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How To Grow Onions In Pots And Containers

Updated on September 12, 2013
Young spring onions intercropped with carrots
Young spring onions intercropped with carrots

Growing Your Own Onions

Onions are a popular stable in our cooking so it's always handy to have a ready supply available. Conventional large onions take up a lot of growing space so aren't the best suited for container growing, but will still grow happily in pots or containers. A better option us to grow spring onions. These take up less space and many can be grown quite happily close together. As they grow relatively fast and take up little space they can be grown alongside other plants. This is known as intercropping, placing smaller faster growing varieties of vegetables in the same containers as larger growing plants. By the time the larger plants start to take up all the space in the container, the smaller, quicker growing plants will have already been harvested. Onions are also good for companion planting. They are a natural deterrent to many pests and so, grown with suseptable plants, can act as a protective shied. In particular, onions are meant to be a good protection for carrots against carrot fly. The smell of the onions disguises the smell of the carrots foliage, that attracts the fly, which causes damage to the carrots, making them unattractive and unedible.

If you prefer other types of onions rather than spring onions, it is worth considering shallots and picking onions which take up less space and can be grown closer together than large onions. All onions can contribute to a healthy diet. They are a good source of vitamin C, A, calcium and iron.

Containers

Spring onions will happily grow in small pots and containers so are ideal if space is very limited. If the only available growing space you have is a sunny window, spring onions are a good choices to grow, maximizing the amount of crop that can be grown from the limited space. Large onions, although shallow rooting, ideally require deeper containers but smaller shallots and picking onions can be sown in slightly smaller ones. The containers don't have to be fancy or purpose made. Any container can be used as long as it is suitable in size. Make sure it is thoroughly clean and avoid using anything that has previously contained chemicals or other hazardous substances. If it is used outdoors make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom as without these the pots can become waterlogged and the plants will rot and die. It's worth considering the attractiveness of the containers if they are on display, but even so, even tin cans can make attractive and inexpensive homes for a few spring onions.

Growing Medium

Onions will grow well in good quality compost, though as they are less keen on nitrogen than many other plants, prefer a more alkaline medium. If re-using compost, avoid growing them in compost which has been previously used to grow beans in, which add nitrogen to the compost, and maybe add some potash to it. For spring onions, especially when harvested young, this should be less of a problem and they will usually grow without any problem in good quality multi-purpose or compost for vegetable growing. Loose compost does not make for happy onions so make sure it is compact within the.pots or containers.

Sowing

Onion sets can be planted the previous Autumn/Fall for an early summer crop or planted in early spring for harvesting in late summer, making sure when planting that their tips are showing just up above the compost. Sets are small 'baby' onions and are ideal if grown in an area with a short growing season as they have in essence got a 'head start'. Seeds can be sown from early spring to late summer. Regular sowing of spring onion seeds will insure a regular supply throughout a large part of the year and will avoid having a glut, resulting at them all being ready for harvest at the same time. Spring onions aren't as hungry as other onions but all onions will benefit from a regular feed as well as regular watering.

Problems

Rotting can be a problem with larger onions if there is not adequate drainage or poor air circulation around the plants and growth can be slow if the onions do not receive enough sunlight. This is less of a problem with faster growing spring onions, which are also a good call to grow if your growing space suffers from a degree of shade as they will grow with less sunlight. Onion fly shouldn't be a problem with spring onions or small onions grown in containers but protection can be easily provided using a fleece covering.

Spring Onions
Spring Onions | Source

Harvesting

The rewards of all your efforts are brought forth when the time comes to harvest your crop. Shallots and picking onions planted as sets the previous autumn should be ready by the following summer when the leaves start to turn yellow. Spring onions can be harvested young or allowed to mature to full size and can be harvest regularly if successional sowing is followed. Nothing beats the pleasure of eating the freshest possible vegetables, grown yourself.

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