February 1


8 common issues with growing onions and expert advice on how to prevent them

Onion growing problems – 8 common issues and expert tips for how to avoid them

When it comes to onion growing, there are several common issues that both new and experienced gardeners often face. From weather and disease to watering and feeding, these problems can hinder the growth and yield of your onions. However, with some expert tips and a little bit of knowledge, you can prevent these issues and ensure a successful onion harvest.

One of the best ways to start avoiding onion growing problems is to choose the right variety for your area. Different onion varieties have different needs, so it’s important to select a variety that will thrive in your specific climate and conditions. You’ll also want to consider the size and shape of the onion bulbs you want to grow, as some varieties are better suited for certain culinary uses.

Weather can often cause a range of problems for onion crops. Cold spells and frost can damage young onion plants, while excessive heat and dry periods can cause the plants to bolt. Bolting is when the onions begin to send up a flower stalk prematurely, which can result in smaller bulbs and a shorter storage life. To prevent this, make sure to plant your onions at the right time and provide them with adequate moisture and protection from extreme temperatures.

In addition to weather-related issues, onions can also be prone to various diseases. One common disease seen in onion plants is white rot, which causes the roots and bulbs to become mushy and decay. To prevent this, practice crop rotation and avoid planting onions in an area where white rot has previously been present. You should also ensure that the soil is well-drained and free from excess moisture, as this can create favorable conditions for disease development.

Proper watering is another key factor in preventing onion growing problems. Onions require consistent moisture, but overwatering can be detrimental to their growth. Too much moisture can lead to rotting and fungal diseases. It’s best to water the onions deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between watering sessions. This will encourage the onions to develop strong root systems and healthier bulbs.

Feeding your onion plants with the right nutrients is essential for their growth and development. Onions are heavy feeders, meaning they require lots of nutrients to thrive. A balanced fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content is typically recommended for promoting leafy growth in onions. However, it’s important not to overfeed them, as this can result in excessive foliage growth and smaller bulbs. Follow the recommended fertilizing regime and always read the instructions carefully.

Planting depth is another important consideration when it comes to onion growing. Onions should be planted about 1 inch deep, with the tip of the bulb just barely showing above the soil. Planting too shallow or too deep can affect the growth and development of the bulbs. A good rule of thumb is to cover the onion bulb with a layer of soil that is about the same size as the bulb itself.

In conclusion, preventing onion growing problems starts with choosing the right variety for your area and understanding the specific needs of your onions. Weather, disease, watering, and feeding are all factors that can impact the growth and yield of your onions. By following expert tips and implementing appropriate preventive measures, you can ensure healthy and robust onion plants that will provide you with a bountiful harvest.

8 common onion growing problems

8 common onion growing problems

Growing onions can be a rewarding experience, but like any vegetable, they can face various challenges along the way. Here are eight common onion growing problems and expert tips on how to avoid them:

  1. Poor planting techniques: Planting onions too close together or too deep can lead to problems. Proper spacing allows for air circulation and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. Plant onions around 4-6 inches apart and make sure to plant them shallowly, with the tops of the bulbs just above the soil surface.

  2. Bolting: Bolting occurs when onions prematurely produce a flower stalk. This is often caused by exposure to cold temperatures or day lengths that are too long. To prevent bolting, choose onion varieties that are best suited for your region’s growing conditions and plant them at the right time according to your local climate.

  3. Overwatering: Onions need moisture, but overwatering can cause root rot and other fungal diseases. Water the plants deeply once a week, providing around 1 inch of water, and adjust the watering schedule depending on the weather conditions.

  4. Lack of moisture: On the other hand, onions also require consistent moisture levels for proper bulb development. During dry periods, make sure to water your onions regularly to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.

  5. Poor bulb formation: If your onions are producing lots of green growth but failing to develop large bulbs, it could be a sign of insufficient nutrients in the soil. Prioritize soil fertility by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, before planting. Additionally, regular fertilization throughout the growing season may be necessary.

  6. Fungal diseases: Onions are prone to various fungal diseases, such as onion white rot and downy mildew. To prevent fungal diseases, practice crop rotation, avoid overhead watering, and provide adequate spacing between plants for good air circulation.

  7. Pests: Onion thrips and onion maggots are common pests that can damage onion crops. To protect your onions from pests, use row covers, apply organic pest control methods, and monitor your plants regularly for signs of infestation.

  8. Short daylight hours: Onions are sensitive to the amount of daylight they receive. If you start your onion plants too late in the year or grow a variety that requires long daylight hours to trigger bulbing, they may not have enough time to mature before the days shorten. Start onion seeds or sets early in the year and choose varieties that are suitable for your day length conditions.

By being aware of these common onion growing problems and following the expert tips provided, you can increase your chances of growing healthy and thriving onion crops.

