Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Vegetables

Don’t Panic When Your Onions Flop!

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Onion leaves flop over to show they’re mature. Source: blessedbeyondcrazy.com

Onions have a very dramatic way to show that their bulb is mature, one that may be alarming if you’re not forewarned. Their leaves suddenly flop over, lying on the ground, as if the plant had died. But the onion is not dead: this is only one step in the bulb’s maturation process.

Traditionally, when the leaves of about half the onions in a plot had collapsed, gardeners used a garden rake to knock the others over. This was believed to accelerate their maturation, although it’s far from sure this actually speeds things up.

At any rate, after a week or two after most of the onions have flopped and their leaves are really starting to do downhill, dig up the bulbs up and leave them lying exposed, roots and all, to the sun for a few days. (In case of rainy weather, lay them on a sheet of plastic in a garage or shed.) This cures them (hardens then off), causing the outer layer of dried leaves to thicken. That way, they’ll store better later. Since bruised or damaged bulbs won’t store well and will soon start to rot, don’t bother trying to cure them. Just use them fresh over the following few weeks.

The final step is to clean the bulbs lightly with a brush, bring them indoors and store them in a cool, dry place, like a root cellar. You’ll have homegrown onions all winter!

 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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