Once the end of the first year growth is reached the leaves fall over and the plant goes dormant and the bulb sits and waits for next year when it will send out it’s flower stalk and complete it’s life cycle.
It is during this dormant period that gardeners harvest the bulbs and cure them to use in cooking and prevent them from going to seed.
Varieties Of Onions
Because of the great number of onion varieties it is bet to put them into groups with similar characteristics. This will make it easier to determine what type you will grow.
One way to determine an onions use is by the taste of it is pungent or sweet. Sweet onions are usually the type you slice for salads and sandwiches they have a mild flavor and usually grow larger than a pungent variety. Some of the more well known sweet onions are Walla Walla, Vidalia, and the Bermuda onions. The more pungent variates are generally used for cooking in soups, stews, and sauces or where a more strong flavor is called for.
Storage Quality Of Onions
When it comes to long term storage of onions the best are the yellow pungent ones they will stay good over winter and into the next spring. The skin is much thicker and will help the onions stay fresh. Most of the sweet onions will hold up for a while but not for months and months. The white Bermuda Onion will only hold up for 3 or 4 weeks in storage. They just don’t have the thick skin of the pungent ones to protect them.
Another deciding factor when you choose the onions you will grow is day length. Onions will be either short day or long day types. Short day varieties grow with twelve hours of sunlight to perform at their best and are generally grown in the south in the United States. Long day onions require 14 to 16 hours of sunlight and are grown in the northern part of the country.
Planning And Preparing The Onion Bed
Preparing The Soil
Onions will grow in many types of soil but a well prepared soil will always yield the best results. A rich loose humus will allow the onions to grow well and expand. Heavy clay is difficult for the onions to expand in as the soil when it drys out will be very hard this will inhibit the development of the bulb thus making the onions much smaller. The other problem with a heavy clay soil is the water tends to puddle on it and will some times cause the plant to rot.
Whether you have clay soil or sandy soil add compost and organic matter to it to b8uild a high quality soil for your plants. Organic matter will increase the water and nutrient holding capabilities, produce healthier roots, and feed the soil it’s self. Onions are heavy feeders so add manure or fertilizer when preparing the bed.
Work up the bed and loosen it a couple of days before planting be sure to work manure or fertilizer into the top 6 inches of the soil.
If you are transplanting seedling started indoors wait until all danger of frost has passed spacing them at 4″ apart. If you will be seeding plant the seeds 3 or 4 per inch and cover with a 1/4 inch of fine soil. For onion sets be sure to push the bulb down about half their length into the soil with the pointed end up spacing them about 5″ apart.
Maintenance And Care
Seeded onions should be thinned to 4″ apart for bulbs, if you are growing scallions thin to 1″ to 2″ apart. For scallions keep soil mounded up around the stems. The bed should be cultivated very shallow around the onions about once a week to discourage weeds. When the leaves are 4″ to 5″ tall side dress with 10-10-10 fertilizer by making a shallow furrow on both sides of the plants about 3 ” from the stems. After you fertilize cover the furrow with soil to prevent it from washing out. Be sure not to let the bed get too dry the soil should be evenly moist and receive at least an 1″ of water a week.
Scallions can be harvested when they are 6″ to 8″ tall. Once the leaves on about 1/4 of the onions start to bend over you may gently push the leaves on the rest of them down. Be careful not to snap them only bend then. Let the onions remain in the soil for a few days until the skin on the bulbs start to turn papery. Pull the bulbs let them dry in a warm space with good air circulation away from direct sun or rain for about two weeks until they are dry.Once dry place the bulbs in mesh bags and hang in a cool dry space and use as needed..