Onion is an ancient food dating back to 5000 B.C. It was introduced to North America by the pilgrims and was one of the first crops planted by the colonists.
A large number of varieties can be found today ranging from large sweet onions to scallions. With the ability to enhance many foods, onions are a staple in many gardens today, as well as at the dinner table. It doesn’t take a lot of space to grow onions and they do well in planters as well as open space vegetable gardens. Let’s explore some of the ways to grow onions at home when gardening space is limited, or worse, no garden space is available at all. Planters can be grown on terraces, porches, backyards, or indoors. Onions are also happy living among the flowers and look right at home among the colors of the season. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
When space is an issue, the onion will adapt readily to containers. Choose a container with drainage, that is large enough to accommodate the number of onions you want to plant. At least 12″ deep since the bulb growing is done underground.
Plant from onion sets or transplants, about 3″ deep, leaving 3-4″ of space around each plant. Onions prefer moderately moist soil. Water when top of soil dries out. Do not over saturate or your onions can rot. Place container in direct sun if possible. Harvest when stems fall over.
A nice addition to flower beds is vegetables. Onions will look right at home among your blooms and can be planted sporadically throughout. Choose a sunny location. Onions enjoy full sun especially when planted among flowers which may cause shading. Plant onions between flowering plants and foliage leaving 3-4″ of space around each. Keep in mind when planting in flower beds, the mature size of the plants surrounding the onions, to avoid too much shading. Try to plant your onions among shorter flowering varieties that will not over power the onions. Keep soil moderately moist. Harvest when stems fall over.
Onions adapt well to indoor growing as long as they receive the proper amount of light. Plant in individual deep containers when planting indoors. Find containers at least 8″ that will allow proper drainage and place a saucer underneath. Fill with potting soil and plant one transplant or onion set in each pot. Place in sunny window or under grow lights. Keep soil moderately moist. Harvest when stems fall over.
Scallions or white bunching onions are especially adaptable to being grown in water. Simply find a glass jar or vase, place onion plants inside and add water. Place in sunny window. Be sure to wash roots before planting in water to avoid rot. Cut greens as needed.
Alternative Indoor Planters
For a more decorative or interesting effect, onions are especially adaptable to alternative containers. One method is to cut the top off of a 2 liter soda bottle. Cut small holes randomly around entire bottle from top to bottom, leaving about 2″ uncut on the bottom for soil. As you fill the bottle with soil, insert a bunching onion into each hole, deep enough to keep onion in place. Once filled, place in sunny location and keep soil moist. Be sure to keep a large saucer under bottle to catch overflow when watering. Stems will grow upwards and create an interesting living design. Cut stems as needed for adding to your favorite dishes.
Onions come in a variety of sizes and colors, strengths and uses. Follow planting and care instructions for your chosen variety for best results. While bunching onions can be grown for continuous cuttings, bulb onions will need to be harvested and stored. Pull bulbs after stems have fallen over and store for 6 months to a year in a cool dry place.
Until next time, Happy Planting!