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When to Plant Onions in Virginia? - Wilson Garden

Introduction

Onions are a cool-weather crop. One crucial aspect of growing onions successfully is timing. You should know when to plant onions in Virginia. This is key to a bountiful harvest.

Understanding Virginia's Climate and Soil Conditions

Virginia's Diverse Climate Zones

Virginia's climate is varied enough to impact the choice of planting dates. The southeastern coastal plain has a temperate climate and longer growing seasons.


The central piedmont and northern regions experience a mix of subtropical and continental climates with hot, humid summers and cold winters. The western mountainous regions are much cooler, often with shorter growing seasons due to frost.

Virginia's Soil Types

Virginia has a blend of sandy soils on the coast and heavy, clay-like soils further inland. These differences mean varying tilth and fertility, and slightly different planting schedules.


While sandy soils promote good drainage, they may require additional compost for nutrients. Clay soils can hold nutrients but are prone to compacting.

Choosing the Right Onions

Considering days to maturity and whether the onions are short-day, long-day, or intermediate. In warm Virginia regions, short-day types may be preferred. They form bulbs with less light, typically 10-12 hours.


For cool regions, long-day varieties might be more appropriate. They need 14-16 hours of daylight to begin forming bulbs. Make sure you purchase seeds or sets that are recommended for your climate and soil type.

When to Plant Onions in Virginia?

Understanding Virginia's Planting Zones

Virginia accommodates a variety of planting zones, including 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a and 8b. Each has its own nuances in terms of recommended planting times.


Zones 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a and 7b have slightly milder winters and longer growing seasons. Growing onions in Virginia in early spring, usually from March 15 to April 1. In zones 8a and 8b, you should plant onions from February 15 to March 1.

Ideal Temperature and Soil Conditions

Ideal soil conditions include well-draining, rich soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Make sure the temperatures are between 55-75°F. Be sure to provide full sun and ample space for each plant. This allows for healthy bulb development.

Navigating the Frost and Weather Dates

The late frosts often sneak a chill into the warm spring air. Keep an eye on local weather reports and your area's frost dates. You will know when to plant onion sets in Virginia. Using cold frames or floating row covers can offer added protection. Ensuring your young onion sets doesn't succumb to a sudden frost.

growing onions in virginia

Early Spring Planting

Advantages and Considerations

Early spring is the first ideal window for planting onions in Virginia. This period, typically from mid-February to April. This allows for a long growing season leading to a substantial bulb growth. By planting onions early, they will mature before the summer heat arrives.

Recommended Onion Varieties

Look for short day varieties that respond well to the shorter day lengths. Some recommended varieties include Red Creole, White Bermuda, and Evergreen Hardy White. They can handle the diverse spring weather conditions of Virginia.

How to Grow Onions in Virginia?

Preparing the soil before planting is key to growing robust onions. Virginia soils are often clayey. So amending with organic matter can help improve drainage and nutrient content.


Start by tilling the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches. Then work in compost or well-rotted manure. On the day of planting, create furrows 5-6 inches apart. Plant onion sets or seedlings 1 inch deep and 4-6 inches apart.


Water them gently to settle the soil. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching can help retain moisture and prevent weeds.

Fall Planting for Overwintering Onions

Benefits of Planting Onions in the Fall

When planting onions in the fall, they are able to utilize the cool temperatures and increased soil moisture to slowly develop. This leads to larger bulbs when the warm days of spring arrive.


This method is particularly beneficial in Virginia. Because the weather can be unpredictable. Planting in late fall ensures your onions have a longer growing season to achieve full potential.

Suitable Varieties for Fall Planting

It’s crucial to select onion varieties that are suited for overwintering. For example, Walla Walla, Copra, and Red Wethersfield. These onions are better equipped to handle the cold temperatures. They require a longer season for bulb development.

Protecting Overwintering Onions

Provide a layer of mulch or a cover to insulate the onions from the harshest frosts. For example, a cold frame or row covers. Be attentive to weather forecasts. Give them the protection they need during Virginia’s variable winters.

Common Pests and Diseases in Virginia

Preventing Onion Pests

Onion thrips and onion maggots are common pests in Virginia. Use row covers to protect your plants early in the season. Employ crop rotation to reduce pest populations in subsequent years.

Diseases and Fungal Control

Fungal diseases like pink root and downy mildew can affect your onions. Practice good sanitation in your garden. Avoid overhead watering to prevent the spread of fungi. A copper fungicide can be used preventatively.

Sustainable Pest Control Methods

Encourage the presence of predatory insects by planting flowers that attract them. For example, marigolds and alyssum. You can also make a simple garlic spray to deter pests.

Harvesting and Storing Onions in Virginia

Indicators for Harvesting Onions

Onions will be ready for harvest when their tops begin to yellow and fall over. Stop watering once this happens. Allow the bulbs to dry out before harvesting.

Harvesting Techniques

To harvest, gently lift the onions from the soil, shaking off excess dirt. Leave them in the garden, ideally in a warm and dry place. Cure for two to three weeks. Until the necks are completely dry.

Storing Your Onions

You can store onions in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Braiding the tops together. Hanging them is a traditional method. But keeping them in mesh bags can work just as well. Check regularly for signs of spoilage. Use or discard any onions that show signs of rot.

Conclusion

You should know how and when to plant onions in Virginia. You will be on your way to a bountiful onion harvest in Virginia.

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