Growing onions is an especially good project for the beginning gardener. They grow in a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, they don't have many insect problems and they keep well after harvest. East Texas has good onion-growing soil. According to Bill Kelldorf, Smith County Master Gardener, some onion varieties that will do well in east Texas gardens include Texas SuperSweet, Grano 502, Yellow Granex, White Granex and White Bermuda. Although onions can be started by direct seeding and transplanting, planting onion sets is the most popular way to grow them. In east Texas nurseries and garden centers have onion sets available in late December and early January in order to be planted in late January, February or whenever the soil can be worked. Mr. Keldoff suggests looking for sets that are 1/2 inch in diameter to get a good-sized bulb on your onion.
Choose a location in your east Texas garden that gets lots of sunshine. Onions require a full day of sun in order to thrive.
Prepare the planting area by removing all grass and weeds. Til the soil to a depth of 10 inches. Apply 10-20-10 fertilizer, at a rate of two pounds per 100 square feet of planting area. Sprinkle on the soil and then mix it in well, to a depth of 4 inches. Although onions prefer sandy loam soil they will grow in any type of soil, even clay, according to Charles Minatrea, Smith County Master Gardener.
Rake the planting bed so that the soil is level, then firm the soil by walking on it several times.
Water the planting bed so that it is uniformly moist to two inches in depth, but not soggy.
Dig holes in the soil four inches apart to a depth that will allow just the tips of the onion sets to show above the surface. Place the sets in the holes and backfill with soil, remembering to leave the very tips exposed. If planting more than one row of onions, put 12 to 18 inches between rows.
Water, to two inches in depth, at least once a week. If there has been rain in east Texas, you can skip the watering for the week.
Fertilize the onion plants for the first time three weeks after sprouting. Use the hoe to dig a two-inch furrow alongside the row of onions, but four inches away. Sprinkle one cup of nitrogen fertilizer for every 10 foot row into the furrow and cover with soil. This process is known as side-dressing, and will need to be repeated every three weeks during the growing season. Water the area well after side-dressing.
Use insecticidal soap to treat any insect infestation that occurs. Follow the instructions on the label.
Harvest the onions when the tops of the plants fall over. Pull them out of the ground and allow them to dry in the sun for two to three days. If the Texas sun is particularly hot they may dry in one day, so keep your eye on them. Store your onions in a cool, dry place until ready to use.