Planting Onion Sets: Tips & Tricks: Onions go well with a variety of different dishes. The onion (Allium cepa) is one of the most popular vegetables of all. It belongs to the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). Whether stewed, fried, or raw, the onion must not be missing in many dishes, because it gives every meal a special touch. Even though its origin cannot be clearly defined, it feels very much at home in the temperate latitudes of Central Europe. We will show you how to plant onion sets yourself, what to consider when caring for them, and provide step-by-step instructions for planting and harvesting onions.
- Planting Onions
- How to Plant Onion Sets: The right location
- Time to plant the onions
- Procedure for planting onions
- Growing Onions: Brief Instructions
- Buy onions
- Propagating your onions
- Propagating onions by seed
- Onion Varieties: Variety for Garden and Kitchen
- Kitchen onions (rather small and spicy)
- Vegetable onions (rather large and mild)
- Caring for Onions in Your Own Garden
- Fertilize onions
- Watering onions
- Final Pieces of Advice: How to Plant Onion Sets?
- Harvesting onions
- Storing onions
- What month do you plant onion sets?
- Should onion sets be soaked before planting?
- How deep do you plant onion sets?
- Do onions need full sun?
Onions can also be propagated by seed, but most gardeners pin their bulbs. This is more convenient and usually associated with more success. We explain what’s involved in onion tucking.
How to Plant Onion Sets: The right location
Read more about How to plant bamboo?
It is important to choose the right location to plant onion sets. Onions thrive best in loess and clay soils. The balanced nutrient balance, the high proportion of humus, and the constant replenishment make these soils the perfect location. Those who do not find such optimal conditions in their garden for growing onions can work compost into their onion beds. Above all, the soil must be deeply loosened. Loosening stimulates soil life and aerates the deeper layers. This makes it easier for the onions to develop.
Tip: Would you like to grow onions in a container or on the balcony? No problem! The only important thing is that the tub is large enough so that new daughter onion bulbs can form.
Time to plant the onions
The right time to plant onion is also essential. You should not plant your onions before the end of April. The bulbs contain a lot of water and are therefore sensitive to cold. After the end of April, night frost can be ruled out and the soil temperature is high enough to ensure rapid juvenile growth.
Note: Typically, “summer” varieties are staked in home gardens. These are not planted until April, as described above. There are also winter varieties that can be staked as early as August. You can then harvest the first bulbs as early as late May.
Procedure for planting onions
Before planting, you should learn the accurate procedure for planting onions. The bed should be well loosened. Plant your bulbs deep enough so that the base of the shoot just peeks out of the soil. Plant spacing should be at least 15 inches in the row, leaving 25 inches between rows. Properly planting in rows will also make it easier to care for your onions later (hoeing weeds, etc.).
Growing Onions: Brief Instructions
- Loosen soil; mix in the compost if necessary (best done already in autumn!)
- Sow onion seeds at the end of February / plant bulbs at the end of April.
- Plant onions only so deep that the shoot base is at the surface of the soil.
- Row distance 25 cm; distance within the row at least 15 cm
- Regularly hoe weeds to prevent competition
- Buy onions or propagate them yourself
Onion bulbs are the surest way to a bountiful onion harvest. You can buy bulbs at any well-stocked specialty store or conveniently order them through various online mail-order companies.
Propagating your onions
When you urge to know how to plant onion sets, you should know that you can actually propagate onions by yourself. After the first year of cultivation, you can propagate your freshly harvested onions yourself. Simply harvest and dry the bulbs as described above. Some onion varieties can also be propagated by division. To do this, cut the bulb along the shoot base so that it is divided in the middle. Both halves of the bulb must contain part of the shoot and root attachment, otherwise sprouting is impossible.
Note: The propagation of commercial kitchen onions is usually characterized by little success, as these have often been stored for a long time and also come from grafted varieties. When grafting, high-yielding and special-tasting varieties are grafted onto a resistant rootstock. Although it is possible to graft vegetables at home, it requires a great deal of effort and is not always successful.
Propagating onions by seed
If you want to accompany your onions from the beginning of germination, you can also buy onion seeds. The variety is huge. A bag of onion seeds is very affordable and available in online retailers or well-stocked local specialty stores. Onion seeds can be sown directly into the garden in February or grown beforehand in a pot to form small seedling bulbs.
Tip: If you like it convenient, you should fall back on the purchase of set onions. These are very affordable and usually, promise greater harvest success!
Onion Varieties: Variety for Garden and Kitchen
There is a wide range of onion varieties. They can be roughly divided into kitchen and vegetable onions. We have compiled a small selection of different varieties for you and explained the differences and special features:
Kitchen onions (rather small and spicy)
- Tonda Musona: White variety; tasty and good for storage
- Rossa di Toscana: Traditional red variety from Italy; round shape; intense flavor
- Littauer Gelbe: Proven onion variety; firm consistency; good aroma
- Texas Early: Late-maturing, yellow variety; larger onions; abundant yields and good aroma
Vegetable onions (rather large and mild)
- Exhibition: Abundant onion; aromatic; onions grow up to 1.5 kg in weight
- The Kelsae: English variety; very mild and large; record harvest: onion weighing 6 kg!
- Alisa Craig: Also, English variety; mild aroma; large onions (>700g)
Caring for Onions in Your Own Garden
Onions in themselves are relatively easy to care for. Nevertheless, you should pay attention to a few things so that the onion harvest turns out well. We tell you what is important when caring for onions.
Onions are low to medium-nutrient plants. A compost application in the fall is a good way to enrich the soil with nutrients and positively influence the structure of the soil. A later fertilizer application is then not necessary. Alternatively, an application of primarily organic tomato fertilizer can be made in the spring. The potassium it contains promotes good storability due to stable cell walls. It is important to work the fertilizer well and cover it with soil, as too much organic matter directly on the surface can promote the appearance of the onion fly.
Onions like it are moderately moist. When watering onions, be careful to avoid waterlogging. Regular watering at longer intervals is the best way to keep your onions adequately watered, depending on the weather.
Final Pieces of Advice: How to Plant Onion Sets?
The spicy onion is a perennial favorite in the kitchen and is used for cooking all year round. We’ll tell you how to harvest your onions and preserve and store them for the rest of the year.
When you are searching for how to plant onion sets, you should also keep the harvesting plan in mind. Starting in early August, onions are ripe and ready for storage. Harvesting onions does not require the use of garden tools. Simply pull your onions out of the ground by the foliage and lay them out side by side on the garden soil. Stored in this way for several days, the outer skins of the onions can dry and become durable.
Important: Turn your onions regularly during drying!
Once the outer skins of the onions are dried, they can be stored. You can store your onions either hanging or lying down. To hang onions, simply tie them at the base of the leaves and hang them in a dark, cool, dry place.
Note: Do not store onions next to potatoes! Potatoes give off a lot of moisture, which the dry onion skins easily absorb.
Learn more about How and when to plant garlic?
Frequently Answered Questions
What month do you plant onion sets?
Onion sets should be planted in between the middle of March and the middle of April. You can also plant them during Autumn as well.
Should onion sets be soaked before planting?
It’s recommended, yes. You can plant onion sets without soaking them, but doing so will help them sprout more quickly.
How deep do you plant onion sets?
Onion sets should be planted as deep as 1-1.5 inches. Planting them like this in the early spring can result in better growth.
Do onions need full sun?
Yes. Onion sets need full sun and a well-drained soil system for them to grow faster and properly.