While autumn may signify the end of many gardening tasks, it’s also the beginning of a unique opportunity – planting onion seeds in fall. This often-overlooked season offers ideal conditions for these flavorful alliums to thrive. So, if you’re looking to elevate your culinary creations with homegrown, robust onions next year, this is the time to get your hands in the soil.
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Here in Zone 8 on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, early fall provides an excellent window of weather to get a jumpstart on spring, specifically planting onion seeds. Onions, known for their hardiness & versatility, thrive when sown in early October. In this blog post, we’ll explore why planting onion seeds in early fall is a smart and flavorful decision, along with some tips to get you started on your allium adventure.
Is it better to grow onions from seed or sets?
The choice between growing onions from seeds or sets depends on your gardening goals and local climate. Growing onions from seeds provides a wider selection of varieties and the opportunity to start with fresh, disease-free plants. It’s an excellent choice for those looking for unique or heirloom varieties. However, it requires a longer growing season, and seedlings can be more delicate initially. On the other hand, onion sets, which are small, partially grown bulbs, offer convenience and a shorter time to harvest. They are less prone to pests or diseases in their early stages and are often chosen for regions with shorter growing seasons. Ultimately, the choice between seeds and sets depends on your local conditions, preferred onion variety, and your gardening experience.
Personally, we are 100% team seeds, but you can learn more in this article.
Why Plant Onion Seeds in Fall?
- Cool-Season Resilience: Onions are cool-season crops that appreciate the milder temperatures of fall. Planting seeds now allows them to establish robust root systems before winter’s chill, ensuring they hit the ground running when spring arrives.
- Overwintering Perks: Fall-sown onion seeds experience a unique advantage – they overwinter in the ground, which triggers bulbing in response to the increasing daylight hours of spring. This natural progression results in larger, more flavorful onions.
- Early Harvest: By planting onions in the fall, you set yourself up for an earlier harvest in late spring or early summer. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of plucking fresh onions from your garden while the earth awakens.
- Reduced Competition: Many garden pests and weeds take a backseat during the cooler months. This means less competition for your onions, allowing them to flourish with fewer challenges.
Tips for Planting Onion Seeds in Fall:
- Choose the Right Onion Variety: Select onion varieties that are well-suited to your region and growing conditions. Consider both short-day and long-day types depending on your latitude. And choose a fun mix of reds, whites, yellows, shallots, bunching, chives, and more!
- Prepare the Soil: Onions thrive in well-drained, loose, and fertile soil. Enhance your garden beds with organic matter to create the perfect environment for them to grow. We recommend compost, blood meal, and bone meal for an organic fertilizer combo.
- Sow at the Right Depth: Plant onion seeds about half an inch deep, spaced roughly one inch apart. Ensure they receive adequate sunlight for healthy growth.
- Provide Adequate Water: Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged, during the growing season. Onions have shallow roots, so regular watering is essential.
- Watch for Pests: Keep an eye out for any pests or diseases and address them promptly. Onions can be susceptible to certain issues like onion flies or thrips.
- Thin Seedlings: As the seedlings grow, thin them to ensure proper spacing. Crowded onions may not develop to their full potential.
- Mulch for Protection: Apply a layer of mulch to help insulate the soil and protect the onion bulbs from extreme temperature fluctuations.
- Harvest Carefully: Harvest your onions when the tops have started to yellow and fall over. Allow them to cure in a cool, dry place before storage.
Planting onion seeds in the fall may seem like a bit of horticultural wizardry, but the rewards are undeniably delicious. So, if you’re eager to add the rich flavor of homegrown onions to your culinary creations, consider planting onion seeds in fall.
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