[Market-farming] Onions

Pam Twin Oaks pam at twinoaks.org
Sat Oct 24 11:03:18 EDT 2009

Sora at Paradise Valley Organics Zone 4/5, North Idaho
>Season's over....huge sigh of relief....
I've never done great with onions, not sure why, tried sprouting seed in
Feb., planting sets, etc etc.  not great luck...
I recently heard of folk broadcasting onion seed in the Fall for bunching
onions in the spring as thinings and large onions in the later season.
Anyone of you in the more Northern climes doing this?  When do you plant,
how well does it work?  Mulch?>

Sora, I've had a learning curve with onions too. We're zone 7, and 38
degrees north latitude, so our solution won't be exactly the same as
yours. I'm assuming your goal is nice bulb onions, not only green
bunching onions?

First off, make sure the variety you buy is right for your latitude.
The initiation of bulbing is dependent on the day length (and partly
on the temperature). If you grow a variety suited to the south, which
starts to bulb at a daylight length of  say 13 hours, you may only get
tiny bulbs, because there hasn't been much vegetative growth before
the plants start bulbing. Johnny';s catalogs, and a few others, now
say which latitudes their varieties are suited for.

There are a few "Day Neutral" varieties, which could be good to try.

Second, get as much vegetative growth as possible before the bulbing
date. More leaves=bigger bulb. Starting in the fall is one way to do
this. We sow ours in our hoophouse November 10-20, in the ground.
Almost certainly it's too cold outdoors to overwinter unprotected
onions where you are. A hoophouse or greenhouse increases your
options. Without any protected growing space, you'll have to start in

Sets are a way of getting an early start (or rather, paying someone
else to get an early start for you), but they do have an inbuilt
disadvantage - they can have a high rate of bolting. This is because
onions are biennial, and sets are in their second year when you plant
them. Big ones are more likely to bolt than small ones, so choose
smaller if buying sets.

Third, keep onions as weed free as you can humanly manage. They don't
do well with competition, because the leaves are so skinny and easily
shaded from the sunlight.

Finally, treat them gently when harvesting, as bruised areas are more
likely to rot.

You didn't say exactly what your struggles are with onions, so maybe
these ideas miss the target...

Pam, Twin Oaks Community, Louisa, central Virginia, zone 7

More information about the Market-farming mailing list