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I have a really dumb question regarding Onions

Mesilla Park, NM

I've been gardening flowers for a long time, so don't know diddly about veggies..

The onions I planted last year have buds and are getting ready to bloom.. am I supposed to pinch the buds off? I want some full sized onions someday, but don't know what to do, I keep planting bunching onions, do those ever get big, do I have the wrong kind?

Thank you for any help you can give. They are growing in raised beds and so is the garlic. I'm afraid that when and if they bloom, they will die off, isn't that what plants do after they bloom?

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Yes you are correct, Once they start to flower, use them as green onions (scallions). Pinching the blossoms off slows the process somewhat, but you will not get mature bulbs, That flower stem will extend all the way down making the bulblet hollow. "Bunching" type onions are for the most part non-bulbing onions designed for use as scallions. Some folks do call the shallots by that name also.

Mesilla Park, NM

Thank you so much.. these are the only types that the HD and Lowes sell.. where could I find or order bulbing types? I did buy some that were round and came in a bag, but they too are going to bloom. and the bunching came just like that, in a bunch tied with rubberbands.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a) and are two of the best. You might check with with your agricultural extension agent to find what type of onion grows best in your area. Most of the garden centers sell plants (Bonnie) for bulbing type onions but not always at the proper planting time. Have to grow bulbing onions in the winter here, summers are too hot.

Melbourne, FL(Zone 9a)

Well, that figures, I planted onion bulbs that came in a bag from a plant store here. The lady told me to just plant them and they would grow. They have green stems starting to come up and I wondered if that meant the onions were ready to pick or to just let them grow for awhile.

I guess you wouldn't believe that I actually read online before doing this stuff.



Mesilla Park, NM

That sounds like a great idea... there is a place here down about 2 miles that is called the Onion Shed and they bag onions by the truck loads and I don't know where they send them, but when they harvest the onions you can smell the onions for about two weeks. The fellow behind us plants onions for the seeds, but since he leases the property, I don't ever see them around. We've been here about a year and half now and they started planting onions in different locations. I guess they have to rotate the onions?

AB, yeah, I don't know how to get those nice sweet baking onions ... we like to grill them, I also heard about the Walla Walla onions and would like to find some of those.


Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Allyson, the small dry onion bulbs are called sets. They are always long day storage onions. In todays market they are usually from Holland. They are a carefree way to grow spring ( salad onions, scallions, green onions)onions. They don't bulb up well here as the summers get too hot. They will usually bolt before bulbing. They are usually pretty pungent where they do well. You can start pulling them for salads when the tops are about a foot high.

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

so buching onions are really shallots or green onions. ?
i love shallots . I was wondering about that. which ones would be shallots I think i may get some bunching onions too.

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

taynors, "bunching onions" are not what most cooks would call shallots. The green spring onions you sometimes see in stores, sold as shallots, are really an "onion" (Allium cepa).

The bulbed shallots (Allium ascalonicum) is altogether different. They could actually be considered an multiplier onion but the difference is they are usually less pungent than onions. They grow more like garlic does, with multiple bulbs from a single bulb planted.

If you want "bunching onions" you should look for a variety called "Japanese Bunching" or perhaps "Evergreen White". Bunching onions never form a bulb nor do they form multiple bulbs (like a true shallot).

F-dill, I have to plant sets in the Fall here and they'll bulb up fairly well. I'll take a look at the label on the bag next time I'm at the garden center and check out their origin though. I know I sure do prefer putting out plants in the late winter/early spring though as those are pretty much guaranteed to bulb up nicely.

Gourd, I believe Walla Walla are long day onions and don't think they'd do well in your area. You should try the Intermediates or Short Day onions. At Dixondale Farms (Link is listed above by F-dill) you can get lots of great info on what onions will do best in your area.


This message was edited Apr 13, 2008 10:29 PM

Mesilla Park, NM

Thank you, I ordered a sampler from Dixiondale Farms for our area.

