when to harvest onions

When To Harvest Onions: top tips for success

Onions are usually planted in spring as bulbs. They are ready to harvest in late summer/autumn. You can either harvest your onions when they reach your desired size or you can let them grow until the plant stops growing. Knowing when to harvest onions is very helpful information as you may be tempted to let them grow too long.

Some years your onions will grow very well and they may end up too large to be convenient for you to use if you let them continue to grow. If this is the case you will need to dig them out of the ground with a garden fork, shake all the soil off them and let them dry in the sun for a week before storing them.

If your onions are nearly finished growing for the year and will not be too large, you can let them grow on until they finish growing before harvesting. One key area when growing onions is how often to water them, as they need water often but not too much at any one time

When to harvest onions?

An onion plant will show when it has finished growing and is ready for harvest when its leaves start to turn brown at the edges and they flop over rather than standing green, upright and tall.

onions ready to harvest
These onions are almost ready to harvest

How to harvest onions in wet weather

It may be difficult for you to find suitable dry weather to harvest your potatoes. If you see that the weather forecast looks like rain for the foreseeable future you can still go ahead and harvest your onions. The key is to get the onions pulled quickly and get as much soil knocked off them as possible outside.

Now you should bring the onions under a roof – into a greenhouse, polytunnel, or shed that has a good flow of air through it. Set them up on wire racks or place them in slatted wooden boxes and let the curing process begin. Don’t let the onions sit too long outside after being pulled, as they may begin to rot.

How to cure onions after harvesting?

Curing onions is when you remove moisture from the outermost layer to act as a barrier or protection for long-term storage. This drying of the outer skin will reduce infection, mould, or rot coming into the onion and help prevent moisture from escaping, resulting in a soft spongy onion.

onions drying by tying up
Onions can be dried on wire racks, slatted boxes, or tied up with string.

The more you can spread the onions out the faster they will dry. The onions will be ready to store when the skins are dry, crisp, and brittle. The leaves should be completely shriveled up and the roots will be dry and hard.

How to store onions long term

Onions like to be stored somewhere dry, dark, and cool with good ventilation. Heat and still air encourage mould growth. If you had to choose between an unheated room in the house vs a shed outside, the shed will be better because it will probably be easier to have a draft blowing through it.

You should place your onions into net bags or slatted boxes for storage and use up any onions which appear to have not cured so well (soft onions) or still have thick fleshy necks. The onions will store for around 6 months easily if you get the conditions right.

To summarise – you will know when to harvest your onions when you notice the green leaves, no longer stand up straight and tall, and the skin on the outside of the onion begins to turn brown and paper thin. Always remember that onions need to be placed in a dry area away from rain and which has good airflow passing through.