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How To Grow Spring Onions For A Bumper Crop

How To Grow Spring Onions For A Bumper Crop

15 minute read

Two Wests & Elliott's Gardening Guide To How To Grow Spring Onions

When you grow spring onions you will find they are easy-to-grow as long as you provide them with good, fertile soil that has adequate drainage. With a harvest time of as little as 8 weeks these are great for the new gardener - or young gardeners if you want your children or grand children to help you out in the garden. Spring onions also make great companion plants to many other crops and can be used as a 'filler crop' amongst your other rows of slower growing vegetables.

What’s In A Name?
In the UK we talk about Spring Onions, but in fact this tasty addition to our salads goes by lots of different names across the world, so here are some of the other names which you might be familiar with . . . baby onions, green onions, long onions, salad onions, scallions, table onions, onion sticks, precious onions, syboes, shallots, yard onions etc etc.

When To Grow Spring Onions 
Spring Onions are a versatile, fast-growing crop which can be planted all year round. They can be grown in pots or containers on a window sill, in containers or raised beds in your garden or in full rows in a kitchen garden or at an allotment. So no matter how much or how little space you have available you will be able to grow spring onions.   

Selecting The Seeds To Grow Spring Onions
If you have decided to grow spring onions then you will find there are lots of varieties to choose from, but there are two main kinds: bunching and bulbing.

  • Bunching Spring Onions - these are like minature leeks, being tall, thin and cylindrical.
  • Bulb Spring Onions - these have a small round bulb with green leaves above. 

As with many vegetables, you will also find different colours of spring onions - from the traditional white through to deep purple varieties. To help you make the right choice when growing spring onions for the first time, we have selected a few popular varieties.   

Spring Onion varieties to try include:

The most well known and traditional variety of Spring Onions in the UK is White Lisbon RHS AGM.

This variety has long, white stems and bright green tops. Sow between February to July and they will be ready to harvest in approx. 12 weeks from sowing, so between May to October. It has a delicious, mild flavour.   

varieties of spring onions to grow

Other varieties which we would recommend growing include: 

Ishikura  – a Japanese bunching type of spring onion featuring long white stems with short, bright green tops this is another popular and reliable variety, sow between March to July to harvest between May to October.   

Lilia RHS AGM  – an Italian dual purpose type with an intense red / purple inner core, dark green leaves and a pungent flavour, sow between March to July to harvest between June to October. 

Guardsman F1-hybrid – a British-bred which is a cross between White Lisbon & Ishikura, it has with strong, straight leaves of medium green and a suprme, non-pungent flavour, sow between March to September to harvest between March to October, or sow August to September to harvest the following Spring. 

Apache – another bunching type with a decorative, deep purple bulb and dark green leaves, it has a mild flavour and crisp texture, sow between March to July and only take approx. 6 weeks before they are ready to harvest.

Did You Know?? You Can Grow Spring Onions From Kitchen Scraps
All gardeners love value for money and recycling, but did you know you can even recycle the off cuts from Spring Onions and grow new plants!! When trimming your harvested onions it's just a case of slicing off the ends of the bulbs leaving the roots still attached. Then add some water to a container which you can place on your kitchen windowsill and put in the cut ends - so the roots are in the water but the cut end in the air. After just a few days new green shoots should start to emerge from the top of the onions - once this new growth is 4-5 inches high they are ready to plant into compost (either in a pot or in your garden). You can then harvest as you want to - simply snipping them off above ground level will allow the Spring Onions to continue to grow over and over again!  

Preparing The Ground For Spring Onions
If you have decided to grow spring onions directly into the ground where they will grow until they are harvested, then there is just a little bit of preparation required before you sow the spring onion seeds. 

First, make sure you select the best location - spring onions grow best in a sunny site where there is a light, free draining soil. So once the location has been chosen you will need to prepare the ground:

Weed and rake the soil - make sure all weeds are removed, break up any lumps of soil, remove any stones, basically you need to get your soil down to a fine tilth.

Add fertiliser - add a good general fertiliser to the soil at least a week or so before you plan to sow the seeds. Just be aware that if the soil is too rich then you will end up with your spring onions producing a lot of leafy, top growth - so don't overdo the fertiliser.

growing spring onions in the ground

Check the soil moisture the day before sowing - if the ground is very dry then water the area 24 hours before sowing the onion seeds.  

