Wet Onions

I’ve had a few people contact me about wet onions recently including an email from Mr Lewis who sent photos of his wet onions. He asked: “Wonder if you can help with a problem on our allotment and problem with are onions,they seem wet under the skins”

This is a problem we’ve had ourselves this year – a very poor crop. I’m sure the problem is due to the awful wet weather we had in July and August. Once the bulbs have finished swelling, onions don’t need a lot of water. Just enough to keep them alive, not the torrential downpours we had.

Wet Onion

Wet Onion – Photo D Lewis

Ideally the onions will react to the hot, dry weather of summer and utilise the moisture in bulb to survive. Normally we partially lift the bulbs, breaking the roots, a couple of weeks or so prior to harvest. This further helps the bulbs dry out.

Wet Weather – Wet Onions

Unfortunately this year the dry period was a monsoon. The onions just absorbed more water than is good for them or us. Very wet bulbs will not store and most of the crop will rot in short order. I’m afraid they’re practically beyond drying out.

In hindsight, where we always get it right, the answer is to prevent the onions from getting too much water in the late stage of growth. Easier said than done. I do say in the page on How to Grow Onions

One caveat for onion growers is to not overwater them. They are shallow-rooted and once established they do not need much water. They also do not compete well with weeds at any time, particularly when young. In years of heavy rainfall, they appreciate a clear, protective cover to keep soil a little drier.

One last point on onions, the smaller onions are easier to dry out than the larger onions. You can, to some degree, control the size of the bulbs by spacing. Spacing at 4” or 10cm apart in the row or even a little less will be more likely to result in good onions for store in a wet year than larger spaced, bigger bulbs.

See: How to Grow Onions – A Guide to Growing Onions

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
6 comments on “Wet Onions
  1. Daisyboo says:

    We lifted our onion crop a little earlier than normal and laid them in trays in the greenhouse. They have dried well. The odd ones which are not brilliant, I chopped up and froze in portion size bags. This works well for us. The idea came from a comment my sister in law made about buying frozen onions because she lives alone.

    • Ann Deem says:

      Three weeks after lifting a few of my onions are wet and starting to rot. Like you, I salvaged the good parts before the damage spread, chopped them and loose froze them. Subsequently put into freezer boxes I can just take out the quantities I need each time. When used there is no difference in flavour to traditionally stored onions.

  2. Pauline Webb says:

    Hello, I’m in Melbourne Australia. Last summer my shallot crop had too much rain too close to harvest time. Knowing they wouldn’t keep well I chose to salt pickle them all presuming the salt would draw out the excess moisture. This has worked well. Otherwise I suggest trying slicing and freezing. Pauline PDC1

  3. John Boulton says:

    Hello all,
    In addition to the problem above, of wet onions, it has been exacerbated by a further problem here in the east of the country, and that is allium leaf miner. Soft wet onions has allowed the leaf miner to burrow right down into the bulbs and upon opening there are the tell-tale signs; small brown pupae often deep within the bulb and subsequent rotting. Most of the onions on our allotment have been pulled and destroyed due to the two problems resulting in rotting both in the necks, and deeper within the scales.
    It is our consensus that all alliums now have to be covered, leeks from leaf miner and leek moth, garlic and onions from leaf miner.
    On a good point my (brewing) First Gold hops are the best I’ve ever grown, right weather for hops and water exactly when needed!
    All the best,
    JB from Lincoln.

  4. David says:

    My Onions produced a bumper crop,
    Dried out in the greenhouse as soon as rain was forecast.
    The luck of the draw I believe.

  5. Gordon Norris says:

    West coast of Scotland here, I had four different varieties of onion growing, the only one not bothered by all the wet weather was Autumn Champion. So that is the one I will be growing next year. All hanging in my shed, nice and dry usually still using them the following March.

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