How to grow spring onions – an easy beginner’s guide
- By: Ashley Saunders
- February 2020
Spring onions or Scallions belong to the same family of vegetables like garlic, leeks and chives. Thankfully, it’s easy to grow spring onions and they can be used in a variety of recipes including in soups, salads and sandwiches.
The nutritional benefits of spring onion are plenty. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, calcium, and fibre.
Some research suggests that spring onions may lower cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
If you have kids, encourage them to start a vegetable patch and help them to grow spring onions. Fantastic fun for the whole family!
Interesting spring onions facts!
Spring onions date back to ancient Chinese history from around 2000BC.
They are still a popular vegetable in Asian cuisines.
Some Persian Jews, during the Passover meal, whack each other with spring onions before singing the song “Dayenu”, symbolizing the whips endured by the Israelites under the ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese all planted and used this vegetable.
Spring onions have been used in Chinese medicine for their healing powers – as a remedy for colds and sinus infections.
This plain-looking vegetable has been credited with amazing powers to ward off evil.
You can grow spring onions in a veg patch or containers. However, you do need a position that will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
If you plan to grow in your patch, find a spot where you didn’t grow spring onions last year. You’ll want to hoe the soil and add compost, giving it time to rot into the ground.
Growing in containers is ideal if you don’t have much space. You’ll need a container that at least 20cm deep. Start by filling the container with premium potting mix and lightly water.
Spring onions varieties
As many varieties of spring onions are available, you have plenty of choices. Well-respected grower, Real Seeds recommend the growing the following varieties.
A well-known traditional variety from Japan which produces a bountiful supply of green leaves. As it grows, it splits into bunches and these clumps can be divided to multiply your onion patch.
An excellent, cold-hardy onion which grows quickly. The normal onion ‘bulb’ is instead drawn out very tall and thin. The result is a plant which looks like a small onion-flavoured leek. You can’t divide this variety and so each seed only produces one onion.
A special bunching onion from China that has green leaves, a white shank, and a pretty red base to the stem. As it grows, it splits into bunches, which can be divided to multiply your onion patch.
Planting spring onions
You can grow spring onions through the year. However, the best quality ones are produced in late spring/early summer.
As they transplant well, you can start with seeds indoors and then transfer seedlings outdoors either in containers or directly into the ground. You can, of course, start later with seeds in the ground.
If starting indoors, sow thinly and cover with soil. Within 2 weeks, seeds should have germinated and started to develop. When seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill and lightly water.
After another 7 days, plants should be ready to be transplanted either to the garden or containers. Prepare the soil by adding compost. Using a dibber, makes holes 2 cm deep and about 10 cm apart. Place a seedling in each hole and gently cover with soil. Water the seedlings very lightly.
If starting with seeds, wait until spring. Prepare the soil by adding compost and letting it rot in for a few days. Using a trowel, dig down 2 cm into the soil and plant seeds 20 cm apart. Finish by gently covering with soil and a light watering. Space rows by around 10 cm.
When seedlings are about 5 cm high, thin them out so that they are around 10 cm apart.
How to nurture spring onions
Thankfully, it’s easy to grow spring onions as they don’t require much attention. You will need to regularly water them but don’t overwater as this lead to disease. That said, you don’t need to use fertiliser.
You will need to keep the patch weed-free by regularly adding mulch and remove any weeds by hand. Weeds can smother your spring onions if they get too big. Also, weeds will absorb any nutrients and water that your spring onions need to grow.
What makes spring onions ideal is that they can be planted amongst other vegetables. Spring onions let off a scent which masks the aroma of the other plants, confusing insects and pest. These pests fly off before realising that other tasty vegetables are close by.
Harvesting spring onions
As a fast-growing veg, you can usually harvest in 8 to 10 weeks in summer and between 12 and 14 weeks in winter. Spring onions are ready to eat when the leaves are standing tall, green and succulent.
Using a fork, dig around the plant and remove the entire bulb and leaves as this prevents damaging the spring onion. When harvesting, first remove plants that have damaged leaves or those without green leaves.
How to store fresh spring onions
You can store spring onions in your fridge’s vegetable draw. Simply, cut some of the green section off, wrap them in a damp paper towel, place in an airtight plastic bag and store. Typically, they should last for up to five days.
If you want your spring onions to last long them, then prepare as above and store in your freezer. They’ll last months and defrost in under a minute!
Common pests and problems
Part of growing any vegetable involves managing pests and disease. Here are the most common issues to look for when you grow spring onions.
Slugs and snails
Feeding on young seedlings, slugs and snails are easy to identify as you’ll notice slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves. Luckily, it’s easy to stop slugs and snails in their tracks by using sawdust, eggshell barriers or beer traps.
This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Don’t overcrowd plant and avoid overhead watering. Rotate crops each season.
Attacking mostly young seedlings as leaves emerge. It causes blister-like lesions near the base of the bulb and streaks on leaves. The fungus stunts the growth of the plants.
Practice 3-year crop rotation. This means you’ll plant spring onions in the same spot only once every 3 years with other crops on the two. Also, encourage rapid growth by regularly watering and weeding to ensure plants grow past the susceptible stage.
Pink Root Rot
Attacking scallion roots causing them to turn light pink, then red and eventually purple-brown. Infected plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies and drought because the roots cannot take up water and nutrients. Plants are become stunted.
The disease lives in the soil for several years and so you’ll want to rotate crops and plant resistant varieties.
Rust coloured spots
A number of fungus diseases that result in rust coloured spots on foliage and stalks. To avoid, you’ll want to plant early as these diseases tend to develop later in the season. Remove infected plants quickly and practice crop rotation.
That’s how to grow spring onions!
As fantastic veg to grow with kids, once you’ve grown some spring onions, have a go at growing carrots or radishes. If you’re looking for a challenge then try growing cabbage or runner beans. So have fun growing spring onions!