Onions belong to the Allium family. It is such a popular crop that almost any dish you could make requires you to put in onions. The parts of the onion plant are all edible. In fact, onions are good for the health. It has anti-cancer properties and contains Vitamin A, C, Potassium and Phosphorous.
Varieties There are many onion varieties available in the market today. With these in mind, you can actually choose the varieties that will thrive best in your area. It is necessary to ask your local gardener about this. The varieties can be divided into 4 main categories – yellow onions, red onions, white onions and bunching onions, which are onions that have no bulb and are exclusively used as scallions. The four varieties differ in size, shape and sweetness levels. Yellow onions are the sweetest and the best ones for cooking. These varieties have gold skin on their outer layer and light yellow flesh or off-white flesh on the inner layer. Some examples are Walla Walla, Candy Hybrid, Granex Yellow Hybrid and Texas Supersweet.
The White onions are the mildest of all the onion varieties and can be used raw or cooked. These varieties have a white appearance both on the outer and inner layer. Some examples of these varieties are Snow White Hybrid, White White and White Granex. Red Onions are the more-well known of all varieties as these onions are the ones used on sandwiches and salads. These onions have white and red flesh and have red skin. They are very crisp yet do not store well. Some examples are Giant Red Hamburger, Salad Red and Red Delicious. Bunching onions are the ones that never form a bulb and do not store well. Some examples are Evergreen Long white, Parade and White Lisbon.
Soil ConditionsOnions prefer a slightly acidic soil. A ph level of 5.5 to 6.5 is good. They will tolerate any type of soil from sandy loam to heavy clay. However they will do best in light, sandy, well-drained, deep loam. Avoid waterlogged soil as this will lead to rotting of your onion plants. To prepare your soil before planting, mix in plenty of manure and compost at a rate of 1 ½ bucketful per square yard. Two weeks before you are going to plant your onions, apply some fish manure that also has 10% potash content at 4 ounces or 120 grams per square yard. However, if you are going to plant the autumn sown varieties, mix in a dressing of 4 ounces or 120 grams of bone meal and 2 ounces or 60 grams of sulphate of potash in February.
For land that has low lime content, try adding carbonate of lime as a top dressing at 5 ounces or 150 grams per square yard. Onions will have good produce when your soil is kept between the ph levels of 6.5 to 7.0. If you are going to plant during the autumn season, avoid using compost or manure. Choose an area where a crop that was well-fertilized had grown and sow the onions there. Remember, if your plants begin to turn yellow-green, they lack nitrogen. If they turn light green, they lack phosphorous and have the tendency to mature slowly. Potassium deficiency is when there is poor bulb formation and the tips of leaves are brown.
PlantingIt is best to plant your onions in modules in January or February at temperatures ranging from 10 degrees to 15 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant your onions in five or six seeds in every module in damp seed compost. Later on you will observe that as they expand, the clumps of bulbs will grow apart. Layer your seeds with vermiculite and put some labels including the date of planting and the variety name as this will make it easier for you. For a whole year supply, try planting during the spring and you will be able to harvest by August and during late summer or autumn and you will be able to harvest by June. For your onions to reach the maximum size though, you will have to undergo a long growing season.
Watering Make it a point to water immediately after you feeding your onions. It is necessary that moisture is maintained during the growing season. Water the plants regularly but avoid overwatering. The onions will require more water when they are close to harvest season.
Light Onions love the sunlight thus it is best that you plant them in an area that it will receive full sunlight. They would love to have sunlight as much as they can get.
Fertilizing Onions need lots of nitrogen. A rate of one cup per twenty feet of row of a nitrogen-based fertilizer such as ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate is necessary. This should be applied three weeks after planting and then continuously doing so by applying it every 2 – 3 weeks. If you feel that the neck is a little soft, stop applying fertilizer. Usually this happens about 4 weeks before the harvest.
Harvesting The best time to harvest is after the week the onion tops have fallen over and have turned yellow. It is best that you use a fork to harvest the onions. Avoid damaging the skins as this may decay the skins. Harvest your onions on a sunny day to avoid mud and dirt from clumping around the onions. Make sure that the tops have dried out before storing them. If you see onions with signs of damage or decay, separate them from the healthy ones as these will affect the storage quality.
Try your hand in plant growing. Onions are the perfect plants to start your green thumb hobby. Choose from many varieties and enjoy the many dishes the good old onion has to offer.