Well, I have more questions.. once in the ground, at harvest time, if you dont' harvest them, can you leave them in and expect some type of bulb during the winter?

The ones I did have are the Texas Sweet, but they didn't get big, maybe I am doing something wrong with the soil. Should I be rotating them out of that one raised bed and put them into another raised bed? I also have or will have the same problem with the garlic, I ordered and planted a sampler that had about 15 types of garlic from different countries. That was last August, I have not done anything to them, except water and fertilize them. Should I move them also come August?

One farmer had his onions in all year and got the seeds, then he moved over to the next acre and planted more onions (that is why I ask if we need to rotate the onion crop).

I really appreciate your help.. we have made these really neat raised beds and I have to learn how to maintain them and keep them fertile..

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

Hey thanks Shoe
I am interested in shallots. shallots i really like in alot of things . I can't find them in our grocery.
Good to know
I m learning alot

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Gourd, if you don't harvest your onions when they are ready then some varieties will just rot in the ground, others will sometimes try to make a second bulb, and others will make it thru the Winter, at least in my area. For example, with regards to the last choice mentioned, I grew Ringmaster plants one year, which is a long day onion, and I grew them knowing they wouldn't bulb up here in the South (I grew them specifically for green onions). The ones I didn't harvest stayed nicely in the ground through Winter and I pulled them the following Spring for the most wonderful green onions I ever grew. It was a great and successful experiment!

As for your Texas Sweets, if they didn't get big you just might be right, you are lacking something in your soil. My first suggestion would be that they needed more Nitrogen as well as phosphorus. The N will give them good top growth and the phosphorus gives them excellent root growth. Those two things and ample water will give you good growth and nice non-pungent onions. (I wouldn't recommend ammonium sulfate for your N though as that will contribute to higher pungency. A nitrogen source without sulfur would be better.)

As for rotation, like chicken soup, "it couldn't hurt!" *grin
Onions are fairly heavy feeders so it would be a kindness to your soil (and your onions) to move them to a new area. Rotating them will decrease the chance of onion maggots attacking your bulbs, thrips from attacking your top growth, and also various fungal diseases that attack onions from living in the soil from one year to the next. I imagine your neighbor that grows all those fields of onions for seeds rotates for those very reasons. (I'd even suggest that he might rotate so that if he misses collecting any seed heads if there are any volunteers he knows they might be last years variety and not from the present year. That would be beneficial if he is offering seed of different varieties and needs to keep his seed stock pure.)

As for your garlic, if you've fed them well you should be able to harvest them around June/July. (Again, I'm not totally familiar with your zone and weather.) Most folks plant garlic in the Fall, allow it to grow thru the Winter, then harvest in early-mid Summer. Watch for signs of yellowing leaves then dig up a head and check it out. Hopefully you'll have a nice head!

The only other thing I can think of for your alliums not gaining in size is they might've been planted too deeply. Either that or you have hard concrete-like clay that is inhibiting expansion of the bulbs.

Just off the top of my head that is what comes to mind. Hope it may be helpful.

Happy Gardening!


none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

If i can ask this question
what does it mean by " a long day onion " maybe that is where i m confused myself
sorry to divert the main topic :)

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Onions are triggered to bulb by the day night cycle. Longday onions require about 16 hours of daylight to induce bulb development. That means June in the northern hemisphere. In Georgia and points south it is just too hot in June and July for onions, so they are grown in the winter time. Cultivars have been developed that are triggered to bulb with 10-12 hours of daylight ( short day onions) The plants grow all winter and begin bulbing in March. I have not tried short day onions in the north, but the only reason I can think of for non- bulbing, is that the plants try to bulb before reaching maturity.

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

thanks Farmer

Mesilla Park, NM

I don't know whether to pull out all the onions that went in Feb of 2007, they are way over a year old, will they get tough, or should I just pull them out? I did put in a few this year but the older ones have most of the raised bed. This week I plan on getting that soil fixed, we have some topsoil (purchased that looks alot like sand) mixed with compost (purchased in bulk) and I added some fertilizer granules that are supposed to last three months. Shoe, I think you are right about the soil, something is missing there.. I've got to test it, I did get a kit years ago and haven't tried it, now to find it..

