How to start off Onion Sets

Onions are easy to grow and don’t take up much space in the garden so they are perfect for a beginner to try. As the soil is still a bit cold for planting into, you can start onion sets off indoors in modules, so that by the time you come to plant them out in the garden they will already have started into growth.

Onions can be grown from seeds or from sets. Sets are just immature onion bulbs and if this is your first time growing onions, start with sets which look like a small bulb with a pointy end and a flatter plate end. It is the flatter end of the bulb which goes into the soil with the pointy end sticking upwards.

Pointy end is the top of the bulb
Bottom end of the onion bulb

All you need is some onion sets, a general multi-purpose compost is fine to start you off, a modular tray and a watering can. Here’s a quick ‘How To’ guide if you fancy trying to grow your own onions this year.

Once you have got everything and are ready to start, this job will literally take you 10 minutes.

1.Fill the modular trays with compost. Just throw it in roughly and then use your hand to level off any excess soil at the top.

2.Pop the onion sets in, one to a module, with the pointy end facing upwards. Give them a little wiggle in with your fingers so just the tips are protruding. If you feel you haven’t used enough compost in each module, give them a gentle top up now.

Don’t put the bulbs in on their side but if you lay them out like this, it’s easy to see where the top and bottom ends are.

3.Give the whole tray a light water using a watering can with a rose attachment. All this does is make the water flow out more slowly and in smaller quantities so it doesn’t displace the newly planted onions.

4.Let the water drain through and then take your onions inside to a warm, light spot where they will start to grow on, forming roots and green shoots. You don’t need to have a greenhouse, a windowsill is totally fine. This means that when the soil warms up enough to plant the onion sets out, hopefully in 4-6 weeks, your onions will already be off to a roaring start.

And if you need another incentive to give onions a try this year, I bought 40 bulbs from Glasgow Allotments Forum for 40p so that works out at 1p a bulb. Add in a little soil, a little time to set and then plant out, and if I was to use one onion a week, potentially, I have 40 weeks of onions in front of me: homegrown, free from pesticides or chemicals and racking up zero miles in my carbon footprint. Go on, give it a try and let me know how you get on!


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