Onions are beside potatoes and tomatoes the most often vegetables in every garden. However, about 80% of onions grown are of the yellow variety, just because of their broad usage. I’m considering this to be injustice done to the red onion. This is such a magnificent plant, and by me far better than the yellow one, and if you agree with me, this article is for you.
What Is Red Onion?
We all know what onion is. The common plant which grows for two years, and it is used worldwide. But, when it comes to red onions, a subvariety of the yellow one, there are a few interesting facts about red onions which you probably didn’t know.
Red onions are, as I said, a subspecies of the yellow one. Their distinctive purple or reddish shade gave them a name. In general, these varieties are better if you can’t stand the strong smell and as I call it, “the onion trail” (the taste which remains long after the onion is consumed). Some of them even lack the odor and have a sweet taste.
What Will Be Needed?
If you are following my blog, you know that I’m trying to cover more different situations at once. However, this time it won’t be the case. Although it is true that onions can be grown from seed, pods or started in the trellis and transferred to the garden after, I will only cover the second case. Red onions are far best when grown from pods, so this is my favorite approach.
As for tools and equipment, you will need a spade, a shovel, watering can and fertilizer. If something is mentioned later, it won’t be anything extraordinary. The majority of equipment is already in your shed, I’m sure.
Where And When Should I Plant Red Onions?
As I mentioned, all kinds of onions require full sun and the soil with pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If you don’t know which pH value the ground in your garden has, try using pH tester. These are easy to use and pretty accurate. In case that some leveling of pH of the land is needed, it is easy to add limestone to raise pH, or sulfur to make it lower.
If you wish do things fast, use organic potting soil and infuse it into the area where you plan to sow your onions. On the other hand, you can take things slowly, and add several inches of manure and till the ground once in every few days for two weeks. This will infuse organic matter and nutrients into the soil, and will also improve drainage of it. Since onions are not overly fond of damp soil, this will benefit them as well.
The matter of timetable is also essential when growing onions. They are hardy plants and can withstand frost to some extent, but don’t push things too far. The best time to plant onions is in early spring, but keep a close look to the weather forecast. Try to avoid frosts as much as possible. For me, the ideal time for sowing was the second half of the March, since the weather was nice and warm, with occasional chilly winds, but nothing drastic.
How To Plant Red Onions?
If you planted onions, then you will know how to plant red variety as well. I have used a long rope to make lines so that they will be straight and in order. By using a spade, I have dug one hole at every 4-5 inches. This space might seem too much, but once onion grows, it will fill the gaps. Now, I’ve put one pod in every hole, with roots down. If you never planted onions before, roots will grow from the flat part of the pod, which must go downward.
After putting the pod in a hole, I’ve covered it with soil and watered until the ground was soaked. More watering will continue on every 5-7 days for the first month because besides being heavy feeders, onions need a lot of water too. However, after the first month, do not water as much, since the bulb will grow much more significant, and the taste will be diluted and ruined.
If you haven’t applied fertilizer, you can kill two birds with one stone when it comes to watering. Try using manure tea or other kinds of organic fertilizers. This will provide both water and much-needed nitrogen for young plants.
How To Take Care After The First Month?
Luckily, onions are not demanding plants. There is not much you can do after the first month. Fertilizer will not help the bulbs but will do damage instead since it can lead to overgrowing and lousy taste. Also, burns are not impossible, so my advice is to avoid applying fertilizer. On the other hand, water is crucial for the plant to grow, and if it rains at least once a week, they should be all right.
If the area where you are living is not famous for rain, watering once in every week or twice if the weather is scorching is needed. My overall approach is to water the garden early in the morning, before sunrise. Although this requires me to get up at 4:30 AM sometimes, it is the best course of action for onions. If the ground is heated, the water will get hot too. This will damage already weak roots by “cooking” them. Therefore, set the alarm early!
It is true that onions don’t need fertilizers, but this doesn’t mean that they can live from sun and water. Nutrients held within the soil are essential for proper development, so I had to remove all weeds as soon as they apply. This is vital since weeds are stealing valuable nutrients, and can suffocate onions in cases of extreme negligence.
Chemicals are not recommended, and I tend to avoid them as much as possible. Instead, a nice layer of mulch will help to keep the moist within the soil, and to hold back the weed. Just be careful not to go too far, since organic material watered and left to rot in the sun will attract pests which are feeding on organics such as mites and thrips.
Luckily, there are some growth boosters, such as Microbial Inoculants which are completely safe and natural. Those will rather improve the intake of nutrients and minerals rather than providing them. Since onions tend to be a bit sensitive, this is an awesome solution.
When And How To Harvest And Store Red Onions?
Depending on variety which you choose, it can take from 5 to 7 months for onions to fully grow and be ready for harvesting. I can’t pinpoint the exact timeframe, but you can take a look at your plants. Once the flower develops, you should know that harvesting time draws near.
My preference is to cut off the flower when it develops and to monitor things closely from that moment. When green leaves begin to wither and turn first yellow and then brown, it is a matter of day when the harvest will be collected. To add more sweetness to bulbs, I always leave them in the soil for a few days after removing wilted leaves.
After that, by using a trowel to loosen the soil, I remove the bulbs from the ground. Luckily for me, the harvesting was in September, and the sun was still generous, so I could leave them in the field to dry out.
Dried bulbs are after that collected and set in crates padded with old newspaper, and left at the terrace to dry further. There were few bruised bulbs here and there, so I set those aside for to be used first. Of course, damaged parts were cut off, and the rest of the bulb was cooked.
If you have a basement or well-covered shed, this is where you should store onions. I took a few trips to check them out from time to time, and to see if there are soft bulbs which need to be removed. It is vital to keep the contact between bulbs as low as possible, so stacking crates one upon the other is acceptable while piling up the bulbs is not.
What Should You Look For When Growing Red Onions?
As with all other types of onions, there are just a few pests which will dare to attack this tasty bulb. Onion fly is the Joker to this Batman, has no restraints or moral codes (probably because it is an insect), and it can be difficult to get rid of. They are nasty since they lay eggs in the soil, and the larvae are eating the layers of the bulb later. If you see one of those, dispatch infected plants first, remove the top layer of the soil after that, add wood ash and cover it again.
Although rarely, thrips can also make a bold move and to try to steal your harvest. This problem is solved by applying pyrethrin first, to thin them out, and introduce their natural enemies such as lacewings or ladybugs, to finish the job.
In case of fungi or other changes to the leaves, you can try to apply a solution of baking soda and water, but this is somewhat hit-and-miss system. It can work, but it is not guaranteed. Also, there are a lot of organic fungicides available, so you can try using that.
As you can see, this is not such a big deal. Learning how to grow red onions is, a matter of fact, a piece of cake, since onions have low maintenance requirements, and can be even left to grow during winter, like the ordinary ones. This will improve the taste even further. Feel free to try it, since I’ve already written about that.
Also, I have to point out that these Microbial Inoculants delighted me, so make sure to see for yourself!
As always, all of your comments, advice, and tips are more than welcome in the comment section below.