How Do I Know When to Harvest Onions in My Garden?
Knowing when to harvest your crops is an important part of being a farmer. You may not think of yourself as a farmer, but if you use any part of your land, even if it is just a little planter on your apartment balcony to grow crops that you or your family are going to eat, you are a modern farmer.
Onions are one of the most important ingredients in many dishes around the world. In the United States they can be added to chili, grilled to put on burgers, added to your favorite pizzas, or put in a salad for extra flavor. If you have onions growing in your garden with fall approaching, you may find yourself wondering when it is time to pull them up and enjoy them.
Onion Growing Time
Onions are normally planted in the spring when the soil is warm enough to work and won’t freeze them anymore. The onion growing time will vary based on what you want to use your onions for. If you are growing spring onions, you can harvest them as soon as they are the size you want because you aren’t waiting for the big bulbs to form. If you are waiting for those big bulbs for your mild or pungent onion variety, you will wait until the fall to harvest them.
Out of Sight, but Not Out of Mind
Due to the fact that onions are a bulb that grows underground, it can be hard to know just when to harvest onions because they are hidden from plain sight. There are a few tricks to knowing when your onions are ready, even if their bulbs aren’t poking up from the ground. You can harvest them at any point during the summer if you are going to be using them right away. However, if you intend to store them, it is important to know the right time.
Are They Ready Yet?
When the tops of your onions start to turn yellow or brown, you know that your onions are almost ready. Do not get worried if you see them doing this. This is the onion’s way of signalling to you that it is in fact done growing and can be pulled up to be stored for later use.
Another way that you know when your onions are ready to be pulled up, is when you see the tops of them start to fall over. The plant will fall over at the neck of the onion which also is a signal to you that the onion has stopped growing. If you are in a hurry to harvest your onion crop, you can speed this drying process up by loosening the dirt around them before they are completely ready, or stomping their tops down when it looks like they are getting close.
Ok, It Looks Like They Are Ready
If your onion tops are brown and fallen over, and you know that it is time for them to be pulled up, it is time to get in the dirt and do the dirty work. You can start to separate the dirt from them while they are still in the ground a couple days in advance to start the drying process, or you just pull them up when they are ready. As soon as you pull them up, it is important to start the curing process so that they will be stored properly until you are ready to use them.
After The Harvest
After you pull your onions out of their soil, you have to put them in a good spot so the curing process will be successful and they won’t go bad. If your soil is already dry, you can lay the onions right next to the hole you pulled them from for a day or two to start drying in the sun. If the soil is still wet, or if you are expecting rain or freezing temperatures, you should move them inside to a dry place.
You can spread your onions out on the floor of your garage or basement and let them dry. It is also important to be careful not to bruise them, because this could cause them to start rotting and you don’t want to see your crops go to waste. Once your onions are completely dry and the paper like skins are tightened around the bulbs, you can cut off the necks and their roots and store them put them in a proper place for storage.
Where Should I Store Them?
Now that you have successfully grown, harvested, and cured your onion crop, you may be wondering where you should store them so that you always have them on hand when you want to add them into your favorite recipes. It is best to store them in a mesh bag, orchard rack, or a flat cardboard box that has holes cut in it for ventilation. It is also important not to store them with any other produce like apples or pears because the gasses put off by these fruits will make the onions go bad.
How Long Will They Stay Good?
Another important thing to keep in mind when you have successfully harvested and dried your onions is just how long they will stay good for. If you have grown a mild onion variety such as a Vidalia, Spanish, or Bermuda onion, they will only stay good in storage for about two months.
If you have grown a pungent onion variety such as a Candy, Copra, or Yellow Globe onions, they will last much longer in good conditions. These onions can stay good up to a year in storage to have on hand for all your cooking needs.
Knowing when to harvest your onions can be a tricky question. It is hard to know when they are ready because they grow out of sight. However, if you just know what to look for, like your shoots turning brown or yellow and falling over, you will be on the road to having a very successful onion crop.
Also, make sure to be careful not to bruise them, and to cure them in a dry place so that you can keep these onions for 10-12 months depending on their variety and the thickness of their outer skin.