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How and when to harvest onions is a notion that is known to be at their peak would be a skill set that homeowners yearn for. Picking your onions, also known as allium cepa of the Amaryllidaceae family, at the right time is critical so that you end up with an onion crop that is just right for your culinary use.
If you wish to learn the best way to pick your onions, then this could be the sign that you’re looking for. Let’s discover the perfect way of harvesting onions.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- How To Know the Right Time to Harvest Onions?
- How to Harvest Onions When They Are Ready?
How To Know the Right Time to Harvest Onions?
To know the right time to harvest onions you should check if the top has fallen over, in addition, you would also spot the maturity size of the crop, and this would be a sign, and lastly, you can also harvest it after 90 to 120 days have passed.
– Tops Fall Over
If the tops of the crops turn yellow and fall over, then this is a sign that your onions are mature. Mature ones are ready for harvest since their flavors are fully developed at this stage. When the tops fall over, it indicates that the onion has stopped growing and has started to focus on developing the bulb.
– Spotting Mature Onion Size
Some of them are naturally small, while others grow larger. Depending on your variety, you’ll have an idea of the size of a fully mature onion bulb. To check for the size, gently lift the crops out of the ground. Most mature ones are usually two to three inches in diameter. If your vegetables are smaller than they should be, you might want to wait a little longer before harvesting them.
– After 90 to 120 Days
On average, it takes between 90 and 120 days for these crops to mature and be ready for harvest. However, some varieties can take up to 150 days. You’ll have to check what variety you have growing to determine its estimated maturity date. This information can be found on the seed packet or from the supplier of your onions.
Onions left in the ground for too long can begin to rot or sprout. It’s important to harvest them when they are mature to avoid this. However, if you want to plant onions for the next growing season instead of harvesting them, you may opt to leave them in the ground.
How to Harvest Onions When They Are Ready?
To harvest onions when ready, you must choose a hot and dry day, then prepare your tools and loosen the soil around the crops. Then, lift the onions off the ground and try to shake the excessive soil, and let them cure. Trim the tops and store them right.
1. Choose a Hot, Dry Day
Moisture makes it harder to work with the soil, damaging onion bulb during harvest. If you want to avoid this risk, then it’s best to harvest your onions on a hot and dry day so that the soil is easier to loosen and work with. Plus, the loosened soil will make digging around and lifting the onion bulbs easier.
2. Prepare Your Tools
You’ll need to bring some tools with you when picking the bulbs up unless you want to do it with bare hands. You’ll need a garden fork or shovel, a pair of pruning shears or scissors, and a pair of gardening gloves.
Garden forks or shovels will come in handy when you want to loosen the soil around the onions prior to lifting them out of the ground. Lifting the vegetables out of the ground is important because doing so will avoid damaging the bulbs. Insert the tines of the fork or blade into the soil and gently loosen it to lift the bulbs.
Pruning shears or scissors are helpful in cutting off the tops of the onions, especially when curing and storing them. Since they come into direct contact with parts of the onions, you should make sure that these are clean and sterilized. Keeping your tools this way will lessen the chances of pests and diseases getting into your onions.
Finally, you’ll need a pair of gardening gloves. While some consider this optional, we believe wearing gloves will help protect your hands from accidental cuts and wounds.
3. Loosen the Soil Around the Crops
Gently loosen the soil around your onion bulbs a few days before your planned harvest. For this, you can use a garden fork or shovel because you should aim to do so in such a gentle way.
Remember that when you are loosening the soil, this makes the process easier for you to lift the bulbs out of the ground. At the same time, it will reduce the risk of damaging the onion bulbs. Just be careful not to damage or slice the bulbs with the fork or shovel.
4. Lift the Onions Off the Ground
Now that the soil is dry and loose, you can gently lift the bulbs out of the ground with your hands; of course, use force but don’t use it in a harsh way. In case you prefer to use tools to lift them out, you can use the garden fork or shovel. Don’t give too much force on the stems, because you may pull them, which will cause an issue, so remember to be gentle.
5. Check for Signs of Disease or Damage
Before harvesting your onions, inspect them for any signs of disease or damage, such as soft spots or discoloration. These onions should be discarded and not stored with the rest of your crop, as they can spoil the others. Also, clean any tools you use to harvest or handle the bulbs to prevent the spread of disease from letting them stay in for such a long time.
6. Shake Off the Excess Soil
You can use your hands to tap the bulbs to remove any excess soil gently, and you will see that they will crumble. At this point, it is very important to keep the bulbs dry, so do not wash them with water. Instead, keep the newly-dug ones dry and avoid having moisture come into contact with them, as it can lead to rot.
7. Let them Cure
Place the onions in a warm, dry place with good air circulation and allow them to cure for two to three weeks. When you cure onions, you encourage the long-term storage of your bulbs because the outer skin will dry out slightly and protect the onions from rot. Lastly, you must also keep in mind that a well-ventilated shed, garage, or covered porch is excellent for curing your onions.
8. Trim the Tops
After the onions have been cured, use a pair of clean and sterilized pruning shears or scissors to trim the tops of the onion a few inches above the bulb. Doing this will prevent the spread of diseases while ensuring that the bulbs will store well.
9. Store the Onions
Storing onions in your pantry or garage is a great way to keep them longer. Just make sure that these places are cool and dry with plenty of good air circulation. Avoid placing your newly harvested plants near potatoes and tomatoes since they produce ethylene gas, which makes onions grow and spoil more quickly.
Also, fruits like apples, avocados, peaches, and other ethylene-emitting food should be kept away from them as well.
Onions must not be stored in the fridge as this can cause them to weaken and become soft and spoil more quickly, and in addition to this, you shouldn’t store them in plastic bags either. Plastic bags and containers tend to trap moisture, causing them to spoil more quickly, you may use mesh bags or baskets and store them at room temperature instead.
Now, they may be eaten right after harvesting, but they are usually cured for a few weeks to increase their storage life and improve their flavor. Once the curing period has passed, you can prepare and eat onions any way you want.
– Is Harvesting Green Onions the Same with Onions?
No, they do not have the same harvesting time. Green onions, also known as scallions, are harvested before the bulb has fully developed, typically when they are about six to eight inches tall. Depending on the onion varieties and growing conditions, taking around 20 to 30 days after planting.
Whether you grow your bulbs from onion seeds or from ready stock, harvesting them is easier now that you know the proper way to do it. Let’s recap everything we’ve learned so far:
- Harvest your onions on a hot dry day while wearing protective gear.
- Pick the ones without signs of damage or disease and shake off the excess soil.
- Allow the onions to cure and store them in a cool and dry place.
If you have an onion harvesting machine, picking them from your vegetable garden by hand is doable, so happy gardening!