When To Dig And Store Onions

Onions are the unsung hero of the vegetable garden. They quietly grow, taking very little space, never crawling all over neighboring vegetables, and they store all winter. Plus they’re one of the most-used vegetables in cooking. What’s a hotdish without onions?

Here’s the when, where, and how of digging onions:

  • Onions are ready to dig when about 90 percent of the tops have fallen over naturally, withered, and dried from green to brown. It’s ok if some tops are still showing a little green, as long as they’ve fallen over and are shriveling and drying.
  • Onions can remain in the ground after tops have shriveled, but they’re best dug before fall rains begin.
  • In loose soil they can be pulled; a spading fork works well to lift onions in heavier soil.
  • Many gardeners like to dig onions in the morning and let them lay in the garden until early evening, then gather them up. Just be sure to pick them up before evening dew moistens them. Avoid leaving onions in intense sun to avoid sunburning the exteriors.
  • With tops intact, onions are ready for the important “curing,” which is a vital step in helping them store as long as possible.
  • Cure onions by spreading them in shallow containers in a dry, well-ventilated place with temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees. Most garages work well.
  • Allow onions to cure for 2 to 4 weeks until the outer scales are paper-dry and the “neck” is tight, not squishy, when pressed. If onions aren’t cured properly, they rot quicker in storage.
  • After curing, dry tops can be cut to about one inch. Keep all dry “wrapper” scales intact, as they enhance storage.
  • Now the onions are ready for long-term storage. Place in shallow containers or mesh bags in a very dry location. Storage temperature should be cool-dry, meaning between about 34 and 38 degrees F. If onions are stored above 40 degrees F. they will sprout quicker, decreasing the storage length.

Enjoying homegrown onions all winter is a wonderful reward, compliments of a rather unassuming garden vegetable. Happy Gardening!