The Q&A Archives: Tips on Avoiding Bolting Onions

Question: My onions, both green and Washington, have gone to flower...can I harvest them anytime or did I blow it? Bonnie Atkins Tracy, CA

Answer: Sorry to hear that your onions bolted! Once they go to seed, they won't store well, so perhaps you can use them to make pickles or onion soup instead. I'm not sure what caused your onions to bolt, but here are a few general notes on onions that may help with your next crop: make sure the varieties you plant are appropriate for your region (I'm not sure if you're in northern or southern California, so I don't know if you should grow long or short-day varieties); they like a rich, well-drained soil, plenty of moisture and little competition from weeds; larger sets (3/4" diameter and larger) are fine for scallions but will bolt more quickly, so plant sets that are smaller (1/2"-3/4" is ideal). Check with your extension office (San JoaquinCounty Extension; (209)468-2085) to find out which varieties to grow, and discuss with them the details of your onion culture. They'll be able to give you specifics on how to avoid this problem in the future.

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