Onions – What Recommendations Do You Follow?

When various information on any garden topic is promoted by well known writers in popular publications, that information is probably taken to heart by the vast majority of readers as “THE” way things should be done.

The unfortunate part of that is those articles are not always correct.

And many times even when information is accurate they can’t tell enough in the allotted space to fully explain.

I received an email some weeks ago from a publication that is considered one of the best, if not THE best on gardening stuff. They were promoting an article on onion growing, so naturally I read it.

It was written by someone who has won many awards for writing, is extremely well known as a garden writer, and gardens as a hobby.

Although the writer gardens in an area similar to mine, I noticed several things that I would disagree with to one extent or the other.

Following are 3 of the recommendations in the article. After the writers recommendation I’ve given mine and what I base it on.

When to Harvest?

#1 – Article Recommendation was to lift all the onions once half the tops in a planting have fallen over.

Here’s what I’ve written about that in my forthcoming book on onions:

“Even though onions in a bed may be of the same variety and were planted at the same time, they don’t all mature at the same time. They can be days apart or even a week or more apart.

“When you go by nature’s way to determine harvest time (the top falling over naturally), it will increase the storage potential for your onions. When the neck softens to the point where the tops fall naturally, the neck is able to shrink tightly when the onion is cured. That’s an important factor in storage life.

“If you ‘break’ the necks (harvest before they fall naturally), as many sources recommend, you decrease storage potential.

“Market growers often harvest all the onions in a row or bed when about half have fall over. The increased storage potential benefit mentioned above is of little value to them when they want to get their crop to market as soon as possible. But it can make a big difference for home gardeners who want onions for winter use.”

How to Plant – One step or Many?

#2 – Article Recommendation was to mix 1 inch layer of mature compost;( I understood this to mean add to the soil before making the furrow); make v-shaped furrow in bed; fill with 1 inch of rich compost or dusting of dry organic fertilizer.

This follows what is commonly recommended. And there’s  nothing wrong with adding mature compost if you want to.

But if you’re renewing your soil each year with organic materials there’s really no need to do any of that. And especially no need to buy and use a dry organic fertilizer.

The organic materials decaying/decayed will add everything to the soil that your plants need to grow.

Onions have been one of my main crops for almost 40 years and I’ve never done any of the things mentioned in the article when planting. I just pulled back the mulch and planted the onions.

(When I grew for market I planted 2,500 onions. After that I cut back to about 1,200.)

One of the most important things that was not mentioned in the article under “how to plant onions” was planting depth.

Planting depth should be about 1 inch. One of the most common mistakes gardeners make is planting onions too deep which results in small onions.

Curing Not Necessary? And Storing Where?!

#3 – Article Recommendation was to cure short-day onions for just a few days, then trim and store in the refrigerator.

I could hardly believe that one!  It too is addressed in my book as follows:

“Storage potential for short day onions can vary from 1 month to 3 months depending on the variety.  I’ve had them sometimes store well for 4 months.

“If you want short day onions to reach their full storage potential you must properly cure them rather than just let them dry for a few days. (Proper curing takes 2 to 4 weeks depending on humidity.)

“If you only have a few and you plan on eating them soon, leave them out just as if they were curing.

“Storing fully mature onions in a refrigerator is not a good idea if you want to enjoy the great taste of fresh onions.

“Cold, humid temperatures change the onions. They lose their flavor and that crisp moist texture.

“Conditions in a refrigerator are opposite the proper storage in a cool, dry environment with good air circulation.

“Young onions (scallions and green onions) pulled for fresh eating are the exception to the rule. They can be kept fresh for several days in a refrigerator without a change in flavor or texture.”

Final Thoughts

You’ve just learned several of my easy secrets to growing great organic onions.  In my forthcoming book, you’ll learn many more.


Related Posts:

How to Have Garden Onions April Thru January

Growing Onions

Following Standard Gardening Advice/Some Examples and Why it Might Happen


All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.


  • Thank you Theresa for addressing these specific guidelines!
    I absolutely planted my onions too deep the first year I planted as I was following “reputable” sage garden advice.

    Fortunately the following planting season I had read your blog on onions. Even tho I felt like I couldn’t grow onions I tried one more time following your instructions. Oh my gosh I had wonderful delicious onions!

    This year my garden has been a prime example of onions becoming ready to pull at different times even tho they were planted at the same time. They have fallen over a third of the bed at a time. I was a little concerned leaving the others in the garden because it had started to rain quite hard.

    Thank you for helping me NOT give up, but instead, learn how to grow delicious onions!

  • Can’t wait for your onion book…I’ve never grown such nice onions as since I’ve been heeding your advice!!!

  • Looking forward to your new book. The advice you have given me so far has produced great onion sandwiches which I am enjoying for the first time in years. I enjoyed watching them grow for the first time and now have a new veggie to watch grow which is the fun in gardening.

    Thanks again

    Ray Kent

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