  Sets are small onions that were grown from seed the year before.  Choose sets that are firm and not yet sprouting.  Onion plants can also be used.  For green onions, the sets or transplants should be placed about 1 inch apart and about 1 to 1 ½ inches deep.  For dry onions, the sets or transplants should be placed about 1 to 2 inches deep and about 3 to 4 inches apart.  It is also possible to make one onion bed planting and then pull green onions leaving one bulb every 4 inches or so to remain in the garden for dry onions.  Green onions can be pulled 4 to 6 weeks after planting for fresh eating.

To control weeds, cultivate shallowly by hand or mulch the onion bed.  Mulching promotes moisture retention, which will help to ensure a good yield.  Fertilizer may be applied but it is best to have a garden soil test done so you have a guide to nutrient needs.

Dry onions will mature in 3 to 5 months depending on the cultivar used.  When the foliage neck is bent over, dry onions are ready to be harvested.  After harvesting, place them in a shady location to dry.  This may take up to 4 weeks depending on air circulation, humidity and cultivar.  Cut the tops off about an inch above the bulb after the neck is completely dried.  If the neck is not sufficiently dried, disease organisms may enter the onion during storage and cause it to rot.  Store onions in a dry, cool area in well ventilated containers.  Sprouting will occur if not kept cool.  Check for and discard any damaged onions during the storage period.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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About Karen Weiland

Karen Weiland is a master gardener and business woman in LaGrange County. Not only does she author a gardening column for several local newspapers, she also runs Village View Bed and Breakfast in Howe. Karen also spearheads LaGrange County’s Barn Quilt Tour, having organized the event and painted many of the beautiful barn quilt murals that dot the LaGrange County landscape. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge, Karen! View all posts by Karen Weiland

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