We grow onions. Lots of Onions. We LOVE onions! Onions are one of those things that make (nearly) any dish better. When a stir fry calls for an onion, I often toss in two.
One of the lesser-known garden secrets is how awesome homegrown onions are. (Step aside, tomato!) They’re easy to grow, they store well, and they’re a cooking staple. Also, onions contain B6, B1, and folic acid, and fight free radicals. Eating raw onion daily is even better for you, just kiss your honey first 🙂
So how do we grow them here in Central Texas? I’m so glad you asked. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started.
What Varieties of Onions Grow Best in Central Texas
Short to intermediate day onions are best for southern states. Triggered by the lengthening days in spring, onions begin to “bulb”. Short day onions begin this process with only 10-12 hours of sun per day and are the best option for our area.
When Should Onions Be Planted
When it comes to planting onions, here’s the Golden Rule: Seeds in October, transplants in January to Feburary. Why? In order to avoid bolting (producing a flower stalk) in spring, you must prevent the onion from forming a flower “bud”, of sorts, at the center prior to winter dormancy. To do this, seed must be sown with just enough time to grow as weather cools, not enough time to “bud”. Mid to late Oct. is the sweet-spot for seed.
The second method is planting transplants (seedlings) or sets in January, to bypass the flower bud formation phase. We’ll focus on transplanting for this post.
How to Plant Onion Transplants OR Sets (Plant from Jan to early Feb)
ONION SETS (look like small, dried onion bulbs)
Plant in rich, loose soil at least 4″ deep and 4″ apart for room to bulb.
ONION TRANSPLANTS (pictured above and are our preferred type to grow; look like small green onions about pencil thin in size)
Plant in rich, loose soil at least 3/4″ – 1″ deep and 4″ apart for room to bulb. If not planted immediately, lay out in a cool, dry place. They can dry out a bit for even a week or two just fine—they’ll sprout right back. Don’t let bulbs get wet before planting.
How to Care for and Feed Onion Plants
Onions are super heavy feeders! That’s a big bulb to plump up. A good trick is to give them a boost by laying a row of organic high phosphorous (the middle number) fertilizer in a trench 2-3″ below the transplant roots.
Onions need consistent water, and a bit extra near harvesting to plump those succulent globes. We recommend drip irrigation—it’s a miracle, I tell you. If drip is not available, then water at the soil level in the morning. Aim for moist but not wet/soggy soil.
Did I mention onions are heavy feeders? Keep those bulbs happy with a side dressing of high Nitrogen (first number) fertilizer every month. We go for organic. Always water in fertilizers. Look for good green leaves, and several of them. Every leaf is a layer of onion, and the bigger the leaf, the bigger the layer.
Once onions begin to bulb, they need loose soil. Loosen the soil around the bulb a bit while you weed if needed, but don’t cover with soil. Leave the bulb tops exposed. Once the neck of the onion feels soft, stop fertilizing (about a month before harvest).
When to Harvest Onion Plants
Onions are ready to harvest when their tops have flopped over and die back. Dig them up carefully to not damage them, and lay them out to dry or “cure” before storing. We love to hang ours upside down in the garage on a shelving unit. You will want to make sure they cure in a dry location. Once they are cured, you can knock off any remaining dirt and cut off the roots and stalk to store.
Ready to start your garden?
If you don’t have an onion patch but you would love one, drop us a line! A pretty garden makes all the more reason to visit it often and check on those beauties.