Quite a lot of people don’t know onions are incredibly simple to grow. This is probably because they are readily available and very affordable at grocery stores. So there is little incentive to cultivate them.
These delicious stable of many homes enjoyed in a variety of dishes can be grown at home using different methods. The most common means include growing them from seeds or if you want it fast, growing new onions directly from onion bulbs.
In this article, we would focus on how to grow onions from an onion. The guide is packed with everything you need to know to get you started, tips for caring for your young onion plants, and the best time to harvest them. All things being equal, you are guaranteed fresh onion bulbs in 3 – 4 months tops.
How to Grow Onions from an Onion
The first decision you have to make is where to locate your onion garden. Whether you are using pots or planting directly on the garden bed, the pots or garden beds have to be located in an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
The best time to plant is about 3 weeks before the end of winter. But if you live in a location where the weather is warm or comparatively milder all year, your planting options can include fall or winter.
That said, for this guide, it’s best to start the process in early spring if you want to grow them outside. For indoor cultivation, you can start at any time.
Cultivating onions from onions
There are multiple choices available to you when cultivating onions. These include using dry bulb onions, sprouted bulb onions, or onion seeds. The focus of this guide would be on using a regular onion bulb.
Most onion varieties, including varieties brought from grocery stores, can be used. You would get the best outcome if the onion is fresh though.
Things you need
- Cutting board
- Kitchen knife
- Pot planter with potting mix/soil
- Prepared garden bed
Step 1. Preparing the onion
Using the sharp knife, cut the bottom part (about 1 inch) of the onion. It is this bottom part that would be planted. Instead of discarding the top part, you can add it to your compost dump if you can’t use it for cooking immediately.
Peel off the outer scale of the cut bottom and allow it to dry out for about 24 hours in an area that is well ventilated and shaded. The time it takes to dry could be less depending on the weather. You’d know it’s dry enough when looks shrivelled and feel dry and calloused to touch.
Step 2: Potting the onion cutting
Add your potting mix to the pot planter about three-quarters of the way up and compact it. Then create a small hole about the size for onion cutting in the center of the soil. Plant the onion in the hole, the lower part (roots) facing downward, and cover it with about 2″ of soil.
Water the soil without flooding it. Water slowly and deeply.
(Note that this step is optional and you can skip it if the final location is the garden bed. In that case, simply plant the onion(s) directly on the garden bed)
Step 3. Replanting
When the onion in the pot starts developing leaves, remove it from the soil and peel off the old onion scales.
At this point, you may notice that there is more than one new onion developing from the single onion. Separate the plants where applicable by slicing between the two. But always ensure easy onion plant has a portion of the roots attached to it.
Note that you can also get up to 6 new onions growing from that single onion bulb. Simply use the same method described above to separate the plants.
You can now go ahead and plant the budding onions in your garden bed about 5 inches apart. In pots or containers, stick to one onion for each planter.
Step 4: Watering and caring for the onions
Experts recommend that a water depth of about 6 inches is required immediately following transplanting the onions to a garden bed. Subsequently, the plants need about an inch of irrigation weekly.
Again never let the soil dry out or drown them with too much water. In both cases, the onion plants can become stressed resulting in diminished harvest.
For potted plants, simply water normally and ensure the soil is consistently damp or moist. Try as much as possible to avoid soaking the potting mix with too much water.
Onions thrive best in soil with high nitrogen content. If the soil is deficient in nitrogen, or if growth is not encouraging, you can spray nitrogen fertilizer to the potted plants. For garden beds, simply add the appropriate nitrogen fertilizer.
Check the label on the fertilizer and follow the instructions carefully. And if using fertilizer becomes a recurrent option, stick to a bi-weekly schedule. You can quit using the fertilizer after the onion bulbs start poking from the soil.
Another crucial care aspect is weed control. Invasive plants such as weeds can easily deprive the onions of water and nutrients. Pull the weeds out as soon as you see them using your hands.
Using herbicides is inadvisable became they can also harm garden plants.
Step 5. Harvesting and storage
Green onions leaves are ready to be harvested when they are about 4 inches high. Use sterilized pruners to snip off what you need. When the tops are about six inches high, they are ready to be pulled out.
But for the bulb onion variety, you’d have to wait until the tops fall over after becoming dry. This usually occurs between late spring and early summer if the onions were planted earlier.
Hold the tops and pull them gently out of the soil to harvest them. Allow the harvested onions to dry out on the soil for 2 – 3 days.
Next, find a well-ventilated, shaded area and move them there to cure for between 1 – 2 weeks.
Best Soil for Growing Onions in Garden Bed
Fortunately, onions can grow in different soil types. But like most plants, to get the best results, a rich, loamy, well-drained soil devoid of weeds and grass is recommended. And the soil pH needs to be slightly acidic.
If your garden soil falls short of these standards, don’t overly fret. Some form of soil amendment would set it right.
Start by liberally adding organic matter to the soil (full matured compost for instance). Adding compost to a soil that is too clayey helps loosen it ultimately improving drainage. For soil that is too sandy, the amendment improves the ability of the soil to retain moisture.
Amending the soil using compost or organic matter is quite easy. Simply apply a layer of compost (about 2 inches) over the soil; then till the soil up to a depth of about 9 inches. Finally, use your rake to smoothen the surface of the soil before you start planting the onions.
The soil amendment should include the addition of fertilizer because onions love fertilizers. All-Purpose garden fertilizer is best for this task. Add about 3 lbs per 100 square feet of the garden soil. Then using a rake, integrate the fertilizer into the soil to a depth of about 4 inches.
Re-apply the fertilizer about a couple of weeks after planting. This time though, apply about 1.5 lbs of the fertilizer about 2.5 inches to the side of the garden bed.
Tips For Growing Onions Growing From Onion
– To prevent rot, reduce the amount of water if you notice that the onion tops are starting to yellow.
– Use non-toxic, insect repellent to eliminate pests and small insects present on your onions. Make sure the insect repellent is not harmful to your plants.
– Do not wash onions after harvesting to prevent rot.
– Mulch the soil with a 1-inch layer of grass clippings to suppress weeds and promote moisture retention