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I bought sets of Texas Sweet and Mild Red onions this year, and planted them March 1. The tops are about 8" tall now.

When they start to form buds at the top, I pinch those off and break the green tops over at the ground. Don't cut or pull the tops off, just turn a rake backwards and break them over so they're laying on the ground. After that, the bulbs start getting big and they can be harvested about 3 weeks later.

I dig all the onion bulbs at the same time, leave the tops attached, and tie them in bundles of six. I hang those bundles from the rafters of our barn to dry. You know they're dry when the tops are brown and crackly, but we start using them as soon as they're hung, a bundle at a time. They'll keep quite a while, but the sweet varieties don't keep as long as the others.

Mesilla Park, NM

Ozark, thank you so much for that info.. I'll try that this weekend, the winds here are awful today, the sand just flys into your eyes... I'm sure I've got to do that pretty quick now.

Mesilla Park, NM

Ozark, I removed all the buds about the 18th of this month and I can already see the increase in size of the onion, not a humongous increase, but definitely a visual increase. Thank you for your advice..

Now my garlic, that I put in last year (one variety not all) has buds too, will this method work on them also, I would think so, but want to ask.

I got some fertilizer pellets for veggies and I had already put some in there about a month ago, so, this time I got a different one.

I sure want the garlic to form some heads. They all look like the green onions, not bubling. Maybe I am too impatient.

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

I can't wait for garlic
Gourd please keep us informed on it . would love to see your progress.
I got my walla walla and my red
waiting to put them in the ground. still haven't got my llama poop yet to lay in the beds

San Tan Valley, AZ(Zone 9b) in the Phoenix area one of our fellow DGer's, Mary McP, has a contact for llama manure. I know the plants in my garden love it so much that calling it poop just didn't seem right. The term poop is so mundane. It is widely known in this area as "Mary McP Brand Llama Yama". It's the stuff that makes your garden grow! :o)

Whenever we have a swap most of us get our name on the list to get a few bags of it. It's become quite popular.

This message was edited Apr 26, 2008 6:13 PM

none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

that is great name for it
yes calling it poop seems rather mundane and just doesn't give it that specialness it deserves.
The lady i get it from calls it Llama beans ( lima beans )
But i think i like your name better :)
~ sue

Mesilla Park, NM

I'll take a photo tomorrow and you can see the onions bulbing.. now, I don't know if pinching will work for the garlic .. these are the garlic that I planted. Garlic is in the second bed to the left, and the onions 3rd bed to the right. These are now filled with soil and are ready to go.

Italian Purple
Guatemalan (this is the one that is going to bloom)
Spanish Roja
Kilarney Red
Polish White
Silver white
CA Early
Elephant Garlic
Braided Garlic

The onions are in one raised bed and the garllic is in another, i'll take photos tomorrow of each separately.

here are some of the raised beds, two are empty right now, the winds don't let me get my tomatoes in yet.

This message was edited Apr 30, 2008 9:29 PM

Thumbnail by Gourd
Ashland, OR(Zone 8a)

Jumping into the thread late: I think that it's probably too early to try to hurry the garlic along - assuming that it's spring where you're gardening, it probably has a lot of growing yet to do. The variety with the bud may be rocambole garlic, for which the budlike thing is perfectly normal and not, as it would be with onions, a sign that the plant is approaching a critical harvest-or-lose-it stage.

If you want to just sample a little, garlic can be eaten before it's ripe, as "green garlic". I believe that first it's just a sort of sprout like a green onion, and later it will form a "round" that isn't segmented into cloves yet, and finally it segments and becomes a proper head of garlic, and after that, if you don't get it in time, that head will start to sprout and you'll have a bit of a tangled mess. I would guess that you're somewhere between "sprout" and "round" right now.

