3 Ways to Plant Onions

No matter what type of onion you like to grow, you can plant onions in 3 different ways. Here are your choices…

There are dozens of different varieties of onions in all different shapes, sizes, and colors – to suit the needs of any home cook! And when it comes to growing your own onions, you also have choices. You can plant onions in three different forms – each of which has its pros and cons, and some may work better in different soils and climates than others.

You likely will have a favorite way if you have grown onions a few times, but if you have only tried one method and haven’t had success yet, you may wish to switch it up and try something else.

I started with sets the first time, and they did absolutely nothing (literally – they sent up tops, then died down in the fall, and when I pulled them, they were the same size as when I planted them)! My mom said she has had much better results with plants, but last year, I direct-seeded onions right into the garden for the first time, and we had an amazing crop of huge, beautiful, sweet onions in the fall.

Here are 3 ways to plant onions – which one is your favorite?

1.) Sets

These are tiny onion bulbs, grown from seed and forced into dormancy at an immature stage. Once planted in the garden, they resume growing. Sets are the easiest of the three planting techniques and a good way to produce a lot of big onions for storage.

Plant sets 2 to 4 weeks before the average last-frost date… In mild-winter climates, plant onion sets in fall or winter. Place the sets in a shallow furrow and cover with just enough soil to leave their pointed tips at the soil surface… The spacing between onions should eventually be 4 to 6 inches, depending on the mature size of the variety, but you can place the sets closer together initially and harvest thinnings for use as green onions.

A disadvantage of relying on sets is the limited choice of varieties… You might be tempted to pick out the largest sets from the bin, but these can go to seed quickly instead of forming a large bulb. Sets that are 1⁄2 inch in diameter—about the size of a dime—are the best buy.

2.) Transplants

Bundles of bareroot onion transplants are available from mail-order retailers in winter and early spring. With a greenhouse or indoor light setup, you can also produce your own


Dig a trench for the seedlings and place them slightly deeper than they were in the flat. As with sets, seedlings can be planted closer than their ultimate spacing of 4 to 6 inches, with the extras harvested as green onions.

3.) Seeds

To grow the biggest bulbs, onions benefit from the head start they get from sets or transplants. But bunching onions or scallions are quicker to mature, and they can be seeded directly into the garden. Sow seeds outdoors beginning about a month before the frost-free date and then again every few weeks through fall for continual harvests; in the south, the season is fall through spring. Start with fresh seeds, or seeds that are no more than a year old, because onion seeds lose viability quickly in storage.

Read more about planting onions at RodalesOrganicLife.com


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

More to Explore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *