How do you know when your onions are ready to harvest?
The foliage falls to the ground and turns brown.
These are the onions we harvested last week. This is our first year growing onions, so I qualify only as an onion novice. We were hoping for bigger onions. The red ones were particularly small--only the size of golf balls. When I mentioned this to Drew Norman on a recent visit to his farm in Baltimore County, he immediately asked, "Did you plant them from seeds or from sets?"
After doing a bit more reading on onions, I've learned that onions are much more likely to thrive if started from seed rather than from sets, the sets being in essence a baby onion. Why this is so I'm still not sure. Growing from seeds would pose a bit of difficulty for us, since the seeds would be planted in dead of winter and we don't have a greenhouse. We'll have to think on that one.
In addition, I think our onions could have used more sun. Onions are divided into two categories: long-day, for northern areas of the country, and short-day for the South. Here in the District of Columbia we are a bit on the edge, but a check of my catalogue for Southern Exposure Seed (based near Charlottesville, VA) indicates that long-day onions are recommended for our region.
Our east-facing garden gets an average of six to seven hours of sun. As the season wore on, our rows of onions were a bit shaded by surrounding tomato plants. They might also have done better with additional side dressings of compost. Onions apparently do like to feed.
Still, we are happy to have our own ready supply of onions from the garden. I am following directions to cure them by leaving them in a well-ventilated spot out of direct sun for a couple of weeks, or until they develop a tough skins. The onions should not be touching each other. For long-term storage, you can hang the onions in an old pair of nylon stockings, tying off each onions so they are all held in their own individual pouches.
The only remaining question would be, Where do you get the old nylons?