When growing onions for your kitchen garden, knowing when they should be harvested is essential. Harvesting them too early will result in small and undersized bulbs; conversely, harvesting them too late could cause them to rot due to too much moisture exposure.
When Onions Are Ready for Harvest
To tell when your onions are ripe for harvesting, look for browning on the bulbs and signs that they have begun to topple over. This usually occurs around two months after planting, depending on the variety and climate.
At this stage, you should begin to feel the neck of the bulb (where leaves meet bulb) start to soften. This is an indication that nutrient transfer from leaves to bulb has finished. Watering less frequently at this stage is key in order to prevent sour skin or black mold growth.
At this stage, the tops of your onions should start turning yellow and flop over. At this point, begin pulling them up and shaking off any soil from underneath them. Lay them out to cure with their tops still attached in a warm, airy location for curing.
Curing is a process that helps your onions dry out and prevents them from spoiling during storage. It takes around one week for the bulbs to become fully cured, at which point you can take away their roots and trim away any tops of onions.
Once curing is complete, take the onions out of the sun and bring them indoors to a dry area with good airflow. This could be in an enclosed garage or porch; alternatively, you could also use a shed.
Once your onions have been cured, you should trim away the outer layers of skin to reveal the inner bulbs and store them away for fall and winter use. Not properly curing onions can lead to rot and damage the inner bulbs of your onion plants; thus, following this curing step is key to getting the best quality produce from your onions.
When curing bulbs, be mindful not to bruise them as this is the most likely way to cause rotting during storage. Instead, shake off any soiled soil and gently scrape away any outer flakes of skin from each bulb by hand without rubbing against it.
Next, allow the onions to sit for 7 to 10 days. At that point, you can prune away any roots and trim the bulbs’ tops to about 1-2 inches above their bulb. Doing this makes braiding them together much simpler if that is your desired technique.
Once you’ve trimmed away any roots and any flaky skin that are not papery or brown, place your onions into a clean wicker basket for extra protection. Alternatively, wrap them tightly in newspaper or paper towels for additional security.