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Confused trying to grow onions

NiniSNiniS Posts: 18
Hi everyone!

It's been my first year trying to grow some vegetables and I've had a few successes, however I have been left confused by my onions! I'm hoping you can help me out. :smile:

In February I bought red onion seeds as I had read this would be better to grow than from sets (less chance of bolting). I managed to germinate a few but not many, so I ended up buying a tray of brown onion seedlings from our local garden center during lockdown (this was in April).



I planted some of my seedlings in my Vegtrug with compost, but because I had too many, I planted some of the leftover ones in smaller pots, clumped together. I would use some of these as spring onions. Strangely enough the ones in the pots grew better than the ones in my Vegtrug, I have no clue why.

We are now in August and I am quite disappointed by what has grown (or hasn't). The foliage on the onions in the pots has died back completely, but none of them are proper onion sized (I didn't expect them to because of how cramped they were). 



However the ones in my Vegtrug are worse and are nowhere near being onion sized. Some still have their foliage, some have lost theirs. They are all tiny (the smallest ones are the ones I'm holding). 







I would love to know what I might have done wrong? All the instructions I read said the onions would be ready by now, but obviously that's not true in my case.  :(

Are these a lost cause now? Or do I leave the ones with foliage in over winter to see if they will grow some more?

For the ones that have lost their foliage, can I use these as onion sets and plant again? If so, how would I do this, when would I need to plant them out? 

Any advice is very much appreciated! :) 
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Posts

  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 9,773
    I've used heat-treated onion sets for years now, so much less bother than from seed and no problem with bolting.  Onions are biennial so any which you save will flower (bolt) next year, unless you find a home-made way of heat treating them, a process which kills off the flower cells inside the bulb and allows it to grow instead of the plant going to seed.
    Click the 'hints and tips' tab on the page below to see how it is done:

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 467
    NiniS - I can't work out what type of environment you're growing them in?  There's no real reason for failure with onions if they're grown in open soil but, if you're using trays, raised beds etc., I wouldn't know.  I'd agree with Bob that sets are basically fool proof, so give us more details?
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 64,443
    Well  ... they look the perfect size for pickling 😋 

    Theres always a silver lining 😉 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • NiniSNiniS Posts: 18
    nick615 said:
    NiniS - I can't work out what type of environment you're growing them in?  There's no real reason for failure with onions if they're grown in open soil but, if you're using trays, raised beds etc., I wouldn't know.  I'd agree with Bob that sets are basically fool proof, so give us more details?
    They are grown in my Vegtrug, which is basically a raised bed on legs. I used vegetable compost and have covered the trug with a mesh to protect my crops as I also grew lettuce and carrots in here (the cover in the pictures is not the mesh but a type of greenhouse cover I used until the end of April to protect against frost). The trug is in the sun from around 9 am until 3-4 pm I guess, depending on the length of the days. 

    The ones I kept in the pots were in the exact same location but grew better for some reason. I've had some people tell me onions need to be grown over Winter, but all the information/instructions I've read said to sow early in Spring and harvest at the end of Summer. 


  • NiniSNiniS Posts: 18
    Well  ... they look the perfect size for pickling 😋 

    Theres always a silver lining 😉 

    Hahaha, I guess it's a silver lining if you like pickled onions, which I'm not a massive fan of myself.  :D 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,159
    The ones in the pots are small because they are cramped and have nowhere to expand plus a limited supply of nutrients and water.  If you'd planted clumps of 2 or 3 you'd have much bigger onions.

    The soil depth in your veg trug is very limited and composts only have nutrients for 90 days max so, if you didn't feed them they'll have starved and struggled to grow.   I suggest that next year you try planting onion sets in well-prepared ground -
    https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/onions and keep your veg trug for growing small, fast crops such as salad leaves, soft herbs like basil and chervil and maybe some spring onions.   Make sure you refresh the compost in there first and add fertiliser as the season progresses.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 467
    Yes.  I think Obelixx has covered most of it and, if you haven't got access to any open ground, I'd forget onions as they'll always be a disappointment to you.
  • NiniSNiniS Posts: 18
    Thank you for your replies. I did use tomorite and liquid seaweed fertilizer on my tomatoes and vegetables, but maybe not consistently enough with the Vegtrug.  :/

    I might skip trying to grow onions then as they seem to be more trouble than they are worth at the moment haha.

    Though I'm still tempted to try and grow some of mine as sets in Spring after watching this video: 
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 2,654
    You could grow spring onions in the vegtrug if you like them. They don't need a deep root run.
  • SkandiSkandi Northern DenmarkPosts: 932
    Well  ... they look the perfect size for pickling 😋 

    Theres always a silver lining 😉 


    I grow them in tight clumps to produce little onions just like you have and as dove says, they are perfect for pickling.

    Looking at the two sets of onions, the ones in pots have done well, you know why they were small. so whatever potting mix/fertiliser you used in there worked, if you want to try them again in the trug use whatever that was.
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