Growing onions. Just the thought of it brings tears to some people's eyes.
For those who have never tried it, don't dismiss these thin-skinned vegetables as being unworthy of your gardening endeavors. Onions may be pedestrian by nature, but they pack a walloping punch.Onions are one of the most widely grown vegetables in the state and one of the major agriculture crops of Davis County, said Bill Varga, Utah State University extension horticulturist.
"They are relatively low in calories and are a major flavor additive used raw or cooked in a variety of recipes," he said.
While they will grow in many types of soil, they prefer light and well-drained soil, he said. Enriching the soil with manure or other organic matter will loosen it. Large onions are easier to produce under these conditions.
If you're after green, or bunching onions, they are usually a byproduct of bulb production, he said. Harvesting to thin the onion row usually furnishes an abundance of green onions for green salads or whatever is desired. Planting onion sets in the spring is a good way to have green onions earlier than from seed.
Varga said onions may be grown directly from seed, dry sets or green plants. Onion seeds will germinate in cool soils and may be planted as early as April 1 if the soil can be properly prepared.
Onions are touchy about day length. They are divided into long- and short-day varieties. Many long-day varieties will perform well in Utah, he said.
He said onions respond well to extra nitrogen. He recommends one-half cup per 10 feet of extra nitrogen per row, four to five weeks after planting. Repeat this at least once during the summer.
It is important to keep an adequate moisture level during the summer because onion roots are not deep.
"Onions do not tolerate competition from other plants so keep the area weed free," he said. "A mulch of straw or lawn clippings will help control weeds and conserve moisture."
Onions should be harvested when the tops die and the neck no longer is thick. After digging, spread the onions in a warm, shady place until the outer skins are papery and the roots thoroughly dry.
Onions store best under dry, well-ventilated conditions at cool temperatures close to 32 degrees. Don't store them in paper sacks or solid side boxes. These kind of containers restrict needed air circulation, he said.
For more information about growing onions, contact your county USU extension office and ask for the fact sheet, "Growing Onions."