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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
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Located in the Bay Area, CA, we're a family-owned garden center offering unusual and hard-to-find plants & gifts. Established 1946.

Life is Beautiful Blog

What You Need to Know: Planting and Harvesting Onions

Blaire Benson


You can plant onions from either sets (bulbs) or transplants (bare root or six pack). Either way, choose a site with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day!

Sets: Sets are tiny bulbs that were started from seed the year before. Onion sets should be about the size of a marble. Onion sets should be firm and healthy when planted. Plant onion sets pointed end up, and cover with about 2 inches of soil. Depending on the mature size of your variety of onion, space about 3 to 4 inches apart. The bulbs need regular water to swell in size. Onions sets are available now in red, yellow and white varieties.

Transplants: Transplants generally result in larger onions than sets. Plant transplants close to the surface of the soil, spaced about 4 inches apart. Keep onions well watered throughout the season. Water stressed onions are stronger in flavor and more pungent. We'll receive one shipment of transplants (bare root) later in November, in an assortment of delicious varieties. We have transplants in six packs in stock throughout the season.


You can harvest onions at any stage. The plants you thin from a row can be used as green onions. However, onion bulbs are ready when about half of the tops have fallen over and the bulbs' skins have a papery feel. Bulbs allowed to remain in the ground until half or more of the green tops have fallen over will store longer. Once you see half of the tops are down, very gently coax the remaining leaves down, without breaking them off the bulb. Then allow the bulbs to sit in the ground and cure for a couple of days before you lift them. You'll have better luck digging around the onion bulbs, rather than pulling. You don't have to dig deep, just enough to loosen the remaining roots. Shake off and brush away any loose soil and let the bulbs finish curing in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. Leave the leaves on.

For storing onions, wait until the outside onion skins dry and the neck - where the leaves meet the bulbs - starts to shrivel. Then you can store them in a cool, dry location. Onions keep longer in cool temperatures (35-40 degrees F), but should not be allowed to freeze. Store onions in mesh bags or by braiding the tops together and hanging. Make sure they are not piled on top of each other, reducing air circulation.