It’s midsummer now, and the onions planted in spring have begun to flop over at the neck and lose their bright green colour, signalling that they’ve stopped growing.
If you planted onions that are suitable for storage, you’ll need to ensure that they’re suitably dry before storing them. This process is called curing.
To cure and store onions
- Stop watering your onions once they flop over, and wait for a dry day to harvest them.
- Use a garden fork to lift them from the soil, or grasp the greens and gently pull them out. You don’t want to bruise or damage any part of the onion, as this may lead to rot.
- Set them out in the sun for a day or two to dry the roots. Choose a location that maximizes airflow. For example, you could place them on a sheet of mesh over an umbrella clothesline, or drape them over a fence.
- Carefully remove any clods of dirt clinging to the bulbs or roots.
- Bring the onions inside to a warm, dry room in your house or garage. Spread the onions out on newspaper, in a single layer, making sure they don’t touch each other.
- Check them every few days, and remove any rotting or damaged onions right away.
- Once the necks of the onions are completely dry, and contain no moisture, cut the roots off the bulb, and trim the stems to about an inch long. The bulbs should now have a nice papery coating that will protect the moist layers within. This curing process may take up to a month.
- Store onions in baskets, mesh bags, or cardboard boxes with holes in them. Place them in a cool, dark place.
Enjoy! Properly cured onions can be kept in storage for well over a year.
Once the snow has melted, and the soil is workable (that is, it is neither frozen, cold, or very wet), you may direct sow cool season crops. These plants tolerate overnight temperatures that hover around the freezing mark, and even a touch of frost; they prefer the cool temperatures of spring and fall rather than the heat of summer, during which they may bolt (go to seed too quickly).
Refer to the seed package to see how many weeks prior to the last frost that you may sow the seeds. The package may also list an ideal soil temperature. You may choose to place row covers over the area that you are planting to expedite the warming of the soil and protect your plants from occasional cold nights.
The following plants are quite hardy, and can tolerate a soil temperature of around 5°C:
- Spinach, lettuce, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, and other greens
- Turnip and rutabaga
The following plants are also quite hardy, though they prefer a slightly warmer soil temperature of around 10°C:
- Broccoli (shown above), Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Onion sets
Onions are one of the easiest plants to grow. You can skip the lengthy process of growing them from seed, and buy onion sets from your local hardware or gardening supply store. Onions can be planted in amongst your flowers, and they don’t look out of place. If you plant them in stages (for example, plant a dozen every two weeks), you can ensure you have a steady supply of green onions all summer.
Ideal growing conditions
- Hardiness zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9
- Plant as soon as the ground can be worked, in areas that receive full sun
- Set in the ground, root side down, no more than 1 inch deep, 4 inches apart, in rows at least a foot apart
Onions are sensitive to the amount of daylight they receive. There are three types:
- Long day onions need 14-16 hours of sunlight to grow bulbs
- Intermediate day onions need 12-14 hours of sunlight to grow bulbs
- Short day onions need 10-12 hours of sunlight to grow bulbs
Your local supplier will keep onion sets in stock which correspond to the amount of sunlight your area receives. You can usually choose between onions that grow large bulbs (suitable for storage), and those whose bulbs stay small, for use as green onions in salads and the like.
Onions are said to destroy osteoclasts, which are bone cells that resorb bone tissue and weaken bones. As such, they are said to benefit women undergoing menopause (during which osteoporosis is a concern).