Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
In the Garden: Growing Onions
Onions come in different sizes, shapes, colors and flavors, from mild and sweet to hot and strong. A full-grown onion plant has roots, bulbs and leaves. The leaves are long, thin and hollow. They stand straight up and thicken at the bottom to form a bulb.
Onions are biennials; their life cycle is two years long. But they are usually picked during their first year before flowers form and the bulbs stop growing.Onions grow best in loose, fertile soil. They can grow in many different climates.
In cooler climates, onions may need 14 to 15 hours of daylight to start forming bulbs. In warmer climates, onions can begin developing bulbs with fewer hours of sun.
Barbara Fick is an agriculture expert with Oregon State University. She says a faster way to grow onions is to plant what are called sets. She says onion sets are actually small plants, so growing them does not take as long. Organic material like compost or leaf mulch can help onions grow in heavy soil.The bulbs can be pulled from the ground once their tops have dried and fallen over.
Onions can be stored for months. But Barbara Fick says stored onions need to be cured first. "Curing is a way of making sure those leaves on the outside are nice and dry," she says.
Here are some directions from the National Gardening Association.First, dry the onions in the sun for a day or so. Then bring them out of direct sun for two to three weeks. Spread them out in any warm, airy place that is covered. Or cover the onions securely with a light cotton sheet.
The sheet will keep the sun from burning the bulbs. Do not worry about rain. And do not use a plastic or canvas sheet. Heavy coverings will trap moisture and keep the onions from drying fully.Turn the bulbs a couple of times to help them dry evenly.
After curing the onions, you can hang them indoors in mesh bags to dry even more. There should be no wet spots on the onions when they are put in storage. The National Gardening Association says the longer onions are cured, the better they will keep.
Some people cut off the top leaves before curing onions. If you do that, do not cut the leaves any closer than two and a half centimeters from the bulb. That will keep the top of the onion from drying out and spoiling in storage.
For more about gardening, go to voaspecialenglish.com. For VOA Special English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Aug2012)