1 Growing the wrong type of onions

1 Growing the wrong type of onions

Growing onions can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to choose the right type of onions for your specific growing conditions. Different varieties of onions have different requirements and characteristics, so understanding which type is best suited for your needs is crucial.

One of the most common mistakes that beginner growers make is planting the wrong type of onions. Some onions are better suited for specific climates, soil types, or growing seasons.

For example, if you live in a colder climate and have a short growing season, it’s best to choose a variety of onions that are known for their cold-hardiness and fast maturing time. Onions like the ‘Yellow Sweet Spanish’ or the ‘White Lisbon’ are excellent choices for these conditions.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with hot summers, you’ll want to choose a variety like the ‘Walla Walla Sweet’ or the ‘Red Candy’ that can tolerate the heat and won’t bolt prematurely.

When selecting the right type of onions, consider factors such as their size, shape, flavor, and storage capabilities. Some onions are better suited for fresh use, while others are better for long-term storage.

To ensure that you’re choosing the right type of onions, it’s always a good idea to consult with a local grower or the staff at your local garden center. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your specific growing area and conditions.

Expert tip: According to Julia McDonald, a seasoned onion grower, it’s also important to choose disease-resistant varieties. Onions can be susceptible to diseases such as onion downy mildew and onion white rot, so selecting disease-resistant varieties can help prevent these issues in your garden.

  1. Choose the right type of onions for your specific growing conditions.
  2. Consider factors such as climate, soil type, and growing season when selecting onions.
  3. Consult with local growers or garden center staff for recommendations.
  4. Choose disease-resistant varieties to prevent common onion diseases.

2 Not feeding crops sufficiently

2 Not feeding crops sufficiently

One of the common issues in onion growing is not feeding the crops sufficiently. This can have negative effects on the growth and quality of the onions.

Although onions are generally low-maintenance plants, they still require adequate nutrition to thrive. Lack of proper feeding causes the plants to become weak and more susceptible to diseases and other problems.

There are several causes for not feeding the crops sufficiently. One of them is over-reliance on the soil’s natural nutrients. Though onions are known to be heavy feeders, they might not receive enough nutrients from the surrounding soil alone, especially if the conditions are not optimal.

Bulbing is a critical stage in onion growth, and it requires proper nutrition to happen effectively. Not feeding the crops sufficiently during this period can result in smaller bulbs or even no bulbs at all.

One tip to avoid this problem is to start with healthy onion seeds. By choosing high-quality seeds, you can ensure that the plants have a better chance of survival and growth, even if they don’t receive sufficient feeding.

Another tip is to follow a regular feeding regime. Onions benefit from a consistent supply of nutrients throughout their growth cycle. This can be done by using organic fertilizers or compost. By providing these nutrients, you can help the plants reach their full potential and produce healthy and flavorful onions.

Overwatering and underwatering can also lead to a lack of proper feeding. It is important to maintain a balance in moisture levels. Overwatering can cause the nutrients to leach out of the soil, while underwatering can hinder nutrient uptake by the roots.

Feeding the onion crops is especially vital during the bulbing stage. This is when the onions need the most nutrients to develop properly. It is recommended to increase feeding during this time to ensure adequate bulb formation.

In conclusion, not feeding the crops sufficiently can result in poor onion growth and smaller bulbs. It is important to provide the necessary nutrients during every stage of onion growth to avoid these problems. Choosing high-quality seeds, following a regular feeding regime, and maintaining proper moisture levels are all crucial in ensuring healthy onion crops.

3 Overwatering

Overwatering is a common problem that can affect the growth and development of onion plants. When onions are consistently exposed to excessive moisture, it can lead to a variety of issues.

One of the first signs of overwatering is a yellowing of the leaves and stems of the onion plant. The excess water causes the roots to become waterlogged, which prevents them from absorbing the nutrients they need from the soil.

To prevent overwatering, it is important to establish a watering regime that allows the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Onions prefer well-draining soil, so it is crucial to ensure that the soil conditions are suitable for their growth.

When watering onions, it is best to water deeply but infrequently. This means giving the plants a thorough watering, making sure the water reaches the root zone, and then allowing the soil to dry out before watering again. This approach helps to prevent waterlogged soil and encourages the roots to grow deep.

Overwatering is most commonly caused by watering too frequently or by planting onions in containers that do not have proper drainage. If the soil remains constantly wet, it can lead to diseases such as fungal infections that thrive in these conditions.

In addition to overwatering, overfed onions can also exhibit yellowing leaves. It is important to avoid excessive fertilization, especially with nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Instead, a balanced fertilizer should be applied according to the recommended feeding schedule for onions.

Onions are cool-season crops that prefer temperatures between 55-75°F (13-24°C). If the weather is particularly cold or hot, it can affect their growth and increase the risk of overwatering.

