Onions – Good for the body, good for the soul

Over 5,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, onion came into their own. We believe that onions were first developed in Iran and Western Pakistan – centuries before writing was developed. And we know that they were a staple in ancient civilizations like Sumer, Babylonia and Egypt.  Onions were nutritious, less perishable, easy to grow , and could be easily carried from one place to another. There are other stories from the Romans, the Greeks, Indians, Middle Ages, and the Pilgrims extolling the value of onions. Even General Ulysses Grant complained that he could not move the army without onions.

There is much truth in the value of onions. They are high in antioxidants, help with blood sugar levels, improve digestion, are full of nutrients, have anti-inflammatory properties, and are a great source of Vitamin C. Onions may also help keep certain cancers at bay, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, support bone health and are antibacterial.

Easy to grow

Onions are easy to grow, if you follow a few rules

  1. Plant “short-day” onions. This type of onion starts to bulb when the daylight reaches 10-12 hours a day. These are recommended for USDA Zones 8 and 9. Varieties include Texas 10/15 onions, Red Creole. White Bermuda and Yellow Granex. The best time to plant them is between the middle of January through the middle of February.
  2. Prepare your soil. Onions need full sun and good drainage. Raised beds are best. Loose and crumbly soil is the best. They like pH levels of between 6 and 7. You can get your soil tested by contacting your local extension agency. (www.csrees.usda.gov/ Extension). You can also purchase a soil test kit or a pH meter at your local hardware store. If the soil is too acidic, mix in some ground limestone. If too alkaline, add high quality compost or peat moss.
  3. Prepare the bed. Digging a trench would be the best way to go. Make it about 4 inches deep and 4 inches wide. Spread 1/2 cup of fertilizer per 10 feet of trench. Add two inches of soil above the fertilizer. Now, DO NOT PLANT THE ONIONS IN THE TRENCH.
  4. Instead, plant them about 2 inches away from the trench. Onions do not like to be planted too close to fertilizer. The fertilizer will enrich the soil and the nutrients will get to the onion roots. Place  the onions 1 inch deep, and no deeper.  If you plant more than one row, leave about 16 inches between rows.

After planting, it’s time to take care of your plants.

  1. Water immediately after planting. Then water regularly. Onions need about an inch of water a week (less if it rains). If the ground beneath the onions becomes too dry., it will reduce the size and health of the onions. But don’t overwater. If you see yellowing of the plant’s leaves, cut back on watering. Increase the amount of water as the plants get closer to harvest.
  2. Fertilize regularly every two or three weeks after planting. Don’t put the fertilizer directly on the plants. Instead spread it along the trench that you originally put fertilizer in. Don’t forget to water after applying.
  3. When the tops of the onion plants turn yellow and fall over, harvest. Pull the onions out in the morning, preferably on a sunny day. Let them lie in the sun for two or three days. If it rains, move them to a covered spot.
  4. Storing them. Put them in a dry location that has ventilation. A garage is perfect. Use a mesh sack to store them in and hang the bag so they get plenty of ventilation. Or, you can chop some or all and freeze them. Put them in freezer bags and use them in cooking.

If you have further questions, please contact me at bobdailey@gulfcoastgardening.com

Related articles