Separating Onions: Getting The Most Out Of Your Nursery Pack

Ed Wike
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Find Your Roots

Nothing makes you feel more like a farmer than harvesting your own onions from your own garden.

To get those sweet onion onions, you can grow an onion from seed, about six to eight weeks before the ground freezes. You want the onion to be tiny, yet still able to grow a nutritionally available root system. There are even some small, sweet seed onions for seeding in late summer.

As the onion grows, most of the time you'll want to keep the soil evenly moist. If you notice the onion is getting large, pull it out of the ground and use it for cooking before the weather turns cold.

Also, if you're looking for a bigger root system, you can dig up the onion, and place it on a level surface (like your porch or deck). Then, make a little hole in the middle of the onion and push the root system back into the hole (a little deeper than before). Put some mulch overtop, making sure it covers all the exposed parts of the root system. Place the mulch very loosely so the surface water can soak in and keep the onion from rotting.

All throughout the winter, check the mulch to make sure it stays moist, and keep the mulch only loosely piled so it doesn't hold the potential to keep freezing water against the growing root system.

Bath Time For Your Onions

If you start with a large nursery pack of onion sets, it's possible that over time you'll notice that some of them have grown big enough to use. While some gardeners might give up and dump the smaller onion bulbs, you can harvest them quickly and easily using the right tools.

Plants grown from onion sets or other similar onion bulbs will produce multiple bulblets on each bulb where the bulb actually meets the green part of the plant. Some of those bulblets might develop into full-size onions, but others might stay quite small. You can peel back the outer layers of the onion bulb in order to reveal the small onions.

Identifying Where To Start Separating Onions

The first step in separating onions is identifying where to start. With onions that are round (like Vidalias), start by peeling the skin (into a one-piece shroud) all the way around. Next, snip the roots off near the bulb. Cut the skinned bulb in half (lengthwise) and you are just about ready to separate the layers.

Detangling Broken Roots And Preparing To Plant

The nursery pack is the best way anyone new to gardening can ever start. It is inexpensive and will allow you to get a feel for gardening. Make sure you buy your plants early, the closer to spring the better.

Pull the plants out of the nursery pack and remove the cellophane. This will allow you to spread the roots out. Now that the plant is out of its cellophane packaging, you should cut the roots back. This will allow you to get rid of some of that browning root.

Use a sharp pair of scissors to gently pull apart the roots of the plant. This is a two-handed maneuver: one hand pulls while the other hand folds the roots over the top of the scissors. It is best to pull gently and slowly, trying to pull apart the roots in a straight line. Remember, these are live plants and they can break.

Once you have detangled all the roots, look for places where you can cut the roots. The amount of roots you remove depends upon your growing conditions and the type of plant. If you have a moist, shaded area where the plant can grow and flourish, you may want to leave all the roots intact.

If you are transplanting into a flower bed, you may want to allow more root growth to give the plant more ability to anchor itself before the ground freezes.