Make a drill - spring onion seeds are not sown very deep, so your drill only needs to be about ½ inch deep. If you are planting more than one row of spring onions, space the drills approximately 6 inches apart. 

What's A Drill?? 
In gardening terms, a 'drill' is a shallow line which you make in the soil prior to sowing a row of seeds. By creating a 'drill' you will create an ordered row of plants in the exact area you want to grow. The depth and length of the drill will vary depending on what plant seeds you are sowing. Sometimes using a hand line will ensure you create a drill which is straight.

Sow the seeds - aim to space your seeds about ½ inch to an inch apart - your spring onions will grow so quickly that you won't need to thin them out.   

Cover with soil - simply walk along beside the drill, pushing the soil so the seeds are covered. You can protect your young spring onions from birds, slugs and snails by covering the rows with environmesh, fleece or using a tunnel cloche

Grow Spring Onions As A Companion Plant 
Just like allotment gardeners, you will find that some plants will flourish when grown with other types whilst others need to be kept as far apart as possible!! This is where companion planting comes in - letting you take advantage of your plants preferences. 

The Power Of Companion Planting
"Companion planting is an alternative to monoculture. Alongside the crops that you want to harvest, you also plant other species that have a positive effect. This can range from reducing pests, increasing pollination, and even making crops more nutrious."

Courtesy of

spring onions

There are lots of plants which can benefit by having onions planted next to them - so a fast growing crop of spring onions can be the perfect solution. The pungent odour of spring onions growing amonst your tomato plants will help to keep insects and pests away and will have a similar affect if planted next to melons. 

Whilst a good companion plant to spring onions are marigolds as they will help to prevent nematodes in the soil. 

Caring For Your Crop As You Grow Spring Onions
Spring onions are a fairly undemanding crop, so you only need to pay attention to:

Watering - we have mentioned previously how spring onions prefer a well draining soil, which means they do not like to be in waterlogged soil and you need to be careful not to over-water them. Over-watering can also result in spring onions being more susceptible to disease, such as downy mildew. So you need to keep the soil moist by watering regularly to prevent it from drying out but also be conscious to not water too often.  

Feeding - if you want to provide your spring onions with a boost whilst they are growing then a liquid feed two to three times - so around every 3 to 4 weeks - during the growing season will help. As spring onions only have shallow roots, it's the first 3 to 6 inches of soil which need to have the nutrients, which is why a liquid feed with a ratio of 1-2-2 (for example 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium) will work best. 

Weeding - it's crucial when caring for your spring onions as they grow that you keep them weed free - they really don't like the competition of growing amongst weeds where they will compete for light and moisture. So you need to weed regularly, hoeing between rows and hand weeding amongst the plants. Weeding like this will also improve air circulation and prevent overcrowding - both of which will reduce the chance of onion disease like downy mildew. 

Diseases  To Avoid When You Grow Spring Onions
You won't find many dieases affecting spring onions, but those which do can cause a real, long-term problem. 

Onions White Rot – this is a serious fungal disease which can affect any types of onions, garlic and leeks which you grow and can be very common when growing on an allotment site. If the leaves of the spring onions start to turn yellow or dry out and wilt then this could be an indication that the roots are rotting - as the roots rot you may also find your plants toppling over as they have nothing to support them. If you lift the spring onions up you are likely to see a white, fluffy, fungal growth around the base. Unfortunately onion white rot can remain in the soil for between 12 to 20 years as sclerotia - resting spores - stay in the soil.  

Onion Downy Mildew – the scientific name for this disease is very appropriate 'Peronospora Destructor'. This fungus will affect all types of onions (even chives), first affecting the leaves and later the bulbs of the plant. The leaves will turn yellow and die off from the top downwards and in wet conditions the fungus will appear as a white turning into purple mould on the leaves. If plants are affected then you need to remove and destroy them and not plant onions in that part of your garden for up to 5 years due to fungus spores. 

Pests Attracted When You Grow Spring Onions
Here we have chosen two of the most common pests which could cause you problems when growing Spring Onions, others include thrips and black aphids.

