Easy Green Onions In The Home Garden

Green onion by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

Green onions have a variety of culinary uses. Not only that, they are great for the self-sufficient garden because they are easy to grow large amounts in a small space, they can be grown in almost any climate, and they can be frozen or dried for winter use. Let’s look at how to grow green onions in the garden.

Green onions have a shallow root, so you don’t have to work the soil very deep. Incorporate compost or manure in the bed prior to planting. Create a shallow trench in the garden and sprinkle the seeds into the trench. Fill the trench back in to cover the seeds. Green onions can be planted early from early spring into the summer. Keep your plot well weeded and water as needed. You can hill your onions to blanch them if you desire. Harvest as needed throughout the spring and summer by thinning out any crowded green onions, and leave the rest of the crop to mature.

Green onions are also known as scallions, spring onions, and salad onions. In some countries, there are discrepancies about these names meaning different types of onions. However, they are botanically the same as regular onions, but they do not form a large swollen bulb for dry storage. Whatever you want to call them, they are delicious and easy to grow.

How To Grow Green Onions In The Garden

There are many different varieties of green onions. They can take anywhere from 40 to 90 days to reach maturity and some can even be overwintered in many areas to produce a true “spring” onion. Some are milder and others have a stronger “onion” flavour. One of our favorite varieties is “Parade,” which grows a strong, upright plant with a nice flavour. They take a long time to maturity (around 70 days) but they can be harvested young throughout the season.

As we mentioned above, they often go by several names and some countries distinguish them as different vegetables. However, they are all hollow stemmed onions that are eaten fresh and green with a small bulb. Here is how we grow green onions in our own garden.

  1. Preparing the seedbed
  2. Sowing
  3. Care during the summer
  4. Harvest
A green onion in the garden by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

1. Preparing The Seedbed

Green onions grow from a small seed and produce a very shallow root system. Because of this, the bed can be worked lightly to produce a fine growing environment in the top few inches of soil.

Prepare your seedbed for green onions by first adding a large quantity of compost. The decomposing matter will add nutrients for the growing vegetable, and create a nice soil texture. Because the roots are so shallow, lightly turning the compost into the soil is sufficient. Rake the soil to break up any large clumps of dirt, and make the seedbed smooth and flat.

2. Sowing

Many garden companies suggest starting green onions indoors for transplant. This is mostly because their ideal soil temperature for germination is around 21-25°C (70-75°F). At this temperature, they will germinate in 6 to 12 days. However, green onions grow extremely well when sown directly into the garden. This is our preferred and by far the easiest, way to grow green onions.

Green onions can be planted in the garden in early spring, but bear in mind that germination will be slower and less successful than later in the season. We direct sow our scallions into the garden beginning a few weeks before the last frost, and then another sowing after the last frost for a staggered harvest and to compensate for seeds from the first planting that didn’t take. If you have an early maturing variety, you can sow every two weeks right into the summer.

A freshly harvested green onion by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

In each row, make a shallow trench that is 5mm to 1cm (1/4-1/2 inch) deep. Lightly sprinkle the seeds in the bottom of the trench. Cover the seeds by filling the trench back up with soil and lightly it down. They will do well with consistent and light watering (remember the roots are very shallow so you don’t have to soak the soil too deep). We have always left our green onions to the mercy of the rain, and they have done very well.

How far apart you space your seeds depends on the variety you are growing. For straight shaft varieties (ones that do not swell into bulbs), plant the seeds about 1cm apart. For varieties that do grow enlarged bulbs space them 2cm or more apart if you can. The nice thing about green onions is that they can be eaten at any stage of their maturity. If some of your scallions are growing too close together, pick out a few of them to eat during the late spring and summer and allow the others to continue to grow to maturity.

Our preferred row spacing is 30cm (12inches) apart as this distance allows for easy weeding between the rows and enables one to walk through the rows if needed without stepping on the plants. If you are planting a large plot, space the rows 40cm to 60cm (16-24inches) to allow more walking space. In a small bed where you don’t have to walk between the rows, you can space the rows 15cm (6inches) apart but take extra care while weeding.

Green Onions And Radishes

After sowing, it is very important to keep your rows well weeded as the tiny seedlings are easily chocked out. It doesn’t help that the emerging seedling looks like a thin blade of grass. When sowing your green onions, mix in a fast germinating seed such as radish with your scallion seeds. The radishes will germinate first so you can thoroughly weed the row for the slow emerging green onions.

Green onions after harvest by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

3. Care During The Summer

Green onions are fairly low maintenance once they are established, but they require weeding, weeding, and more weeding. Even after they are established, they can still be easily choked out. If the surrounding weeds overshadow the scallions or smother their roots, the green onions will yellow and wither. Once this happens, very little will bring them back.

Green onions have shallow roots and can dry out easily. Watering is beneficial in drought years, but average rainfall is usually sufficient to grow a healthy crop.

Some gardeners prefer more white on their scallions. You can achieve this by hilling dirt around the stem of your green onions to blanch them. Whether or not to blanch is up to your personal preference, but it is a good practice if you plan on selling your scallions.

4. Harvest

Once your green onions have reached maturity, it is time to harvest. Simply take hold of the stem and pull up the onion, root, and all. Wash the dirt off the roots and keep them in the fridge for short-term storage.

For long term storage, they can be chopped and frozen, or dehydrated and kept in jars.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.