When onion bulbs are as large as they will grow, the tops become weak and fall over. When over half of the tops have fallen over, the onions are ready to harvest. Drying and curing the onions will help them last for several months. And, certain varieties can keep all winter.

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Harvesting and Storing Onions

If you look at these, you ‘ll see that over half of them have fallen over. That means that they are ready to harvest. All you have to do in order to harvest these is to grab one, pull it up, and clean it off a little bit. If you have one where you’ve lost the top and it’s completely gone, then you can use a hand trowel to dig it up.

Then, transport it to a place where they can dry out. You’ll want to make sure that those tops are completely dry before you put them into permanent storage. That will take a little while, so you’ll need a place that is shaded and a place that is relatively cool with good air movement. So, I’m going to put them on the side of a building. If it’s going to rain, I’ll move them inside. They’ll be fine outside as long as they are shaded well. And, as soon as the tops are dried, you can either put the tops together and tie them together to store them that way. Or, you can put them in a mesh bag. We don’t want to put them in a plastic bag without holes. The onions can’t breathe, and it will reduce the storage quality of those onions.

Once they’re in the mesh bag, they will store for quite a while. Just keep them in a cool, relatively moist place. If you have a root cellar, that’s perfect. If you don’t, you’ll need a place that stay’s relatively cool in the house. Then, they’ll last at least six months.

If you have an onion with a soft spot, you can one of two things. First, you can cut it away and use it immediately, or you can just toss it. This is not going to store well, but the part that isn’t rotted will be fine. You need to keep it away from the other onions, because the rot organism that caused this to start to break down will pass to them. So, if it’s in one, it’s going to pass to the rest of them unless you keep it isolated.

What about this one? This is one that has bolted, or gone to seed. The energy in that bulb is going to tend to go the stalk. So, we’ll harvest it just like we do a normal bulb. Let the top dry, and then it should be the first one to use, because it’s not going to store well.

This feature story prepared with Ward Upham, Kansas State University Research and Extension Research Assistant. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.

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