Is it Better to Grow Onions from Seeds or Sets up North?

“Is it better to grow onions from seeds or from sets in my zone?” Question from Karen of Randolph, Vermont

Answer: Really it depends on how much money you want to spend and how long you want to wait for an onion crop. It is less expensive to grow onions from seed, but you have to start them very early to get a crop, especially when you have a shorter summer. It also depends on the type of onion you are growing. I would recommend growing spring/bunching onions and leeks from seed in your zone, but I would rely on onion sets for robust summer and fall onions.

Northern gardeners like you should also choose day-neutral or long-day onions. Both are sure to reliably produce a good crop up north. Try the day-neutral AAS-winning ‘Sierra Blanca’ or long-day ‘Redwing’ for great results. For bunching onions try the purple buncher, ‘Deep Purple’.

Onions grow best in loose, friable soil, so amend your soil with quality compost, like OMRI Listed Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, before planting. Fertilizing with bone meal will also help your onions along. If starting seeds, check out Black Gold Seedling Mix, which is also approved for organic gardening.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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