Storing Onions

Photo: © Sheila Russel, Creative CommonsPhoto: © Sheila Russel, Creative Commons

Storing onions successfully depends on several factors, the most important of which is the type of onion you grew. Long-day onions make the best storage onions, followed by intermediate-day and lastly short-day onions. (If you don't know what this means, see the How to Grow Onions article.)

Storing onions for 3-9 months over the winter requires keeping them dry (but ideally at 60-70% humidity) and well-ventilated, which helps prevent fungus.

Never try to store even slightly damaged onion bulbs. For best results, eat any damaged onions right away, using only unblemished, full bulbs with thin necks for winter storage. If onions have thick necks they won't dry properly, which can lead to fungus.

Don’t pile dried onions up, or any fungus on even one bad one will end up spoiling the whole batch.

Storing Onions in Orchard Drawers

Orchard drawers are banks of drawers in open-sided frames that provide excellent ventilation. They can have wooden-slat or wire-mesh drawer bottoms, but not solid. They can be used for onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squash, and I think they look lovely when filled with summer's goodness. They are both beautiful and practical.

Gardener's Supply now sells these wonderful little orchard racks with either 6 or 9 wood-slat storage drawers.

Stringing Onions

A low-cost way of storing lots of onions is to string them, like in the photo at the top. It's ridiculously easy and fast, costs nothing, and is great for larger quantities of onions.

Orchard Rack

Keeps onions (and more) dry and well- ventilated.

Take a 6-foot-long piece of very strong string (baling twine or nylon is good). Tie the ends together so you have a big loop. Hang the loop from a well anchored hook or nail someplace, and pull the bottom tight so that you essentially have a double 3-foot string.

Starting with your largest onion, break the stalk off about 6" from the onion bulb. Holding the onion with the bulb up and the stalk down, weave the stem back and forth between the two strings, twice. Now pull the onion down over the weave and down to the bottom of the string.

The onion will be hooked on there quite well. Take another onion and weave it on the string above the first. You can repeat this with as many onions as your string can hold. Put the larger onions at the base and the smaller ones toward the top. Trim a bit more off the stems if you want. If your onion strings are heavy, make sure what you hang them from is well secured!

Other Ways to Store Onions

Another clever way to store onions is in pantyhose! Seriously! It’s time consuming if you have a lot of onions to store, but for only a few dozen, you can pick up pantyhose for cheap at the thrift store.

Drop an onion in the leg, close it off with a bread bag tag or twisty tie, drop another onion, and so on. You can hang these from the ceiling and they stay well-aired, separated from each other, and they look cool in their own weird way!

You can also store onions by simply braiding them into clusters of 8-12 onions. Tie them off at the top, and hang them.

To learn more about growing onions, check out these related articles:

  • How to Grow Onions
    Onions need soil that is loose and evenly moist so that they can easily push it aside when they start to form bulbs. This is the main how-to article that describes the best soil conditions, how day length affects bulb growth, fertilizing correctly, and how proper watering can prevent disease.
  • Types of Onions
    To grow large bulb onions it’s very important to choose types of onions that match how far north or south you live, because onions need to experience a certain day length before they switch from growing green tops to forming bulbs. Find out which types (and varieties) will work for you!
  • Planting Onions
    All about planting onions: how deep and how far apart to plant, the difference between growing from seed, onion sets or onion transplants, and when to plant onions for maximum bulb growth.
  • Growing Onions from Seed
    There are some advantages to starting your own onions from seed, but you’ll need to start them indoors in order to get a jump on the season and give your onions enough time to develop bulbs. Find out how and when to plant, and when to transplant outside.
  • Onion Diseases
    Most onion diseases are a lot easier to prevent than to cure. Learn 5 ways to prevent onion diseases, and find out what to do if your plants do become sick.
  • Onion Bolting
    Onions will send up a flower stalk if they become stressed, which takes energy away from growing nice large bulbs. Learn how to prevent onion bolting, and what to do if onions do start to go to seed.
  • Harvesting Onions
    Make sure to wait for harvesting onions until the tops start turning brown. Learn the proper way to harvest and cure onions for the most successful winter storage.
  • Storing Onions
    There are several cool and clever ways to store onions, but the most important things are to provide excellent air circulation and to keep them dry. Read about tips and tricks for storing onions.

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