In cold weather, it is advisable to provide some protection for the onion plants. This can be done by using row covers or planting them in a sheltered area of the garden. On the other hand, excessive heat can cause the onions to bolt and produce flowers prematurely.

One way to prevent overwatering is to pay attention to the needs of the onion plants throughout the year. For example, in the fall, when the days start to get shorter and daylight decreases, onion plants require less water.

In summary, overwatering can cause a variety of problems for onion plants, including yellowing leaves, fungal diseases, and poor growth. To prevent overwatering, it is important to establish a watering regime that allows the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, avoid excessive fertilization, and provide appropriate temperature and weather conditions for the onions to thrive.

4 Bolting

Bolting is a common problem that onion growers often face. It refers to the premature flowering and seed production of the onion plant. This can be a huge disappointment for gardeners as it affects the quality of the onions.

Both weather conditions and the onion variety can contribute to bolting. Onions are cool-season crops and prefer temperatures between 55-75°F (13-24°C). If the weather suddenly turns very hot or cold, it can trigger bolting. Onions also have different bolting tendencies based on their variety. Some varieties are more prone to bolting than others.

One of the major causes of bolting is a change in the day length. Onions are classified into three categories: short-day, intermediate-day, and long-day varieties. Each variety has a specific day length requirement for it to begin bulbing. Short-day onions require around 10-12 hours of daylight, intermediate-day onions need 12-14 hours, and long-day onions need 14-16 hours. If the onions receive longer or shorter periods of daylight than what they require, it can trigger bolting.

To prevent bolting, it is important to select the right variety for your area and ensure they receive the appropriate day length. Planting the seeds or bulbs at the right time of the year is also vital. Onions should be planted in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, or in the fall for overwintering in colder climates. Providing a consistent watering regime and avoiding overwatering or underwatering is crucial for onion health.

Feeding the onions with a balanced fertilizer is important as well. Onions require regular fertilization to ensure healthy growth and prevent diseases. It is best to follow the fertilizer recommendations for the specific variety you are growing. Overfeeding with nitrogen-rich fertilizers can also contribute to bolting, so it’s important to strike the right balance.

Bolting is often seen in onions that have reached a certain size. If the onions are grown in containers, it is important to choose the right size containers to allow for proper root development. Onions generally need a container with a depth of at least 12 inches.

If you notice signs of bolting, such as a yellowing stem or the formation of a flower head, you can try to prevent further bolting by cutting off the flower stem as soon as it appears. However, once the onion plant has bolted, the quality of the bulbs may be compromised.

In summary, bolting is a common problem that onion growers may face due to weather conditions, choosing the wrong varieties, or improper planting and feeding practices. To prevent bolting, it is important to select the right onion variety for your region, plant at the appropriate time, provide consistent watering, and follow proper fertilization practices. With these measures in place, you’ll have a better chance of growing healthy onions without bolting issues.

5 Planting too deep

One common mistake in onion growing is planting the bulbs too deep. While onions require moisture and lots of it, planting them too deep can lead to issues with bulb formation and overall growth.

When planting onions, it is important to choose the right depth. Onions should be planted with the tops just showing above the soil line. If the bulbs are planted too deep, they may struggle to grow and emerge from the soil, resulting in stunted or yellowing plants.

Planting onions too deep can also make them more susceptible to diseases and overwatering. Bulbs that are buried too deep in the soil may absorb too much moisture and become waterlogged, which can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.

To avoid planting onions too deep, follow these tips:

  • Plant onion bulbs in well-drained soil that has been amended with organic matter to improve moisture retention.
  • Choose the right onion varieties for your area and the growing season. Some onions require a longer growing period, while others can be planted earlier in the fall or early spring.
  • Before planting, work the soil to a depth of at least six inches and remove any rocks or clumps.
  • When planting onion sets or seedlings, make sure to space them properly to allow for proper bulb growth. Plant sets or seedlings about one inch apart.

By planting onions at the right depth and following these tips, you can ensure healthy bulb development and increase your chances of a successful harvest. Learning from the mistakes of planting too deep can save you time and effort in the long run, allowing your onions to thrive and produce delicious bulbs.

6 Planting too close

One of the most common mistakes onion growers make is planting the bulbs too close together. This can lead to a range of problems, including fungal diseases and stunted growth. To avoid these issues, it is essential to give your onions enough space to grow and thrive.

Onions require proper airflow and sunlight to prevent fungal diseases. If the bulbs are planted too close together, they will not have enough air circulation, which can create a moist environment ideal for fungal growth. This can lead to problems like onion rot and white rot, which can devastate your crop.

Julia McDonald, an experienced onion grower, explains that onions should be planted with at least 4-6 inches of space between each bulb. This will allow for proper airflow and minimize the risk of fungal diseases. It is also important to choose the right variety of onion for your area and size them accordingly.

