Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Planting Onions? Now's the Time!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Onions are one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden

They're generally hardy to temperatures as low as 20 degrees F and they're not super picky about the soil.  And onions that are properly harvested and stored can last as long as 6 months.

But timing is everything.  There are some folks who claim that onions should be planted in the fall before cool weather.  There's certainly nothing wrong with doing that, but it won't give you the biggest onion bulbs.  To get the biggest onions, all you need to do is plant in early spring and add compost.  That's it!

You can grow onions from seed, but it can be tricky to get them started or transplant them and the seeds may require a longer growing season than you have in your area, which is why most folks (including moi) plant onion sets.  Onion sets are just tiny bulbs and they're usually available from seed or garden stores, but just note that sets will be more expensive than starting from seed.    Once you have your sets, you're ready to plant.  Here are some things to make your onion growing project a success:

  • The best time to plant onion sets is early Spring about 4 to 6 weeks BEFORE the last freeze.  In Missouri, that's right now!  Don't worry....if it frosts, it won't hurt the bulbs.
  • Pick a planting location that has at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.  Onions will grow in shadier areas, but the size of the bulbs depends on the level of direct sunlight.  More sun = bigger onions.
  • Raised beds are perfect for growing onions because they love the better drainage and less soil compaction.  You can plant onions in the same location every year, but just be aware that you run the risk of disease affecting the plants.  It's a good idea to rotate every once in awhile.
  • Onions love nitrogen-rich soil and will do well with regular fertilizer applications.  Prep the beds by adding well-rotted manure or compost and then tilling the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Then rake the soil smooth.
  • Make a small hole about an inch deep in the soil with your finger and insert the bulb.  Make sure the stem is pointing up (you can see which end is the stem in the picture above.)  Cover the top of the set and then push down firmly with your hands.  Onions should be planted 4 inches apart in rows that are 1 foot apart.
  • Water thoroughly and keep the soil evenly moist to encourage new growth.  Unless you live in a really dry climate (like Missouri this winter), you shouldn't need to water much in the Spring.  Onions actually prefer a slightly dry environment, so don't water too much.  It could cause them to rot.
  • Keep the area weeded so they sets aren't competing with weeds for nutrients.  It doesn't hurt to mulch around them to help suppress the weeds.
  • Apply a water-soluble 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer once a month. I'm planning on using coffee grounds on mine, as they're high in nitrogen. And some fellow gardeners shared that the grounds will repel onion maggots as well.  They actually put a little bit of grounds in the bottom of the hole before they plan the onion set.  I didn't do that myself, but I may try it next year to see if it makes any difference.
  • You can interplant onions with other veggies, such as lettuce, tomatoes or even strawberries.  Since I had some extra space until the strawberry plants fill in, I planted mine on one end of the strawberry bed.
  • Now you wait.  The onion tops will start to turn yellow and fall over in mid-summer and then the onion plants will be ready for harvest.

I plantied my sets today as the sun was setting and the chickens were heading in for bed.  It's the end of January and the thermometer should be reading 25 degrees, but it says I was out in shorts and a t-shirt.  The days are already getting longer.  Feels like Spring!

Find out what other folks like me are doing over at the HomeStead Barn Hop and the FarmGirl Friday Blog Hop.


  1. Great tips! I tried onions last year for the first time. They were small but stored very well...I still have some. Sounds like I may have got them in way to late. Now I know.

  2. Marmepurl: This will be the first year I've put mine in this early so we'll see if it makes a difference. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. Thank you for sharing this great and practical post on Farmgirl Friday. I got my onions in too.


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