Onion Harvest 2022 - How to Grow a New Crop Thoughtfully

My intention for the 2022 season was to grow a successful onion crop.

And I did!  I planted 72 onion sets and harvested 70. 

This post isn't about bragging. I wanted to share how I did it, and I hope it will help you when you want to grow a particular crop that seems too difficult, or one that you've failed growing in the past.  

 

Step 1: Set the Intention

The biggest step is to set your intention - decide for yourself that you're going to make a serious effort to grow the new crop. Sometimes we get a bit lazy and rely on past experience only. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When you commit, you will take the steps to be successful. 

Step 2: Educate Yourself

The next step is to read up a bit on the crop. You can probably find all the information you need online, particularly on your state's cooperative extension website. Things you want to know:

  • Which varieties do well in your area
  • When to plant, what form to plant (transplants or seeds)
  • Watering, fertilization, any special care notes such as plant supports, protection, etc.
  • Common problems and pests, and how to combat them
  • When to harvest - how to tell when it is time to harvest
  • Care after the harvest, if needed.

In the past, when I planted onions, I didn't appreciate how critically important it was to plant at the right time. I was planting them too late, and I didn't get big heavy bulbs as a result. One year, I watered them too much, too close to harvest, and I ended up with onion mush. 

You can also learn from an experienced gardener. If you know someone who grows the crop well, ask them for tips.

Step 3: Implement What You Learned

All of that learning is useless unless you implement it. You might have to set yourself reminders.

For example, my research revealed to me that onions benefit from an extra application of fertilizer when the young plants have 6 to 8 leaves. I had to make sure I had the fertilizer on hand, watch for the right time to apply it, then apply it. 

Step 4: Harvest and Evaluate

Hopefully these steps will lead to a wonderful harvest. But if it doesn't, what went wrong? Start asking questions online or ask a fellow gardener, or even call a gardening hotline. Learn from the mistake and try again next year. 

If your crop was terrific, that's great! You aren't an expert yet, though! Consider what you observed such as:

  • Did I grow enough? Did I grow too much?
  • Does it taste good?
  • Do I and my family enjoy eating it? 
  • Were there any challenges while growing it, something I can do better next year?

It's a good idea to plant your new crop again next year if you liked eating it, of course. Try a different variety of the crop along with a few of the same variety you had success with. Plant more or less. Try a different part of the garden plot. Consider companion planting and see if it makes a difference. Although, I wouldn't change all of these variables in one year! You won't know which changes helped or hurt if you change too many things. 

This is yet another way to improve your gardening skills.

The photo below shows how I'm curing my onions. Curing is the process of drying them such that the outer skin layer will seal the onion bulb, lock in the moisture and protect it from rot. This process makes the onions store better! All onions you buy in the grocery store have been cured. 

This makeshift rack is an old "over the toilet shelf/storage rack." It works pretty well for suspending the onions and allowing ample air circulation around each bulb. I sure love repurposing and reusing!

The onions are cured when the tops (leaves, which are hanging down in this photo) are completely dry. It should take about a month or so. These are in my backyard in a shady corner, and they're open to the elements. I will have to cover them when rain is forecast.

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