Planting and Growing Onions

I look forward to this time of year, when we can get outdoors on a nice day and start our garden.  It also is a great time, because we usually have some rain/snow that makes the ground nice and soft allowing for easy planting.

Onions, garlic, broccoli, and potatoes are a must when it comes to early planting in our garden, and we tend to plant an abundant amount to eat and store or freeze the extra, keeping us stocked full of fresh veggies through the winter.

Planting onions is pretty easy and can be done in differnt ways: planting onion plants (tall, green stalks that look like chives) or onion sets (small onions that look like bulbs) or by seed.

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You can start to plant your onions in mid February, in an open sunny area that gets good drainage.  In Oklahoma, you want to plant your onions before March 14th.

Preparation

Get your soil nice and soft, turning it over a couple of times to get rid of the weeds, grass or old roots.  If using a raised vegetable bed, put in the top soil, plus compost, and plant quickly after.

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Get a ball of twine or yarn, tie it around a stake and place it at one end of your garden.  At the opposite end, line up the twine and make it taut, then hammer in your second stake making a nice, visual guide line.  This will help keep your rows nice and straight. (**You can tell that the picture below is our soil during the first season of our first garden and the picture above is after many seasons of rototilling.)

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Planting

When planting onion sets (small onions, like bulbs), they need to be spaced about 4-6″ from one another and the rows need about a 6-12″ of space between.

There is a top and bottom to the onion and you will obviously want to place the top, well, pointing up.  Plant the onion in about an inch of soil, making sure not to go to deep, as that will make the harvesting of the onion much harder, as you will have to dig really deep to pry the onion out.

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The fastest and easiest way I have found, is to dig a small, very shallow trench and place the onions in.  Brush a small layer of dirt over the tops and viola!  You have quickly planted your onions!

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It is best not to shove the onion down into the dirt to plant it.   Wind, rain and other factors can move the dirt around, potentially working the onion out of the soil.

When planting onion plants (tall, green, like chives), plant them 1 inch deep, with 2 to 4 inches between sets, allowing 12″ between rows.   If you are wanting green onions (scallions), harvest every other plant allowing the neighboring ones to grow to full maturity.

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Harvesting

Onion crops are ready to harvest in late July- early September.  Once the green tops of the plant start to turn yellow and fall over, you can pull the onion by the top or pry out the onion with a small gardening fork or shovel, being careful not to pierce the onion.   Cut the dead tops off and clean the dirt away from the onion.  Though we eat some of them right away, you should allow them to dry out for up to 2 weeks.

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Storage

Store your onions in a cool, dry place, separated from each other.  You can place the onion, with the shell, in stockings or panty hose, tying a knot or placing a tie in the hose between each onion.  Hang them in your pantry and when ready to eat, simply cut one from the bottom of the bunch, allowing the others to stay.

You can also freeze your onions – chopped, uncooked in a vacuum tight freezer bag.  In one afternoon, I peel, chop (quickly, using my food processor) and store, stocking us up for the winter.  These are so easy to thaw and use for dishes like spaghetti, stews, chili, etc., that don’t call for a fresh onion.

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