The Q&A Archives: Small Onions

Question: For several years I had a difficult time growing onions. The tops would grow a single stalk and the bulbs didn't grow much bigger than the original sets.
I read they should be planted early, so in 1998 and 1999 I planted in early April and had great onions. Several stalks on each onion, that stood straight up most of the season and good size bulbs.
Then, last year it was back to the tiny onions again. I planted the same type, stutgartter. Only a single stalk came up from each set and began falling over in early summer. The largest onion was about 2" in diameter, most being smaller.
In my records I noted the ground was wetter than the year before. Could that be a problem?
What is the best depth to plant sets? Some folks down the road had great onions, but I noticed 1/2 of each bulb was growing above the ground and have seen books with photos of onions growing like that.

Answer: Although you planted the same type onion, the differences you reported are weather related. Onions prefer cool temperatures in their beginning growth and warmer temps as they near maturity.

Long day onions require 13-16 hours of daylight, and should be planted in the northern regions which, because of the tilt of the earth, actually have longer days in the summer. Short-day onions require only 12 hours of daylight, and should be planted in the southern regions. Onions that grow well anywhere are considered day-neutral.

Plant each "set" 1" deep and space them 6-8" apart. Onions tend to push themselves up out of the ground as the bulb forms.

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