Fall is the time to plant onion sets in North Florida! Planting onions from September through December ensures that they have some warm weather to get them started and then a nice long cool season for them to mature. This kitchen staple is fun and easy to grow as long as a few key steps are followed.
- Plant onion sets in a full sun location, they need plenty of sun to develop large bulbs.
- Amend the soil with compost and break up the soil if it is compacted or has a layer of clay.
- Plant onion sets about 2-6 inches apart.
- They shouldn’t be planted too deep, no more than an inch under the soil.
- Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer after planting and then follow up with a nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks.
- Once the bulbs have started to grow, apply mulch around the plants to help the soil retain moisture.
- Water regularly, but take care to not overwater.
- Onions should be ready to harvest in 4-5 months after planting, once about ¼ of the tops have fallen over.
- Let the soil dry out a bit, so the onions are not wet when you harvest them.
- Pull up the onion bulbs, cut the tops down to about an inch, and allow them to dry outside for a couple of days.
- Store by hanging in a mesh bag or hanging basket. Check periodically for any signs of rot, remove rotting onions so the rot does not spread.
There are so many types of onions, and the differences mostly come down to flavor. Red onions and white onions have the strongest “onion” flavor while yellow onions and sweet onions tend to have a little more “sweetness”. Vidalia onions are the yellow granex species, but the extra sweetness they develop comes down to where they are grown. Vidalia, Georgia has very little sulfur in the soil, and that leads to sweeter onions. Shallots are smaller growing onions that will often grow in clusters. The leaves and bulbs of shallots are used in cooking, and tend to have the mildest onion flavor.
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This article was written by Kaelen Riché.
(Tallahassee Nurseries Garden Showplace Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional)