“This political root has a curious predicament,
When its prices are high, it brings down the government”
Onions are rooting veggies that such a basic staple in Indian cooking, that it makes sense to try and grow it just for experimental value, even though they are not very well suited for Mumbai weather!
SEASONS: The onion plant is a seasonal plant. It needs cool weather at all stages of its growth. Since it takes 4 months to grow out fully, plant in early November for a late February harvest. Or grow them as scallions, sowing during the cool months of the monsoons for harvesting during the monsoons itself.
PROPAGATING: This plant is very easily propagated from seeds but needs them fresh – not more than six months old. Onions can also be propagated from discarded onion root bottoms.
GERMINATING: Onion seeds are best germinated in germination dishes/seeding baskets prepared with a mixture of compost and peat moss. Seeds can be shown in shallow, 1/4 inch deep holes or, since they are minuscule and difficult to handle, just scattered on the surface with a sprinkling of soil above, or thinly dribbled in furrows along raised rows (so they are easier to transplant later). Place in semi-shade and spray water evenly. Spray your sown seeds daily until seedlings emerge in 7-15 days.
PLANTING OUT: Choose well-composted, neutral or slightly acidic well-drained soil in a sunny, but not too hot, spot. Plant out your seedlings carefully, taking care not to damage their delicate roots, in holes about 1/4 inch deep and at least 4 inches apart. Water daily. If you find your seedlings are too crowded as they grow, then thin them out as you go along. If you have planted onion bottoms and ensured that their roots are well covered in composted and drained soil, they will start growing upwards and outwards and shoots of green will soon emerge. Onions will grow well on open plots but containers are preferable (at least 12 inches deep) since they keep the soil moist and are convenient for harvesting.
NURTURING: Onion plants require regular but not heavy watering, as constant moist conditions will make its roots rot. Seeded onion plants will reach scallion/spring onion stage within 1-2 months. If not harvested, they will grow more bulbous in root, while their green stalks will slowly change color to yellow over the next 2 months. Onion plants are prone to many diseases like maggot infestations, fungus, mildew, blotch and blight. Once affected, there are very few organic remedies. So prevention is cure – and it is important that you practice crop rotation with this plant, and grow it in season only.
HARVESTING: Onions can be harvested at scallion/spring onion stage after 1-2 months, or at maturity at 4 months. At all stages they can be pulled out of the soil gently while harvesting. A sign of maturing onions is the yellowing and drooping of its leaves. Once you notice that, stop watering for a few days to allow the mature onion plant to dry out well. Then harvest, tying your harvested onion plants together by their leaves, in bunches, and hanging them out to dry thoroughly. After harvesting, replenish the soil and use that space for growing fruiting or leafing veggies next.
Red onions at 3 months, and young white scallions at 2 months
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