Planting Walla Walla Onions: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Saturday, 16 September 2023 - 01:27

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Planting Walla Walla Onions: A Step-by-Step Guide
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Welcome, fellow aspiring gardeners! If you’re looking to add some delicious sweetness and versatility to your dishes, planting Walla Walla onions is the way to go. These iconic onions are known for their mild and juicy flavor, making them a prized addition in the culinary world. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardening enthusiast, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of planting and caring for Walla Walla onions, so you can enjoy a bountiful harvest. So put on your gardening gloves, grab your trowel, and let’s dive into the wonderful world of Walla Walla onions!

Introduction to Walla Walla Onions

The Walla Walla onion is a popular variety known for its sweet and mild flavor. It originated in Walla Walla, Washington and has gained popularity among home gardeners and chefs alike. In this article, we will guide you on how to successfully plant Walla Walla onions in your garden.

History and Background of Walla Walla Onions

Walla Walla onions have a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century. French soldiers from Corsica brought sweet onion seeds with them to the Walla Walla Valley while stationed there. The unique climate and fertile soil of the region were ideal for growing these onions, resulting in the development of the Walla Walla onion variety.

The mild and sweet flavor of Walla Walla onions quickly gained popularity among locals and became a staple in the region’s cuisine. Over time, their reputation spread, and they are now recognized as a sought-after onion variety across the United States.

Growing Conditions for Walla Walla Onions

Walla Walla onions thrive in temperate climates with mild winters and long, sunny days. The ideal temperature range for growing Walla Walla onions is between 60°F and 85°F (15°C – 29°C). They require well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. If your soil tends to be heavy or compacted, consider adding organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage.

As onions are a sun-loving crop, make sure to choose a location in your garden that receives full sun for at least 6-8 hours a day. Adequate sunlight is crucial for the development of large, healthy bulbs. Additionally, provide consistent watering to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. However, be careful not to overwater as onion bulbs can rot in waterlogged soil.

Selecting Onion Sets or Transplants

When planting Walla Walla onions, you have the option to use onion sets (small bulbs) or transplants (pre-grown seedlings). Each option has its advantages and considerations.

Onion sets are often the preferred choice for home gardeners as they are easy to plant and result in earlier harvests. They are small, dry bulbs that can be purchased from nurseries or garden centers. Plant the sets directly into your garden bed, burying them 1 inch deep with the pointed side up, and space them about 4-6 inches apart.

On the other hand, transplants are more suitable for areas with shorter growing seasons or for gardeners who want to get a head start on the growing process. You can find Walla Walla onion transplants at local nurseries or start your own from seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. When the plants have grown to around 4 inches tall, they are ready to be transplanted into your garden, spacing them 4-6 inches apart.

Regardless of whether you choose onion sets or transplants, it’s important to handle the seedlings or bulbs gently to avoid damaging the delicate roots. Plant them in well-prepared soil and keep them well-watered throughout their growing season.

By following these guidelines and providing the right growing conditions, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of sweet and flavorful Walla Walla onions. Happy planting!

Preparing the Garden Bed

Before planting your Walla Walla onions, it is important to prepare the garden bed properly to provide them with the best growing conditions. Follow these steps to ensure a successful onion harvest.

Choosing the Right Location

Start by selecting a sunny spot in your garden for planting Walla Walla onions. These onions thrive in full sunlight, so make sure the chosen area receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. The more sunlight they get, the better their chances of growing into large, sweet bulbs.

Soil Preparation

Once you have chosen a suitable location, the next step is to prepare the soil. Begin by removing any weeds, grass, or debris from the garden bed. This will eliminate competition for nutrients and space, allowing the onions to grow more easily.

After clearing the area, use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil. Break up any large clumps and remove any rocks or debris that may hinder onion growth. This will create a loose and friable soil texture, making it easier for the onions’ roots to penetrate and establish themselves.

Addition of Organic Matter

For optimal onion growth, it is beneficial to add organic matter to the soil. Incorporating well-rotted compost or aged manure will improve the soil’s fertility and drainage, providing a nutrient-rich environment for the onions to thrive in.

Spread a layer of compost or aged manure over the prepared garden bed and mix it into the soil using the garden fork or tiller. Aim for a depth of about 6-8 inches to ensure that the organic matter is well-incorporated throughout the entire root zone of the onions.

This addition of organic matter will not only supply essential nutrients to the onions but also improve the overall structure of the soil. It will enhance its moisture retention capabilities and promote better aeration, which are crucial for healthy root development and onion bulb formation.

Once the organic matter has been mixed in, rake the soil surface to create a smooth planting bed. Remove any remaining clumps or debris, as these can interfere with proper onion planting and growth.

After following these steps, your garden bed is now fully prepared for planting Walla Walla onions. Providing them with the right location, well-prepared soil, and organic matter will set the stage for robust growth and bountiful onion harvests.

Planting Walla Walla Onions

Spacing and Depth

When planting your Walla Walla onions, it’s essential to give them enough space to grow and develop properly. Space the onion sets or transplants approximately 4-6 inches apart. This spacing ensures that the bulbs have enough room to expand without overcrowding each other. Make sure to plant them with the bulbs positioned just below the soil surface, with the tips of the bulbs visible above the ground. This placement allows for easy access to the bulbs for harvesting and prevents them from being buried too deep, which could hinder their growth.

