What’s not to like? If you cook, if you eat, you go through a lot of onions. Good news, gardeners: they are easy to grow well. And good news, with winter now at our doorstep here in the Northeast: they store well.
1-Up here in this part of the country, your best bet is “long-day” types. These produce well because our summers tend to have both the necessary warm temps but also long-enough days for the plants to produce bulbs.
2-“Onion sets” can be found in garden centers, other outlets, and by mail, but are almost always merely basic yellow storage onions. Too bad, because they are so easy to grow. Essentially these are wee immature bulbs (or side bulbs attached to mature ones). If you are an onion-growing newbie, though, they are a fine place to start.
3-If you want Bermuda or Spanish onions, I recommend that you buy seedlings in the spring.
1-Plant sets outdoors in early spring.
2-Start pearl onions or scallions from seed earlier than that, in February or even January. Raise them in flats, thinning the grassy seedlings as they grow. Little plants may be able to go into the ground around April or May, depending on how early the snow starts to recede where you live.
3-A good spot is one with organically rich, well-drained soil without a lot of rocks or weeds to hamper their progress. It does not need to be deeply cultivated, though, as onions are pretty shallow growers.
1-Wait for the aboveground foliage to keel over, losing its green color and turning yellow, then brown and limp. This is the sign that there are mature bulbs underneath. Around here, this generally happens in late July or early August.
2-Don’t rush the process. The longer you leave the leaves, the fuller and juicier the bulbs will be.
1-When they are ready to be plucked and dried, you can do so OR leave them in the ground if the weather isn’t too wet.
2-Never cut off the tops, which might slow down the process and/or invite rot. Later, you can use the dried tops to make onion braids, or just remove them once they are thin and brown.
3-Allow two to three weeks. Outer skins will become papery.
1-Cool and dry is best (or they may sprout, or rot).
2-Don’t crowd them in storage. Use mesh bags, paper bags, or boxes, not moisture-trapping plastic bags or bins. Air circulation helps keep them dry yet firm.