As gardeners, we usually find that the first signs of falling and drooping are typically bad things. When we see our flowers wilting over, or our beans falling to one side, we may wonder what’s going wrong. However, with onions, falling over isn’t a bad thing.
Your onion plants may be falling over because they are ready to be harvested. The yellow or green tops will fall to one side or seem wilted as the onions stop growing. Still, sometimes, along with other symptoms, this can also indicate a problem with the onion plant.
So, let’s look at why your onions are falling over and discuss when it’s a good thing and when you should be concerned. I’ll also give you some tips for harvesting your topsy-turvy onions and teach you how to store them properly.
What Does It Mean When Onion Plants Fall?
When plants start falling, it’s typically not a good sign. You may worry there’s a nutrient deficiency, or you may be concerned that you’ve overwatered them. With other plants, this may be true, but not with onions.
When onion plants fall, it means that it’s time to harvest. You can grab your gardening gloves and a digging tool to help loosen the soil around your onion and pull it right out. Still, sometimes, a falling onion plant can indicate a problem with watering or sunlight.
However, if it seems to be around harvest time for your onion, you don’t need to worry about potential deficiencies. An onion plant with yellow leaves popping out of the ground, falling to one side, is ready to be harvested.
Your Onions Are Ready To Harvest
If you see no other symptoms than a floppy top in your onion plants, it is usually time to start harvesting.
Around 3-4 months after planting, your onions should be ready to harvest. When your onion leaves are less colorful and flop to the side, you can start preparing for the harvest. No more growth will happen once your onions have started to droop over.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to pull them up right away. Onions do well underground for an additional week or two, so start to observe when the falling begins.
However, leave them underground with caution. Don’t leave your onions underground for too long, or they might become susceptible to pests. They could also begin to rot, though it’ll take longer for this to happen.
Your Onion Plant May Be Unhealthy
Sometimes, it’ll turn out that a falling onion crop fell prematurely due to watering or sunlight problems. You’ll know this is the case if the tops are falling before the 3 to 4 month period where your onions should be falling over. Additionally, you can look for pests in the area to see if something is going wrong.
Moisture meters are great for checking your soil for pH, sunlight, and moisture. Check what your variety of onions typically needs and test against the results you get on your moisture meter. If your onions have fallen over and you’re a few weeks off from their typical harvesting period, one of these things might be wrong. You can adjust sunlight, water, and pH accordingly.
pH is a little harder to manage and won’t be a quick fix, but you can prevent pH problems before planting by conducting tests. Unfortunately, it might take the entire growing season to correct your pH.
Additionally, you can observe the leaves for other indicators of a problem. It’s normal for onion leaves to lose color and fall over during harvest season. However, any lesions or discoloration may indicate you have a pest problem or infection going on underground. You’ll need to find out what pest is causing the issues to know how to fix it.
How Do You Harvest Onion Plants?
Hopefully, you’ve come to find that your fallen onion plants are ready for harvesting. If so, you may be wondering how to pull up your plants properly. With onions, you’ll be embarking on a few steps before the harvest is complete.
You can harvest onions in dry weather by pulling them from the soil. After gathering your onion plants, you need to cure them in warmth for about a week. Then, you can store your plants on the kitchen counter in a cool, dry place.
If you’ve got rainy or snowy weather on the way, it’s best to take your onions out of the splash zone and have them cure somewhere else nice and warm. Curing helps to harden the outside of the onion and get the moisture out, which will keep it from rotting too quickly.
Signs Your Onions are Ready To Harvest
Beyond the leading indicator of your onion plants falling over, there are other ways to know that your onions are ready to harvest. Ready-to-harvest onions will:
- Have discolored leaves (going from green to yellow, not brown)
- Have a soft neck between the leaves and the bulbs
- Have dry leaves
Leaves changing color means that all nutrient transfer and growing has ceased, so your onions will stop getting bigger. Additionally, the “soft neck” space between your leaves and the bulb is typically what makes your onion tops fall over. A soft neck is a good indicator it’s time to harvest.
Lastly, onions need to be dry before harvesting and remain dry throughout the harvest process. Any moisture can make the onion rot quicker than you may think. So, the curing process is critical.
How To Harvest Your Onion Plants
Harvesting is a pretty straightforward process. Once your leaves have fallen, you can use a fork or your hands to dig the onions up. Let them dry out in the sun. You’ll need to cure them for at least a week if you plan on storing them in your home. Otherwise, they may mold or rot. This video shows what this will look like:
You’ll know your onions have cured when the skin gets that classic papery feel and can flake off easily.
Storage Techniques for Onion Plants
After curing, you’ll need to store your onions in a cool, dark, dry place. Any moisture can be detrimental, as onion rot occurs quickly and is extremely smelly. Additionally, you won’t want to put a whole onion in your fridge.
To store your onions, you should keep them out of the light. Don’t put them near windowsills or somewhere directly exposed to sunlight in your kitchen.
Additionally, you want somewhere dry. You may consider a bread box specifically for your onions if you live in a moist climate. Lastly, the place you store your onions should be cool but not cold hence why the fridge isn’t an option.
You can buy products specifically for storing your onions, so you can get a whole life out of them without compromising any space in your kitchen. Typically, a hanging mesh bag or onion string will do the trick.
If your onions get a floppy top and fall over, it is usually time to harvest them. Dig your onions out of the ground and allow them to cure in a warm, dry place for 2-3 weeks before bringing them inside to eat.
When you store your onions, you’ll want to find a cool, dry place. Look for a drawer in your kitchen or a space in your pantry for them to go. Onions can keep for a month if stored in the right place.