How to grow onions and not onion flowers

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Last year, I grew a lot of onion seeds but unfortunately not many large onions I could use in the kitchen.  I have learned a few things since then which hopefully can help you not have the same problem.

Use small onion sets: Last year I selected all of the largest onion sets in the 100 count bag which from some of my experimentation this year proves why almost all of my onions bolted to seed.  Smaller onion sets were much less likely to bolt to seed during normal temperature fluctuations.  Now what should you do with those large onion sets?  Why not think of them as flower bulbs since that is what they will end up eventually.  Given you know the onions will grow pretty small so you can plant a 1-2 inches apart and they do make a quite attractive flower and as an extra bonus you can collect the onion seeds for next year.

Grow from seeds: Well if you are like me with all of your plants bolting to seed on the positive side that gave you a considerable number of onion seeds.  Now you have a couple choices here, you can plant some seeds at the end of the summer which will create basically small onion sets which will go dormant over the winter and pop back up during spring.  The other option is to plant seeds indoors 9-10 weeks before last spring frost and plant seedlings the size of a pencil or smaller into your garden.

Try a different onion variety: The ultimate reason flowers bolt is temperature fluctuations which tricks the onion that it has completed its biennial (2 year) growing pattern which results into the onion jumping into its last stage of its life, flowering.  Now unless you are growing in a heated greenhouse or grow box, unfortunately you don’t have too many options in controlling the weather.  Fortunately you can select onion varieties that are more tolerant to temperature fluctuations.

Hopefully with these tips you can grow a few less onions flowers and a few extra onions.  Though if you still get a few onion flowers you do have a couple choices.  Pull it up and user the smaller onion in your kitchen or simply embrace the flower and the bees it will attract and get plenty of onion seeds for next year.

3 Responses to “How to grow onions and not onion flowers”

  1. Lou Altamura Says:

    I am growing onions from seeds that I started indoors this year. No idea yet as to whether they will bolt or not. Mine are about 10 inches tall now and about a half-inch a the base … Guess I'll find out soon. Thanks for posting these tips though.


  2. Red Icculus Says:

    This year, I am doing a variety called "Egyptian Walking onions". At the end of the season, you dig up the bulbs and replant the tops. The tops are even usable little onions. It's a great variety.


  3. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Lou, from my experience you would probably already be seeing flowers by now so should be in luck. I have about 2-3 flower onions this year though I intentionally planted some large onion sets for my little expereiment.Red, will have to check those ourt for next year. You start those from seeds?


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