How Do You Plant Onions?

tombrooklyn(z7 Brooklyn, NY)October 13, 2006

How do you plant onions? Do you plant ones you buy at the grocer?

What would be a good planting strategy to stetch the harvest out over as long a period as possible?

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I buy onion sets - baby onions - at the grocer in the spring. They're maybe the size of a dime at that time. I plant some immediately and refrigerate the remainder to plant every few weeks. Maureen

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 4:26PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

Depends on whether you're starting from seed, plants, or sets. Of the three, sets are generally considered the worst way.

If you start with seed, you pre-start it indoors. In your zone, this would be around New Year's, for a March transplant.

All three are planted outdoors the same way. As soon as the ground can be worked, amend it as necessary. Then plant the starts or sets with the tip of the bulb barely underground. With starts (either your own or those you've purchased) this means the green shoots will be exposed.

There are nuances and personal approaches. But this is basically all there is to it.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 8:43PM
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tombrooklyn(z7 Brooklyn, NY)

I've never seen baby onions the size of a dime.

Why is a set the worst way?

What's a "start?"

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 9:05PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

By "start" I mean young onion plants, either those you've started by seed, or seedlings you've purchased.

We have discussed sets quite a bit on this forum, and if you do a search you'll find all sorts of info. But, in a nutshell, sets are the least effective because:

1. They are already second year bulbs. Onions are biennials, and what happens with sets is a great percentage of them want to bolt and go to seed. You can limit this tendency by picking out the smaller bulbs (as Maureen notes, no larger than a dime).

2. Almost all commercial sets (certainly all the generic white, yellow, and red you can buy in markets and garden centers) are long day length varieties. This is not a problem for you, but can be for those in short- or neutral day-length areas.

3. Lack of choice. There are only the three generic types, and a small number of others offered by specialty growers. So you limit the types you can grow.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 4:06PM
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snappybob(SaTexas Zone 8)

The best way, IMO, is to buy transplants. I always buy mine mailorder from Dixondale Farms. They are onion experts. A visit to their website will get you a lot of information about growing onions. (Website linked below). I used to buy sets and had mixed results but since I started growing transplants my onions have been consistantly good. You don't just stick them in the ground, onions need to have fertilizer banded in the soil. The website explains this type of fertilization. If you have more questions you can always call them toll free and they'll be glad to talk to you. Good Luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Dixondale Farms

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 2:28PM
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tombrooklyn(z7 Brooklyn, NY)

Hi Bob,
I checked out Dixondale. They must be the Kings of OnionLand. Cool site!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 12:13PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

I don't know about Kings, Tom. But they're certainly royal.

One cautionary note. If you buy from them they claim their bundles contain 60 starts. Better figure on at least 100, though, and often more than that.

Obviously, this isn't really a problem. But for planning purposes you might keep that in mind, particularly if your space is tight.

As good as they are, however, keep in mind that Dixondale's selection is still rather small compared to the number of varieties available if you grow from seed.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 6:35AM
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I prefer onion sets for my small garden since I'm not in to planting huge quantities and I find I get very good onions from sets. I generally buy them locally and get both red and yellow though white is also available. I plant them close, maybe 2-3" apart and pull alternate ones for scallions as a very early crop. The rest go on and make good, hard onions that keep well. For me this is far easier than either starting from seed or buying those little transplants (in huge quantities). I only want one or two 12' rows and 100 plants need about 40-50'.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 7:27PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

Closer to 30-35 feet per hundred plants (100 x 4=400/12=33+feet), Old Rosa. But still more than you want to put in.

What I do with the Dixondale bundles is pick out the largest plants. These go in for bulbing onions, 4" apart. The thinner, smaller plants go in at 1" spacing, for scallions.

Personally, I've never had any luck with sets, even when I lived up north, where they're supposed to do well.

Frankly, if I didn't have the room, given Dixondale's reasonable prices, I could afford to throw half the plants away, and still be ahead of the game compared to sets---which, down here, are good for scallions but that's about all. I don't know anyone who gets any sort of bulb out of them.

Speaking of Dixondale, y'all need to check out there new long-storage red onion called Red Bull. It's definately on my list to try.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 12:56PM
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decolady01(7a/6b AL/TN)

Thanks for the info about Dixondale. I was not familiar with them, but have placed an order. Although my grandfather grew Bermuda onions all the time, this will be my first attempt at any onions (other than the patch of Egyptian Walking Onions I planted earlier this fall). Now I'm anxious to start planting these!


    Bookmark   November 24, 2006 at 4:34PM
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