Onion Fly – one of the most common pests which can affect any types of onions you are growing, including spring onions, shallots, onions, garlic and leeks. It is the maggot of this fly which causes the damage, but it is the fly which you have to stop getting to your plants. There are no chemicals which you can use to treat affected bulbs - once the onions have been affected then the plant is lost - simply dig up the plants and burn them - removing any maggots which you find in the surrounding soil. Your best plan of attack is to cover new spring onion plants with an insect proof netting to prevent onion flies from landing on them. If you have had onion fly in your garden before you shouldn't plant onions in the same soil the following year. 

Slugs – one of the most common garden pests in the UK, slugs can pose a threat when you grow spring onions, especially during wet weather. Although slugs generally like to eat decaying matter, they will also happily munch their way through spring onion seedlings, the leaves as well as other parts of the plants. With slugs you have two main chemical free ways of preventing them making a feast of your crop - either companion planting or creating a physical barrier (such as using copper tape) to protect your plants.  

Harvesting Your Spring Onions
From sowing to harvesting it can take around eight weeks. Depending on the variety, growing conditions and how large you want the onions to grow this could be up to ten weeks – always check the seed packet for the suppliers recommendations on how long they should take to be ready to harvest. 

Usually, you will be harvesting spring onions when they are about 6 inch / 15cm in height and between ½ to 1 inch / 1.5 to 2.5cm wide.

If you plan to harvest the full plant – so you are going to eat both the bulb and the stem of the plant – you are best to use a hand fork or trowel to loosen to soil around the spring onions prior to pulling the onions up from the base (close to the soil), keeping the bulb intact and not bruising the stem.

harvesting your spring onions

The longer you leave your spring onions to grow, the stronger and more intense their flavour will become. To appreciate their taste you should harvest as close as possible to the recommended harvesting time depending on the variety you have grown.  

Why Grow Spring Onions?
Considered a 'superfood' because of their nutritional value, they are rich in plant fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals as well as potentially offering a list of impressive health benefits:

  • spring onions aid digestion due to their high fibre content, promoting a healthy gut and helping prevent constipation
  • spring onions, as well as other members of the allium family, are a liver-cleansing food because they contain both allium and selenium, so are a good food as part of a liver detox
  • spring onions have diuretic properties helping your body to eliminate excess water weight
  • spring onions are used as a natural remedy to treat viral infections, flu, the common cold etc. 
  • spring onions help maintain normal vision and keeps your eyes healthy as they contain lutein and zeaxanthin that both have an eye-protecting effect. 

Low in calories – 32 per 100g
Great Source Of Vitamin C – which helps to boost your immune system 
High in Potassium – which should help to lower blood pressure
High in nutrients 
– in addition to vitamin C, they are also rich in vitamins A & B2, together with thiamine, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Excellent source of fibre – around 2.64g dietary fibre in 100g of spring onions.
Tiny amounts of fat – only 0.2g of fat in 100g of spring onions.
High water content – approx. 89% water when raw.

why grow spring onions

However, there can be too much of a good thing and eating too many spring onions can have a negative effect on our digestive system, triggering nausea, bloating, vomiting, acid reflux and even irritable bowel syndrome. 

Storing Spring Onions
When it comes to spring onions they are best eaten soon after you have picked them - they can be eaten raw or cooked - and one of the reasons for this is that they can be tricky to store well.

Spring onions contain high levels of moisture - more than mature onions do - which causes issues with storage. Keeping them at room temperature for more than 2-3 days could see them become mouldy. If you want to store them out of your fridge, then you could keep them on a kitchen side or windowsill in a glass of water - remembering to change the water when it turns cloudy. Kept in this way your spring onions sould stay firm and crunchy for about a week. 

If you would prefer to store your spring onions in your fridge, then the best plan is to put them in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer - putting them loose in your fridge without a bag will allow the cold air to reach the onions quickly and they will lose lots of moisture, rapidly dehydrating and wilting so becoming inedible. Kept in a sealed bag you could expect them to last for up to two weeks. 

Our how to grow spring onions guide has been created from our personal knowledge, information gathered by speaking to other gardeners or manufacturers in the gardening industry, by reading gardening magazines and devouring information from books and the internet. We aim to be as accurate as we can, so if you find a mistake, please remember, we’re only human. if you have any queries you can contact us today!

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