Another issue with planting onions too close together is that they will compete for nutrients and moisture. Onions have shallow root systems and require consistent watering to grow properly. If they are overcrowded, they will struggle to access the necessary moisture and nutrients, which can result in stunted growth and smaller bulbs.

To prevent planting onions too close together, it is essential to properly space your seedlings when transplanting them. Use a seedling tray or containers to start your onions indoors, and give each seedling enough space to develop strong roots. This will ensure that your onions have the best start and will be able to grow and produce healthy bulbs.

It is also important to consider the size of the mature onion plant when spacing your seedlings. Some varieties of onions can grow quite large, so you may need to provide even more space between bulbs to accommodate their growth.

One tip to prevent overcrowding is to thin out your seedlings as they grow. This means removing some of the excess seedlings to give the remaining ones enough space to develop fully. Thinning should be done when the seedlings are around 4-6 weeks old, and the removed seedlings can be used for cooking or given away to friends and neighbors.

In summary, planting onions too close together can result in a range of problems, including fungal diseases, stunted growth, and competition for nutrients. To prevent these issues, give your onions enough space by spacing the bulbs 4-6 inches apart and choosing the right variety for your area. Thinning out your seedlings and providing consistent watering will also help ensure the best growth and yield.

7 Onion white rot

7 Onion white rot

White rot is a common and devastating disease for onion growers. Learning how to identify and prevent white rot is essential to keep your onion crops healthy and productive.

White rot is caused by a soil-borne fungus called Sclerotium cepivorum. It thrives in cool and wet conditions, making it a problem particularly in regions with cold and humid climates. The fungus attacks the onion bulbs, causing them to rot and become soft. The disease can spread rapidly, affecting an entire crop if not properly managed.

Here are some expert tips to help you prevent and manage white rot:

  • Start with disease-free seedlings: Always purchase onion seedlings from a reputable source to ensure they are disease-free. Inspect the seedlings for any signs of disease or rot before planting them.
  • Practice crop rotation: Avoid planting onions in the same location year after year, as this can increase the risk of white rot. Rotate your onion crops with other vegetables or non-host crops to reduce the disease pressure.
  • Avoid planting in cold, wet soil: White rot thrives in cold and wet conditions, so avoid planting onions early in the season when the soil is still cold and wet. Wait until the soil has warmed up and dried out before planting your onion bulbs.
  • Choose resistant onion varieties: Some onion varieties have shown resistance to white rot. Look for varieties that are labeled as resistant or tolerant to white rot when selecting your onion seeds or bulbs.
  • Improve soil drainage: White rot thrives in poorly drained soil, so make sure your onion beds have good drainage. Amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve drainage and create a healthier growing environment for your onions.
  • Monitor and remove infected plants: Regularly inspect your onion plants for any signs of white rot. If you find infected plants, carefully remove them from the garden and dispose of them properly to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Practice good sanitation: White rot can survive in the soil for several years, so it is important to practice good sanitation measures. Clean and sanitize your gardening tools, shoes, and any other equipment that may come into contact with the soil to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of white rot in your onion crops and increase your chances of a healthy and productive harvest. Remember to always stay vigilant and take prompt action if you spot any signs of the disease in your garden.

8 Bulbs showing too early

8 Bulbs showing too early

If you notice that your onion bulbs are showing signs of growth too early, there are several factors that could be causing this issue:

  1. Overwatering: Providing too much water can lead to excessive bulb development.
  2. Diseases: Various fungal and bacterial diseases can cause early bulbing in onions.
  3. Cold: Onions require a certain temperature range to grow properly, and cold temperatures can trigger premature bulbing.
  4. Daylight: Onions are sensitive to daylight duration, and if they are exposed to long daylight hours, they may begin bulbing prematurely.
  5. Planting too early: If you planted your onions too early in the season, they may start bulbing before they should.
  6. Nutrient imbalance: An imbalance in nutrient levels can increase the chances of early bulbing in onion plants.
  7. Unhealthy seedlings: Using unhealthy or weak seedlings can contribute to early bulbing.
  8. Environmental factors: Factors such as excessive moisture or improper temperature can cause onion bulbs to show early growth.

To prevent early bulbing in your onion crops, it is important to address these causes:

  • Ensure proper watering techniques to avoid overwatering.
  • Treat or prevent diseases through proper planting and care practices.
  • Protect onion plants from cold temperatures and provide the right environment for their growth.
  • Control daylight exposure by covering the plants or adjusting the planting dates.
  • Plant onions at the appropriate time for your region.
  • Maintain a balanced nutrient level in the soil.
  • Choose healthy seedlings from a reliable source.
  • Monitor and adjust environmental conditions to promote optimal growth.

Remember that onions require specific conditions to thrive, and providing them with the right care will help prevent early bulbing. If you find that your onion bulbs are showing signs of growth too early, you’ll need to identify the cause and take appropriate action to resolve it.


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