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Growing Green Onions

Growing Green Onions

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

One of my favorite cooking go-tos is green onions. I like their bright but mild onion flavor, without the eye-tearing pungency of regular onions. I mix them into scrambled eggs, add their zip to pizza, and of course sprinkle them over tacos and nachos.

But have you seen what they’re charging for green onions lately in the supermarket? They’ve doubled in price, and as much as I enjoy them, I refuse to pay for what is essentially a garnish. But there’s a way to have months of green onions at a bargain price: grow them!

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There are two ways you can grow your own green onions: by seed, or by using the cuttings from green onions that you buy at the store. Seeds are readily available at garden centers, big box stores, and online.

Green onions (Allium fistulosum), aka scallions, spring onions, or bunching onions, are their own species. They aren’t immature onions. Green onions take about 60 to 80 days from sowing to harvest.

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How To Grow Green Onions From Seed

Soil: Fertile, sandy, well-drained. It’s a good idea to mix compost into the soil before planting. They can also be grown in containers.

Light: At least six hours of full sun a day.

Water: Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Green onions have shallow root systems, so can dry out quicker than other vegetables.

Sowing: You can start seeds inside eight to ten weeks before your last frost date. Transplant them out two to four weeks before your last expected frost. Or sow outside once the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees F. Sow seeds according to the directions on the seed packet. For a continuous crop, sow more seed every three weeks or so.

Weeding: Keep the area around the onions weeded to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Mulch will help keep weeds down while holding moisture in the soil.

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Feeding: Use a liquid fertilizer that’s slightly high in nitrogen.

Harvesting: Start harvesting onions once the plants are six to eight inches tall, and the thickness of a pencil. You can cut the green tops off, leaving the small bulb in the ground, where it will continue to produce leaves, or pull the entire plant. Don’t allow the plants to flower, it will change their flavor. 

How To Grow Green Onions by Cuttings

The other way to grow your own green onions is by growing the onions you buy at the supermarket in a glass of water. You won’t get new bulbs, but they’ll continue to produce leaves, which you can cut three or four times before the plant peters out. Here’s how:

Grow the white section at the bottom of the bulb, the part that has the roots. Cut most of the leaves back, but keep a little bit of the green area. What you have left should be a couple of inches long.

Put the bulb in a glass and cover just the roots with water. Put in a sunny spot and top off the water as it evaporates, keeping the roots submerged. Change the water once a week. In a few days new green shoots will emerge from the bulb. You can cut these once they are a few inches tall, but always leave some green on the bulb to help it photosynthesize.

You can also plant the bulb in soil, either in the garden or in a container, where it will continue to produce leaves. Care for it as for direct-seeded onions, above.

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By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
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