By the way, one way to avoid all the day length stuff with onions is to grow potato onions, also known as multiplier onions, which is confusing because they can be confused with multiplier onions that are grown as scallions. Also, the bulb onions often sold in the grocery as shallots are, I think, usually potato onions rather than true shallots. When I buy these onions from seed vendors (as bulbs, not seeds), they seem to be most often called potato onions or multiplier onions.

Anyway, my point is that these onions grow rather like garlic - you plant one, usually in the fall, wait a good long time, and you harvest a cluster of several onions, usually the following summer. You can eat some and replant some to repeat the cycle. (Or if you're really worried about diseases you get fresh stock from the seed vendor again.)

Since they generally don't bloom and don't bolt, you don't have the issue of "losing" your crop when it goes to seed. (Though if you ignore the mature onions long enough they will, like garlic, turn around and just re-sprout again.) So, no seeds, no bolting, no day length, none of the headaches. (At least, they always seem like headaches to me.)

There are also Egyptian walking onions. And true shallots. And multiplier scallions that actually make perennial clumps. I love onions.


Mesilla Park, NM

here are the onions bulbing with the pinched tips

Thumbnail by Gourd
Mesilla Park, NM

here are the ones I did not pinch

Thumbnail by Gourd
Mesilla Park, NM

This is the garlic bed, well half garlic and some asiatic lily bulbs, 1/4 onions and 1/4 asparagus with potatoes in between. I did a lot of things wrong here.. but was desperate because I bought those bulbs and they were already sprouting big time and i did not have a place to put them, so I tucked them in with the garlic. these raised beds are 8ft x 8ft and I put some stepping stones in the middle to reach everything and in case I need to get in there.

Thumbnail by Gourd
none of ur business, OK(Zone 5b)

Hey that is great garlic. i use to live near Gilroy. I sure miss good garlic.
Well i did get some new onions i saw Texas sweet and vandalia. Thought i would try them too
Llama lady didn't have come through, someone beat me to it. bummer
gonna search for bulk compost next to use in the beds

Fort Gratiot, MI

So helpful to read about all your experiences. I'm new to DG, and I have a dumb question about the little seeds at the top of the onion stem. My onions, unknown variety, have nice little natural seed packets at the top. Can I just break those off and plant those seeds, and if so, would I get bulb onions next year-spring or fall? Have never succesfully planted onions and followed them through to anything more than scallions in the past.

Mesilla Park, NM

I think you will take years to get onions from seeds, but, you will get chives... hopefully we will get the right answer here. There is a neighbor that plants onions just for seeds here, but I don't know how long they take to grow. They are in the field behind our home.

I got some seeds off the garlic and they already look like tiny bulbs and they take a couple of years from what I read. What I have done for the past two years is buy some onion sets the small bulbs each year, even though I still have some onions, these new sets will be ready next year.. I don't know if I am doing that right, but they look so small when we start off, the ones for this year are only about the size of an egg if that, probably smaller. The ones from 1 1/2 years ago are finally a good size, but I have been leaving them in the ground till we use them, instead of storing them.. I don't know if that is a good idea or not.

Augusta, GA(Zone 8a)

Once those seed heads dry, you can thresh them out and use them as seed. Onions are somewhat difficult from seed, which is why most folks buy plants or sets. Here are some of my White Granex, which Bonnie sells as Texas Sweets. They did not attain Jumbo size as I got them in too late. They are a great green onion, which is my primary use for them.

Thumbnail by Farmerdill
Mesilla Park, NM

Farmer and Burnet. thank you for all the information.. I left the onions in place and plan to move some around during the fall. I also hope to find some multiplying onions but don't know who would have some around here.

I did harvest my garlic, but for the life of me could not keep up with the labeling so all my garlic is missing the labels.. I did mange to put each one in separate baskets though.. and did get a lot of the braiding garlic, now I just need to do the braiding.

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