The spring is one of the most beautiful seasons. Everything is blooming, blossoms appear, and the whole nature seems to wake up. Since we are part of this nature, we feel invigorated as well. So, why not to learn how to grow spring onions so that that beautiful feeling may last longer?
Undoubtedly, the Internet can give you an abundance of information, but people tend to forget important, yet tiny things.
Here’s the guide which will cover everything from first to the last step.
Hello, I’m Spring Onion!
Although it was a bit confusing to me, spring onions or scallions, are not the same as the regular ones. Onions may also be picked when young, and such are called spring onion as well, but only in Europe. Distinguish the two, so there will be no confusion.
And also, here are some fact about spring onions:
Setting The Location
Choosing the place where spring onions will grow was somewhat tricky for me. Space was not an issue; I had the whole garden at my disposal. The trouble was to find the soil which will require the least modifications.
All kinds of onions love loose, drained and well-aerated soil, so checking how much water the soil will contain was my primary task. If the ground retains the water too much, consider to infuse sand so that it will run off faster, and there is also a factor of manure; the adequately manured soil is less likely to hold water.
The next thing was to find an adequate pH soil meter and check whether limestone or sulfur should be added. Since my soil was relatively neutral (7.1) I had to add a touch of lime, to increase the acidity slightly.
Also, this was high time to manure and prepare the soil in general for the upcoming sowing season. February frosts have passed, and March was mild and perfect for manuring. Two weeks before seeding was enough to hand-tile the upper layer of the soil, up to the depth of 8-9”. I have turned the ground every day, but the manure was added the only a couple of times.
The matter of sunlight is essential for spring onions because they require a full day of sun. Do not forget what you are growing on both sides of the lines since trellises and tall plants might block the Sun, which will hamper the growth.
Choosing The Seed
Botany, as a science, has progressed a lot for the past fifty years. Thanks to professional growers, there are much more varieties of spring onions than there used to be. However, which one you will choose, depends only on your preference.
Here are some of the most commonly used ones:
The most common variety, it is known for its mild taste and easy maintenance.
White Lisbon Winter Hardy (not Tom)
The subvariety of the previous one, but hardened for colder areas and colder conditions. Great for early sowing.
Spring Onion Guardsman
“TEN-HUT” is the first thing you will think about (as I have) once you see rows of upright green leaves lined up like soldiers. It is also a mild variety.
Red in color, as the name suggests, this variety is a later one. Sown from June onwards, it brags with excellent bolting resistance.
Both smoke on the water and the fire in the sky, this one brings a tad stronger taste but remains in the range of “mild.” It also has a bit larger bulbs and is convenient for decorative salads. Did I say that it is purple? Well, it is.
My personal favorite from this list is White Lisbon Winter Hardy. Although my region doesn’t suffer from cold springs and sudden icy winds, I wanted to start as early as possible, and I was also curious to see how it will work (this time curiosity didn’t kill the cat).
All of those listed are of mild variety for a reason. In most cases, I’m using spring onions for salads and stir-fry recipes. If the taste of them is too strong, it will “overshadow” all others, thus spoiling the taste. Also, there are fewer chances to be given away by breath.
Grab The Shovel; We’re Sowing!
Now, with the soil prepared, the temperature at comfortable 60°F, and the sowing could begin. The best time for planting is early in the morning, but if you have something to do before seeding, it is not a big deal. Spring onion understands, he won’t judge you.
Some people are recommending to dig a hole, put several seeds inside and cover it with soil. Although this is an excellent approach, I feel that it is inappropriate for spring onions. Those guys love company, and thinning out is not necessary, so why isolate them? Instead, by using a hoe, I have made a canal about 1” deep, all the length of the area where I have planned to sow. Of course, by tightening the rope along the way, I got an excellent direction on how to draw the line; I love my lines to be straight and neat.
Next, I have sprinkled the seed lightly along the row. Of course, I didn’t want to overdo it, so I made a nice line with a few empty spots here and there, 1/16 of an inch wide. After that, I have covered it lightly with soil and watered. Mind that is watering should always be in sprinkles, so your watering can is ideal. You can also try with a hand sprayer, but this is way too tiresome. The onions love water, but the soil needs to stay moist and not muddy. Even spreading of water is thus essential.
For the next six weeks taking care of my lovely and nicely progressing spring onions was pretty straightforward. Once a day I took a stroll between the lines, to see how they are progressing. There were a few weeds here and there, but I got rid of them as soon as I saw them sprouting. In case that you don’t have enough time for daily visits, you can always bring the mulch to the rescue. It will prevent both water from evaporating, and will also keep the weeds at bay.
If it happens that the soil is too dry or the weather is horrible with no rain, you can always opt to add liquid fertilizer. Making a manure tea will be an exciting project, and besides spring onions all other vegetables might benefit from it.
Of course, keeping that pH factor under control is critical, since onions are drawing all of the nutrients from the soil, and it makes the pH unstable and changing. Besides nutrients, spring onions are known to “drink while there is water,” so if you overdo with watering, the result will be spring onions with diluted taste and swollen bulbs, so these might not be the one you wish for your salad.
Time To Harvest!
In general, there is only one way to be sure that the onions are ready for pulling out. Approximately 6-8 weeks from sowing is the time for harvesting. Try with one, and if it is prepared, carry on with the harvest. A few days will not make a drastic difference, but the longer it stays on the ground, the taste will be stronger.
Also, you can choose to cut out the greens above the ground, and leave the bulbs in the field over the winter. This will result in unique taste of the onion in the spring.
Pests And Menaces
The arch-nemesis of every onion is an onion fly. These nasty little critters will lay their eggs in the soil next to the onion bulbs. From the eggs, larvae are hatching and are attaching to the bulb. After that, they continue their happy lives by eating through the bulb.
They may be underground, but they can’t hide the changes on leaves which will appear once they start feasting. Removing any affected plant is the first line of defense, and after that, you can lift the things up by the notch, and remove the upper layer of the soil around the plants, add wood ash, and cover it again.
Thrips are small insects which are attacking in swarms. They wreak havoc among everything that can be eaten but are luckily easy to spot. Yellow blotches and eaten areas of the leaves are left behind them. If you see one appearing, you can first thin their ranks with pyrethrin, and then call the cavalry in the form of ladybugs or green lacewings which are their natural enemies, and will eat them out. What makes them more persistent is the fact that grow in numbers fast because females lay eggs without males.
Diseases which are attacking onions in most cases are caused by high moisture within the soil. If this situation occurs, and you notice strange blotches and spots of different color, with the absence of the insects, feel free to utilize organic fungicide. Notice that not all fungi are susceptible to this, and some may even be immune.
So, here is my guide. How to grow spring onions should be quite clear for you now, so there is no reason for you not to try and raise them yourself. They may appear as a bit troublesome, concerning the pests and close look you must take, but are highly rewarding in the end. Fresh salad or eaten raw with the pinch of the salt is all which is needed to make your day smell like spring.
Of course, all of your concerns, advice, and knowledge is more than welcome in the comment section below. Feel free to use it!