Green onions: One of the most sensible crops

March 31, 2019

Maybe you call them scallions. Or perhaps you know them as bunching onions, because they’re sold in tied-up bunches at the grocery store. They’re also called spring onions, because the first of the crop is ready to harvest so early in the season. I usually just call them green onions.

But whatever you call them, they are easy to grow, take up very little garden space, and can be harvested throughout the growing season. Like most other garden crops, green onions freshly harvested from your own garden are far superior to any you can buy.

These onions are juicy and sweet, with long straight shanks and tender tops ideal for slicing raw into salads. Expect some slight swelling at the base of the shank, but no bulb like would develop on other kinds of onions.

Green onions are grown from seeds sown directly in the garden, not from transplants. You can sow the first seeds a month to six weeks before the last expected spring frost, as soon as the snow has melted and the soil is dry enough to work. Cover the seeds with a quarter inch of soil and keep the planting area evenly moist until sprouts appear.

Along with the more common green varieties, you can also find seeds for scallions that will develop red or purple skins. I like to grow Delicious Duo salad scallions from Renee’s Garden (www.reneesgarden.com); a single seed packet contains both green and red varieties.

Most kinds of scallions need 50 to 60 days to fully mature. But why wait? You can begin to gradually thin out crowded seedlings to use some in salads while the plants are still tiny. For optimum growth, aim to ultimately allow about an inch between plants so they’ll have room to mature.

Green onion plants top out at 10 to 12 inches tall but they’ll remain standing in the garden in good condition for weeks. Harvest as needed, aiming to pull plants before they send up bloom stalks.

Because scallions are skinny plants that require little space, it’s easy to grow a ready supply from spring through fall. Every month or so, just sow some more seeds wherever you have a patch of bare earth. You can even grow a decent supply of green onions in a pot of soil.

In “Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening” (Cool Springs Press, 2018), Matt Mattus calls green onions one of the most sensible crops you can grow, but too often overlooked.

The seeds of all kinds of onions are notoriously short-lived. While bean seeds might still sprout readily after 10 years, onion seeds germinate best the same year they’re purchased. Make repeat sowings until you empty the seed packet.

Jan Riggenbach will be speaking at the Siouxland Garden Show on Saturday, April 6, at the Delta Hotels Center in South Sioux City. Her presentation is titled “My Garden Mistakes” and runs from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.