Growing Onions for Backyard Farmers
Kevin Felts 01.04.17
Onions are some of the easiest crops to grow and they are a good place to start for backyard farmers. They are also an excellent cold weather crop for a fall garden.
If you want super easy, go to a locally owned farm supply store in early December and buy a bundle of onion sprouts. Onion seeds are available for those who would rather start from there.
Let’s use the Texas Super Sweet (1015 Y) as an example. Depending on location, they can take anywhere from 75 to over 110 days to grow. The name comes when the seed is supposed to be planted, which is on October 15th, and it is a yellow onion.
The 10-15Y produces a large bulb that has a pleasant, sweet taste. When stored in a dry and dark location, it can be stored for a couple of months.
Onions can be grown in just about any soil. They prefer well drained, plenty of organic material, rocks and tree roots removed, and little clay. The bulb needs room to expand, so removing roots and rocks is important.
I use either raised beds or use a tiller to work up an area. If the onions are going to be planted directly into the ground, I use a tiller to break up the soil until it is fine and all the clumps are removed. Either in a raised bed or directly in the soil, I like to add organic potting soil or compost along with commercial fertilizer.
Onions love nitrogen. I usually use just a little 13-13-13 while the sprouts are young. A month or so later, I side dress with a high nitrogen fertilizer, such as 16-6-12 or 21-0-0. The first number of the fertilizer is the nitrogen content.
Make sure the onion beds will have access to water. It is important that the onions have plenty of water, but they do not like to sit in water. The soil must be well drained.
If you bought onion seed, plant them directly in the soil. If you are growing 10-15 Y, the seeds are supposed to be planted on October 15th.
Sprouts will start arriving at farm supply stores around the first week of December. I usually buy the sprouts rather than plant from seed.
Plant the onion sprouts about 6 inches apart. This gives the sprout plenty of room to grow the bulb and access moisture and nutrients.
Planted in the first part of December, depending on type, they should be ready around May – June.
First thing to grow will be green shoots. The bulb will not form until much later. Onions use nitrogen to grow the shoots. The shoots store nutrients, which are used to grow the bulb.
If the shoots lean over towards the ground, the onion may need water.
About every 4 – 6 weeks, side dress with a high nitrogen fertilizer. After side dressing, water the onions or side dress right before a rain.
Side dressing means to throw fertilizer on the ground next to the plant.
Good Crop for New Farmers
Onions are one of the easiest crops someone can grow, and they are an excellent start for anyone who is interested in gardening.
If you want to get started with gardening, go down to the local farm supply store, pick up a batch, and plant them.