When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I noticed each spring the grass would come up thin, bright and green, but then some stalks would be three times as tall. There were little clumps of this super tall grass all over, from backyards to school grounds to public trails. Why were they super sized?? When I took a closer look, they seemed very similar to grass, but rounded instead of flat. I picked one and WOW. Now I knew what they were. Those puppies were NOT grass. In fact, they were wild onions and there was no denying the fact once I took my first whiff. It turns out wild onion grows prolifically throughout Pennsylvania and if there is ever an apocalypse, Pennsylvanians will at least have onion to flavor their food. (Note: They don't taste THAT great, but will do in a pinch!)
Aside from the wild onions in our lawn, I also wanted to start growing my own onions (the big, delicious kinds!) when we first arrived in Pennsylvania. Four years later, onions are one of my "must-haves" in the garden as they are cheap, easy-to-grow and almost "no-fail".
I have learned a few things along the way...
A. Always buy onion "sets". Sets are basically bags of tiny little baby onions. Simply pop them into the ground and watch them grow! I have rarely had one of these babies fail. You can literally push them into the ground with a finger (in good, soft soil) and your planting job is complete.
B. Don't plant them too close together. Onions get pretty large under the ground AND on top of the soil, so give them some room. When onions are smooshed together, they end up growing wonky and neither of the two squished onions turns out particularly well.
C. White onions are fine. Yellow onions are better. Red onions are my FAVORITE. Everyone has different tastes, some preferring the sweet yellow onions (like Vidalias) while others like the bite of a fresh red (purple) onion. Onions are so cheap, I typically buy one bag of each.
D. WalMart onions are fine. I have purchased the more expensive onion sets from nursuries and have not seen a huge difference between these and the elcheapo WalMart sets. Of course, sometimes the nurseries will have a fun variety that a big box store doesn't carry, but for your first go round with onions, go with cheap. See my harvest of cheap onion soldiers HERE.
E. Onions help other plants. Onions are beneficial to a TON of other plants when they are planted amidst them. It is super easy to shove an onion bulb here and there amidst other plantings each spring. Onions are benfeicial to:
-- fruit trees
-- nightshades (tomatoes, some peppers, potatoes)
-- brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cali.)
I find onions especially easy to grow with potatoes. Just toss your potato chunks (from sets) in a bowl with starter onion babies and plant them all together. Super easy! Just keep them away from beans, peas and parsley. Onions don't play nice with them and both plants will suffer (although I must admit my peas did fine among a bunch of chives one year so.....)
F. Onions need nice soil. Like potatoes and other root crops, a nice loose soil will allow the root crop to grow into the form it should. Hard soil will produce small, dented onions and potatoes and carrots that looks like someone smashed them. That said, they are not horribly picky about the rest of the soil attributes. They just like it soft and fluffy.
G. Harvest onions after the stems have died. Wait for the stems to go from green to brown, then they will fall over, THEN you pull those onions up out of the ground! Learn more about how I harvest onions HERE.
F. Don't wait too long to harvest your onions or the stems will wither completely away and it will be harder to remember where all of the onions are and you will most definitely leave some in the ground where they might rot.
G. That said, a lot of onions that get left in the ground will make it through the winter and just start growing again come spring. I TOLD you onions were easy!
To learn more about DIY Gardening and how easy it can be, check out all of the posts by clicking the image below: