Growing Spring Onions is a garden project that starts early in the year. You’ll end up with small bulbous onions that have a much milder flavor than a normal yellow onion but can be used in the same way.
What are Spring onions?
If you are looking for a small onion with a mild flavor that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir fries and soups to add a light onion flavor, then growing spring onions is the project for you.
Spring onions look similar to green onions or scallions, but they have a small bulb at the base instead of a flatter white area. The flavor of spring onions is more intense than that of a scallion or green onion, but milder than a normal yellow cooking onion.
If you are confused on the names of these three onions, you aren’t alone! In the UK all green onions with long stalks are called spring onions!
Here in the US, there are spring onions, scallions and green onions that all seem to get lumped together.
Spring onions can be grown from seeds or sets. The bulb that form can be either white or red, depending on the variety. The red varieties are wonderful used in salads.
The name “spring onion” comes from the fact that the cold hardy onion is planted in late fall and harvested in the spring. But you can also grow spring onions from seeds all summer long.
A spring onion is grown from varieties that are bred to produce bulbs and can be considered a more mature version of a green onion or scallion.
Spring onions are often used in soups and salads but can also be used the way you use normal onions. They are often cooked and can be roasted, grilled on the BBQ or used in other recipes.
Using spring onions in recipes add a delicate onion flavor and the long green stalks add texture and color when used as a garnish.
There are many types of onions. Spring onions, scallions and green onions are just a few of them. Find out about the onion varieties here.
There are many types of onions. Spring onions are just one type. Find out about the onion varieties here.
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Growing Spring Onions
One of the beautiful aspects of growing spring onions is how easy they are to grow. Follow these guidelines and you will have a tasty crop of mild onions from late spring and all summer long.
Spring onion Sunlight needs
Choose an area that will receive at least partial sunlight. Spring onions don’t have a requirement for strong sunlight, but most vegetables need at least moderate light to grow well.
I grow my spring onions in a spot that gets morning shade and afternoon sunlight after about 2 pm and they grow well.
Spring onions can also be grown indoors in a pot if you have a sunny window, or on a patio or deck garden.
Planting spring onions
Spring onions need a soil PH range of 6.3 and 6.8 to grow well. Till your soil well to remove clumps and rocks that might be present. Since they will grow into a bulb, they do best in a loose soil that drains well.
Amend your soil with compost or other organic matter. Spring onions do not like acidic soil.
Space the seeds about 2 inches apart to give the bulb room to grow when it matures. You can plant rows about 6 inches apart. Loosely cover the seeds with fine soil to protect from birds.
When the onions first start to grow, they will have needle like fine stalks, but these will soon become larger.
Keep the onions evenly moist and free of weeds. You do not want the onions competing with weeds for nourishment. The best spring onions grow in a weed-free environment.
Mulch around the plants to retain moisture and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. (this also helps with weed control.)
When to plant spring onions
Spring onions will grow from sets but are so easy to grow from seed and cheaper this way, so that is the way I grow them. When you plant depends on whether you use seeds or sets.
Seeds for spring onions are sown when the weather is moderate, after the danger of frost has passed. Don’t wait until it gets really hot though, or the crop will suffer.
My spring onions grown from seed lasted over the winter and I was able to harvest them similarly to scallions the first year and then the next year too when they formed bulbs.
If you sow spring onion seeds every few weeks during the spring and summer, you will have a continuous harvest of these delicate beauties all summer long.
To get an early spring crop, plant a winter hardy crop of spring onion from sets or seeds in the fall. This type of spring onion takes longer to grow and will be harvested in the early spring months the next year.
When to water the onions
Spring onions like moderate moisture. Water the onions when the soil is starting to dry around the onions. You can use a light shower setting on your hose, or a large watering can.
Be careful not to over water or you will get larger onions with a very weak flavor.
Do I need to fertilize spring onions?
In normal circumstances, spring onions mature quickly and don’t need fertilizer. If you live in a very dry climate which makes moisture a problem, you may need to give the onions a boost with some fertilizer to add nutrients.
I always add organic matter to my soil so I have not found the need to fertilize, even here in North Carolina.
Pests and diseases for these onions
Because of their quick growing habit, pests are not too much of a problem compared to other onion varieties.
Onions flies can be problem. To combat them, spread out your spring onions plants and push down the soil around each of the plants to prevent the pests from laying eggs on them.
Soil mixed with some sand seems to help with onion flies, too.
If you notice mold on any of the spring onions, remove them so that the rest of the crop is not affected.
When to harvest spring onions
It takes about 8 weeks for spring onions to mature. Your onions will be ready for harvest when they reach a height of 6 inches and a thickness of about 1/2 inch.
If you allow the spring onions to grow longer, don’t let them get larger than 1 inch, or the flavor will be very weak.
To harvest the spring onions, pull the onion by the base, close to the top of the soil and gently tug out. A small spade or garden shovel can also be used.
You can harvest the green tops of the spring onion at any time of their growth, leaving the bulb intact. The onions will continue to grow and re-sprout more green tops.
Where to purchase spring onions
Most garden centers and big box hardware stores have a good supply of spring onion seeds. I get my spring onion seedlings from a local small garden center.
How to trim Spring Onions
It’s not just the whole onion that is used in recipes, knowing how to cut spring onions is important too. Cutting spring onions allows you to use the top green stalk before the bulbous end grows as a garnish or in salads. Here are some ideas for doing this:
Another trick with spring onions is to pull up the whole bulb and then cut off only the green part to use in cooking. Place the white bulb in a glass of water and it will sprout new growth indoors. Great fun for the kids!
You can do the same thing with spring onions purchased from the store. Most onions with small ends and long stalks are considered cut and come again onions.
And see how to re-grow spring onions indoors here.
How to chop spring onions (slicing and julienne style)
Choose onions that are firm and fresh. Cut off the ends that will show some wear from the garden with a sharp knife. Use the same knife to trim off the base of the bulb, removing the roots.
Use the knife again to separate the bulb with its white stalk from the green only part of the onion.
Cut the green stems in half and then dice both half sections in one slice finely. These small pieces can be used in dishes like soups and fried rice, as a garnish for baked potatoes or in salads.
If the recipe calls for the spring onions to be “julienne sliced”, just do the same thing but cut on an angle instead of straight across.
To cut the bulb, slice it in half lengthwise and then make thin cuts in both directions, just as you would a normal onion.
To julienne slice the bulb, just make long thin slices in the lengthwise direction only.
The smaller sliced pieces are often used in dishes such as fried rice, while the julienne spring onions will normally be found in noodle type dishes.
To quickly cut the green stalks to use a garnishes, you can use kitchen shears to accomplish the task more easily.
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Admin note: This post for growing spring onions first appeared on the blog in June of 2013. I have updated the post with all new photos, a printable growing tips card and a video for you to enjoy.
- Spring onion seeds
- Organic Matter
- Well draining soil
- Garden hose or watering can
- Choose a location that gets at least partial sunlight.
- Till the soil well and add organic matter for good drainage.
- A PH of 6.3-6.8 is ideal.
- Plant after the danger of frost has passed.
- Sew seeds about 2 inches apart to give the bulbs room to grow.
- Water when the soil is dry around the bulb area.
- Fertilizing is not usually necessary unless you live in a very dry climate.
- Plant every few weeks for a good supply all summer long.
- The onions are normally ready to harvest in about 8 weeks.
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