How to Grow Your Own Onions

Growing an onion is simple: if you can dig a hole in the ground, you can grow an onion from a small plant. Fill metal raised garden beds with good soil and planted onions in early spring. Space onion plants 6 inches apart in 12-inch rows. Planting them in a sunny, fertile, well-drained area can improve your native soil by mixing in a few inches of aged compost or other rich organic material.

Onions have shallow roots and are not very efficient at absorbing water, so they need a steady source of water to keep growing. Although they actually recover well from drought and can start growing again after watering, it's best to keep the soil in your metal raised garden bed moist at all times so that their shallow roots can absorb water. Onions of almost any size are edible, so harvest them when they're the right size for your next culinary creation.

Onions naturally push to the surface as they form bulbs. It is best to keep the top of the bulb in dry sunlight; remove any covering that may overwet the swollen bulb. You can cover the inside of your garden bed with a thin layer of weed- and herbicide-free grass clippings or other fine mulch. Seedlings about the diameter of a pencil produce the largest and most beautiful bulbs, so some gardeners sort seedlings by size before planting. Plant the largest onions together, just 2 inches apart, and have them ready to enjoy within two to three weeks. When onion leaves swell, they are spotted by tiny black onion thrips, which suck the juice from the leaves. These are hard to see because they hide in the folds and necks of leaves, so keep an eye out for aphids.

When the bulbs get large and the tops start to yellow and drop, they are ready to be harvested. Pull them up, shake off the soil, and secure them on top with the top still attached. Any warm, airy place is a good place to do this; you can even hang them on a fence as long as it doesn't rain. Stay dry and have good air circulation. As the onion sets, the roots shrink, and the neck above the bulb slowly dries out, a natural process that helps seal the top of the bulb and makes the onion less likely to rot. After 7 to 10 days, use pruning shears to remove as much dry dirt from the tops and roots as possible, do not remove the parchment, and store the onions in a cool place.