When to harvest onions – the key time to pick ripe onions to avoid damaging your crop

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Onions are one of the most versatile root vegetables out there, with endless uses in the kitchen all year round. The bulbs are easy to plant at home yourself too – and this can be done at different times of the year depending on the variety you choose to grow. Here’s when to harvest onions grown from sets in your garden, and exactly how to do it.

When to harvest onions

Onions grown from sets will grow more quickly than seeds and will produce an earlier crop.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommended that these are planted in spring, from mid-March to mid-April.

Sets which are planted at this time should be ready to harvest in late summer and early autumn.

Some cultivars can be planted in October as they are more frost-hardy and will be ready to harvest from early to mid-summer (early June to July).

Onions will generally be ready to harvest around 100 days after planting from bulbs, but how can you know for sure that they’re ready to pick?

According to Grow Veg, there are a few key indicators you can look out for to determine the best time to harvest.

In most cases, onions are ready to be plucked from the ground “as soon as they reach a usable size.”

This rule is best applied to onions that are going to be used shortly after harvest.

If you intend to harvest your onion crop for storage, the process is a little different.

Grow Veg said: “For storage, your cue to start the harvesting process is when the leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges.”

The time of day is also crucial when it comes to picking ripe onions from the ground, so try to do it in the morning, when the temperature is mild.

A dry day is ideal for harvesting, as waterlogged roots can be fragile, and the hard flesh is more prone to bruising when wet.

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How to harvest onions

Harvesting is the easiest and most rewarding part of growing your own crops at home, but the exact technique you use should vary depending on the type of onions you are growing.

It is recommended that onions should be harvested before the foliage dies down completely, and can be done easily using nothing but a gardening fork.

The RHS said: “Carefully lift the bulbs with a fork, taking care not to damage or bruise them, as this could cause them to rot in storage.”

Damaged onions or those with visible flowerheads should be used right away as these won’t store well.

How to harvest stored onions

If you intend to harvest ripe onions and keep them stored for a period of time before use, you will need to dry them out after digging them up.

According to Grow Veg, the best way to do this is to lay the dug-up onions either on the soil surface, or use a wire rack for “better ventilation”.

The onions should then be left to dry in the sun for one week, and should be kept covered during periods of wet weather.

Autumn-planted onions only store until early winter, while spring-sown or planted onions can last until well into the following season.

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