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When I was a young teen, I didn’t like onions, especially raw onions on a sandwich or in a salad. Then my beautiful, older, wiser cousin told me eating onions would prevent wrinkles. Well, that’s all it took. I learned to love onions.I eat them on and in everything! So, it is no surprise that the first thing I plant every spring is green onions.By mid-March, the ground is generally warm enough to plant the first round. There is no need to worry about frost because the onion bulbs are planted underground. A good rule to keep in mind is to plant when the outdoor temperatures no longer dip below 28 degrees.The easiest and most common way to grow green onions is to begin with onion sets. They are actually year-old bulbs that began as seeds and are now dormant until planted. Onion sets are easy to find in garden centers and easy to grow just about anywhere.I plant my vegetables in raised beds and containers. To begin, I will clear off any winter debris from the garden area. This usually means raking leaves and gathering twigs and small branches that have fallen over the last few months.Then I work the soil with my pointed edge shovel or hand trowel. I’m lucky here; my hard work of adding organic matter to these beds has created loose soil that is easy to dig through without much effort.Showing great restraint, I will only set out one row of onion bulbs this week. But, I will continue adding rows about every ten days to guarantee a continuous supply throughout the season.Using my trowel, I create a ½-to-1-inch trench in the soil. Then place the onion sets into the ground about 2 inches apart. Be sure the flat side or root-end is on the bottom, and the pointed end is on top.Once the bulbs are in place, gently cover the rows with loose soil, not more than 1 inch, to make it even with the garden soil. When I add my second row, I will dig it at least 6 inches behind the first.Once the onion sets are covered, water them generously and be patient. You should begin to see green stems as quickly as ten days. But, don’t harvest just yet. Let them grow to be 6-10 inches high.When the time comes, holding the base of the green stem, gently pull the onion bulb from the ground. A quick rinse with clean water and your onions are ready to eat. This is what I call farm to table!Don’t worry. It doesn’t take a farm to grow green onions. If you have a container at least 4 inches deep, you can plant onions. Add soil and plant your bulbs. Who says they have to be in straight rows? Have a round pot? Plant them in circles.If you want to try growing full-size onions, it is a similar process but a longer growing schedule and, of course, planting a different onion set. A few that you might try to grow in West Virginia are Candy-yellow, Copra-yellow, Candy Apple-red, and Red Wing-red.For larger onions, add a little compost when planting to ensure they have the nutrients needed to grow. Place them in the ground 2-to-4 inches apart and 1 inch deep. These onions should be ready to harvest mid-to-late summer if planted in the spring.As the onions mature, you will notice the green tops turning yellow and falling over. Go ahead and bend down the tops. Remember that with these onions the prize is the underground onion, not the green tops.Now, as the tops fade, loosen the soil around the bulb; this will allow it to begin drying. When the time comes to harvest, pick a sunny day and allow them to dry for a day or two in a cool, dry area before storing.Growing green onions is an easy way to start gardening. If you are an experienced gardener, then you know it just feels good to put the first bulbs in the ground. Either way, everyone likes pulling fresh onions to add to a meal.No promises that eating onions will prevent wrinkles, but I do promise you will have fun watching them grow and anticipating the warmer months ahead.
Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia University Extension Service master gardener through the Kanawha County chapter. She is the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Find her blog, “Gardening in Pearls,” at gardeninginpearls.com. You can contact her at [email protected]
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