Onions are a wonderful plant to grow because, if things go well, you can eat them beginning in June and keep eating them all the way to March.

People who start their seeds inside can start them as early as February. Now is the time to plant seedlings or onion sets – which are dried small onions – outside. Onions are often listed with peas as a vegetable that can be planted outside on Patriots Day, but the companies from which I buy seedlings send them to me a few weeks later. Planting them now is perfect.

Onions are a bit fussy. They want loose soil. They hate weeds. They like a lot of room. They want a balanced fertilizer, often. And they hate to get dry.

First loosen the soil with a spading fork. Plant the seeds or sets about six inches away from each other – either in a row or a patch about two feet wide. Fertilize every three weeks.

I have had good luck planting onions in a fabric weed barrier, with holes six inches apart. If you are a better weeder than I am, you can skip the barrier.

Water regularly. If they get dry, they will suffer.

Beginning in about June you can harvest some of the onion tops for salads. Don’t cut all the top off any one onion, though. Harvest the main crop after the tops have browned and fallen in late summer.

We dry onions in our shed for a couple of weeks, remove and compost the tops, and put the onions in mesh bags to hang them in the cellar, where it is dry and the temperature is about 55. Use up the sweet onions first — they don’t keep. Your keeper onions should last through the winter.


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