Watering and Mulching

To give your Walla Walla onions the best chance of success, proper watering techniques and mulching are crucial. After planting, make sure to water the onion bed thoroughly. This initial watering helps settle the soil and ensures that the onions have a good start. Once the onions are established, maintain adequate soil moisture throughout the growing season. Walla Walla onions prefer consistent moisture but also require good drainage to prevent waterlogged soil, which can lead to rot or disease.

In addition to watering, applying a layer of organic mulch is beneficial. Use materials such as straw or shredded leaves to cover the soil around the onions. This mulch helps conserve moisture by reducing evaporation and also suppresses weed growth. Keeping the soil moist and weed-free allows the onions to focus their energy on healthy growth and bulb development.

Fertilizing Schedule

Proper fertilization is essential for the optimal growth and development of Walla Walla onions. Following a regular fertilizing schedule ensures that the onions receive the necessary nutrients to thrive. Start by applying a balanced fertilizer once a month, following the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct application rate.

The balanced fertilizer provides the onions with a well-rounded mix of essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients support healthy foliage growth and bulb development. It’s important not to over-fertilize, as excessive nitrogen can result in excessive leaf growth at the expense of bulb formation.

Remember to monitor the onions’ growth throughout the season and adjust the fertilization schedule as needed. In some cases, onions may require additional nitrogen if they show signs of deficiency, such as yellowing foliage.

Following these planting techniques, watering and mulching strategies, and a proper fertilizing schedule will help ensure the successful growth of your Walla Walla onions. With their sweet and mild flavor, these onions are a delightful addition to any garden or culinary dish.

Caring for Walla Walla Onions

Weed Control

Regularly removing weeds is essential to ensure your Walla Walla onions receive all the nutrients and water they need to grow strong and healthy. Weeds compete with onions for resources, so it’s important to keep the onion bed weed-free. However, when weeding, you must be careful not to disturb the onion bulbs.


If your onion bed becomes overcrowded with onions, thinning is necessary to give the remaining bulbs enough space to thrive. By removing the smaller bulbs, you allow the larger onions to grow even bigger. Thinning also helps improve air circulation around the plants, which reduces the risk of disease and promotes healthier growth.

Pest and Disease Management

Keeping a close eye on your Walla Walla onions for signs of common pests and diseases is crucial for their wellbeing. Look out for pests like onion maggots and signs of fungal infections. If you identify any issues, it’s important to take immediate action to prevent them from spreading.

There are organic insecticides and fungicides specifically formulated for use on onions. These can help you effectively manage pests and diseases without resorting to harsh chemicals. Use these products according to the instructions and recommendations provided by the manufacturer to ensure the safety and efficiency of their application.

Additionally, practicing good crop rotation can minimize the risk of pests and diseases in your onion bed. Avoid planting onions or other related crops in the same spot year after year, as this can lead to a build-up of pests and diseases. Instead, rotate your onion planting locations to different areas of your garden each season.

By following these caring tips, you can ensure your Walla Walla onions have the best chance to thrive and provide you with a bountiful harvest of delicious, sweet onions.

Harvesting and Storing Walla Walla Onions

When it comes to planting Walla Walla onions, the joy of harvesting and enjoying your own fresh, homegrown crop is just around the corner. To make the most of your harvest, it is important to know the signs of maturity, the harvesting technique, and proper storage tips. Read on to learn more about these essential steps in harvesting and storing Walla Walla onions.

Signs of Maturity

Knowing when your Walla Walla onions are ready for harvest is crucial for optimal flavor and storage. One clear sign of maturity is when the green tops start to naturally fall over and begin to dry. At this point, the bulbs should feel firm to the touch and have developed a papery outer skin.

Harvesting Technique

Harvesting your Walla Walla onions requires a gentle approach to avoid any damage to the bulbs. Begin by carefully loosening the soil around the onions using a garden fork or trowel. Take extra care not to accidentally pierce or bruise the onions while doing this. Once the soil is loosened, gently lift each onion out of the ground. It is advisable to remove any excess soil clinging to the bulbs with a soft brush or by gently tapping them.

Storage Tips

Properly storing your harvested Walla Walla onions is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor for an extended period. After harvesting, it is crucial to let the onions properly cure to enhance their storage potential. Place them in a well-ventilated area, such as a shed or a covered porch, for approximately 2-3 weeks. During this time, the onions will dry out, and their outer layers will become papery.

Once the curing period is complete, it’s time to trim the onion tops. Cut them down to approximately one inch above the bulb. This helps minimize moisture loss and prevents the tops from tangling with one another during storage.

When it comes to storage, find a cool and dry spot for your harvested Walla Walla onions. Ideally, the temperature should be around 32-40°F (0-4°C) with relative humidity of 60-70%. A pantry, basement, or a cool corner in your kitchen can be perfect options. Remember to regularly inspect your onions for any signs of spoilage or rot. Remove any affected bulbs promptly to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the stored onions.

By following these simple yet crucial steps, you can enjoy the taste of fresh Walla Walla onions long after the harvest season has passed. With proper harvesting and storage techniques, your hard work will pay off in the form of delicious, homegrown onions throughout the year.

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