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22 December 2020

How to grow onions

Onions are a kitchen staple that are easy to grow, read on to find out the best tips from our gardening experts
Ceri Thomas

How to sow onions

Onions need plenty of time to grow so it's best to sow them early in the year in January or February. Exhibition growers sow their onions as early as Christmas. Sow the seed indoors in a modular tray filled with a Best Buy compost for sowing seeds. Grow them in a well-lit, frost-free place until they're ready to plant outdoors. Alternatively you could grow your onions from baby bulbs known as 'sets' instead.

How to plant onions

Dig over the soil and rake to provide a loose 'seedbed'. Use a trowel to plant both sets and plants. If you're planting sets, just cover the tops with soil so birds don't pull them out again. Most onions are planted in spring, but there are some varieties which are planted in autumn for an earlier crop the following year.

More medium-sized bulbs, space plants and sets 10cm apart; plant them closer together for smaller bulbs, or further apart for bigger bulbs.

Space rows 15-30cm apart to allow for hoeing between them. Hand weed around the plants to avoid damage. It's important to weed onions because they dislike competition from other plants. 

Harvesting onions

When the leaves naturally fall over, lift the onions with a fork to break the roots, and leave them to ripen and dry. You may need to move them into a shed or greenhouse if the weather is wet to allow them to finish drying. Make sure the onions are completely dry before storing them. Reject any that are rotting, and use any bolted bulbs first. 

Tie or plait the undamaged bulbs into strings, or lay in single layers on wooden trays, and put them in a cool and airy, but frost-free place. The old trick of putting them in tights with a knot between each onion also works well, as it keeps them separate and prevents rots from spreading. Laying in trays in a cool shed is also an effective technique. Whichever method you use, check the stored onions every couple of weeks and remove any that are starting to sprout or feel soft.

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