Onions play a vital role in many dishes, and it is considered one of the most commonly used herbs by individuals who cook. Starting your own onion farm may sound like a good idea due to its profitability in the market and it serves as a good source of healthy and organic vegetables for your own use. If you are new to farming, this article will give you a comprehensive guide on starting your own onion farm. With the right resources and a suitable location, your onions will be thriving in no time.
Choosing a suitable type of onion
As some of you are unaware of, there are many types of onions differing in size, color and season. For farmers who are looking into a suitable type of onion to grow, they should consider seasonal onions that thrive during different seasons, since onions vary on the amount of sunlight they require in order to grow healthily. Based on sunlight availability, onions can be classified into three groups.
- Short-day onions
Suitable for winter as they require about 10-12 hours of sunlight daily. These types of onions include Georgia Sweet, Granex Red Creole, Sweet Red, Red Burgandy, White Bermuda, Vidalia, Texas Super Sweet, Texas Sweet White, and Southern Belle.
- Intermediate-day onions
Intermediate-day onions need 12 to 14 hours of sunlight each day, and can typically thrive in any season. Some of these onions include Candy Onion, Red candy Apple and Cabernet.
- Long-day onions
Commonly grown and cultivated during summer, about 14 to 16 hours of sunlight is necessary each day. Some of the more popular onions that belong to this category are Yellow Sweet Spanish, Copra, White sweet Spanish, Alisa crag, Paterson and Walla Walla Sweet.
The ideal cultivation season for each crop varies. For onions, the onion bulbs are usually planted in a cool season, cultivated in late winter and harvested just before summer begins. Onions that are grown from seeds should be planted during spring and requires a period of time to mature. On the other hand, transplanting seedlings is best done during mid to late spring.
The ideal temperature for onion farming ranges between 13 to 25 degrees Celsius (55 to 75 Fahrenheit) in Asian countries while for other countries, it falls from 8 to 30 degrees Celsius (46 to 86 Fahrenheit). During heavy rainfall, onions will not be able to grow well. Alternatively, farmers will switch to growing ginger temporarily indoors when the temperature falls between 3 to 25-degrees Celsius.
Ideal soil conditions
Before you start your onion farm, you should be familiar with the ideal soil conditions for your onions to thrive. Red loam and sandy loam are the best kinds of soil to farm your onions. If you do not have these types of soil, you can further improve the fertility of your own soil by adding and mixing in organic materials and improving the yield of your onions.
Though onions typically grow in any soil, loose, well-drained and nitrogen-rich soil will help onions grow better. Furthermore, the ideal range of pH for your soil should fall between 5.5 and 6.5 in order for your onions to prosper.
Other factors to consider regarding the environment of your onion farm is the amount of sunlight your crops can receive. Choosing a sunny and unsheltered area is beneficial to maximize the amount of sunlight that your crops can absorb, thereby improving the potential yield. Though the cultivation process for all onions is generally the same, some specific types require a different type of soil or extra fertilization. Reading the instruction manual attached to your onion seeds or contacting your government agriculture help point will help you to cater to your onion seeds.
Methods of onion plantation
- Planting onion sets into the soil bed
Though it is not very common, one method of planting onions is to plant onion sets into the soil bed directly. Instead of seeds, onion sets are small onion bulbs that are planted into the ground and produce mature bulbs after a period of time. Some advantages of this method are that it is the easiest method out of all, requires the least amount of time to harvest, and has the lowest likelihood of developing diseases. However, they are more prone to bolting as compared to seedling planting or transplanting.
- Planting seedlings into the soil bed
Planting seedlings are one of the most popular methods of onion farming as it gives farmers the widest choice with regards to the cultivars it can reap. However, the biggest disadvantage of this method is that it requires a long period of time of up to four months for the crops to mature. Furthermore, this method does not bode well in winter as the temperature is far too low for onions to thrive, and hence, they have to be done indoors.
Transplants are essentially seedlings that have just begun the maturing season and are generally sold in groups in nurseries and other marketplaces. They typically require about 60 days or less to mature into good quality bulbs but are highly prone to the onset of diseases. Though it is not the most reliable method of onion planting, they are usually highly sought-after because of the short period of time required for them to grow.
Care for onion plants
As onions are rather sensitive plants, they require proper watering and constant fertilization in order to grow well.
Fertilizers should be given once the onion is planted into the ground after three weeks, and should be subsequently fertilized every two to three weeks thereafter. If the neck of the plant feels limp and soft, farmers should stop fertilizing the plant. This typically happens about four weeks before the suitable harvest period. Watering of the plant has to be done consistently to maintain the level of moisture and should be done once it starts growing. As your plant nears the harvest period, it should be watered more frequently. Ample sunlight is also required for your plants to grow healthy and strong.
When your onion turns yellow at the top, it is a clear indication that it is ready for harvesting. You can use a garden fork to gently pull them out of the ground and lay them down in a dry, airy area for about two days before taking them in. Onions that are just harvested should be handled with extreme care as well. To avoid sunscald, you should lay the onions on top of one another to provide extra shelter, Once your onions are no longer damp and are completely dry, you can proceed to cut one inch off the top before they are ready to be cooked and eaten.
Onion farming is extremely simple once you have familiarized yourself with the proper care and conditions for your plants to thrive in. Be sure to do extensive research before you start, in order to equip yourself with sufficient knowledge to maximize your yield. Once you are confident, you can start your onion farm and look forward to reaping your rewards!