Harvesting Onions

Harvesting onions should be done when the tops start to turn brown and fall over. Don’t try harvesting onions by pulling them up by the tops or you can damage them, making them susceptible to fungus when in storage.

Onions just dug up and starting to cure on my picnic tableFirst Batch of Onions Curing on My Picnic Table

Rather, fork them up gently, brush the dirt off the roots (don’t damage or remove the skin), and lay them on the surface of the ground for two or three days to “cure”. Lay them out in rows like shingles, with the tops of one row covering the bulb of the next. This will prevent the hot sun from causing sunscald damage to the bulbs.

If your onions are ready to harvest but it looks like it’s going to rain in the next few days, you’ll need to bring them indoors to cure. Lay them out on newspapers in a warm dry place. It takes longer to cure onions indoors (up to two weeks), because the sun isn’t helping you out. 65-70% humidity and 75-80 degrees F. is ideal for curing onions.

Onions are cured when the skins are loose and dry. Leave as much of the skins on as you can, as the skins help protect the onion during storage.

Whatever you do, don’t let harvested onions get wet (!), either by washing them off or by inadvertently leaving them out in the rain. Also, don’t forget to turn the irrigation off if they’re curing in the field, too.

When the tops are fully dried and your onions are ready for storage, you can

  • cut the tops off about an inch above the onion, for storage in orchard drawers or other airy place
  • leave about 6" of stem on the onion, and make an onion string
  • leave the whole stem on and make an onion braid

For more on braiding or stringing onions, visit the Storing Onions page below.

Read more about growing onions in these Related Articles:

  • How to Grow Onions
    Why choosing the right variety for your latitude is critical, and optimal soil and climate conditions for growing onions.

  • Planting Onions
    How and when to plant onions, whether from seed, sets or transplants (and what the difference is).

  • Onion Diseases
    The most common onion diseases and how to prevent them.

  • Onion Bolting
    How to prevent onions from bolting, and what to do if they have already started going to seed.

  • Storing Onions
    There are several ways to store onions over the winter months, including braiding, use of orchard racks, and pantyhose! 

  • Types of Onions
    Types and varieties of onions, and why day length matters.

  • Growing Onions from Seed
    How to successfully grow onions from seed, including start times, transplant times and more.

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