There are not any vegetables that are completely care-free…but onions come very close. They don't require as much water or fertilizer, as most crops, and once planted, can be left alone. You can harvest at almost any stage of development, and they are perfect for raised bed gardening-- like Vego Garden Beds. They do need the following things: they need to be the correct onion type, they need to be planted at the right time, they need to have adequate sunlight, and they need good drainage.
Red Bermuda & 1015Y Supersweet onions-Dan Kinkade
There are three basic types of onions; short-day varieties, long-day varieties, and some that are in between called intermediate-day varieties. Onions respond to the length of daylight hours to initiate bulb production. Short-day varieties need ten to eleven hours to start bulbs, while long-day varieties need fourteen to sixteen hours of daylight before they will start producing bulbs. In the south, (USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-13) long-day varieties will never start creating bulbs and will just make giant green onions. If you live in the north, (USDA zones 1-6) you have more options, but a shorter growing season. In Texas, where I live, we only plant short-day varieties, like Bermuda, Granex, or 1015Y also known as¨Texas Super Sweet¨.
Onions are biennials, which means that the first year they store energy in a bulb, and the second year they use that energy to produce flowers and seeds. This is why I do not recommend starting onions by seed, unless you can start them indoors with a good propagation system. Starting from seed takes too long for most of us to get a plant to germinate (eight to ten weeks before planting outdoors), and still have enough time to get a good bulb. Some mail-order seed companies promote small onion bulbs, called ¨sets´, but they tend to be long-day varieties not suited to all areas. Instead, I recommend planting from transplants. These are usually available at most garden centers and big box stores after the December holiday season is over.
That leads to another important factor…timing. You want to give the onion enough time to get robust enough to form a bulb, and fill it full of energy. More energy equals a bigger bulb. Plant as early as you can work the soil, usually it is January or February here in Texas (USDA Zone 8), but about four to six weeks before the last frost in your area. The soil should be moist and easy to work, a soil mix high in compost gives the best results, and provides extra fertilizer. I use a dibble stick or my finger to poke a hole in the soil, and plant the transplant approximately ½ inch above the existing roots.
Finally, onions need six hours or more of direct sunlight in order to produce enough energy to store in the bulb. Raised beds, (Such as the Vego Garden Beds), filled with compost provide the last requirement of good drainage. Onions do not like wet feet and will rot or be slow to grow in poorly drained soils.
The best thing about onions is harvesting. You can harvest onions at any time. Pull them before they start forming bulbs, and you have green onions. Small bulbs are used as scallions, and bigger bulbs can be used at any stage of development. I plant onions early in my garden. If I need more room later, I can harvest them to make room for other vegetables. In order to get the maximum size bulb, wait until the tops of the onion start to turn brown and fall over. These are the best signs that the bulb is fully developed. Note; don't try to carry over your onions from last year. Remember onions are biennials, so the energy will be pulled out of the bulb, in order to make flowers and new onions.
Onion transplants ready for planting-Dan Kinkade
Onions are easy to grow, easy to harvest, easy to eat. Growing them won't make you cry, but chopping them up for a gourmet dinner, just might.