How to Harvest and Store Onions

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Onions harvested and ready for storing

If you correctly harvest, cure and store your onions you can expect to enjoy them well into winter. Let's dive straight in and find out how to do it!

Harvesting Onions

Onions are ready to harvest as soon as they reach a useable size. However, for storage, your cue to start the harvesting process is when the leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges. After a week like this carefully dig them out of the ground using a fork. Lay the bulbs on the soil surface, or on a wire rack for better ventilation, to dry in the sun for a further week.

If the weather is wet dry them under cover instead, for instance in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel. Always handle onions carefully to prevent bruising.

Curing onions

Curing Onions

In order to store onions you’ll need to ‘cure’ them, which simply means drying the outer skins fully. To do this, move your onions under cover. You can dry onions on racks or on layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, hoop house or cold frame. This also works for other alliums such as shallots and garlic.

Spread the onions out as much as possible and make sure there is plenty of circulating air to wick away moisture and to prevent mold or rotting. The onions may take a further two weeks to dry out. They are ready to store when the skins are papery, the leaves are completely shriveled up, and the roots are wiry and dry.

At this stage you should cut off the roots and remove any loose skin. If you want to store your bulbs as onion strings, cut the stems to within two or three inches (5-7cm) of the neck of the bulb. If not, cut the stem to the neck.

Onions drying on greenhouse bench

Storing Onions

Onions should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight. A garage or unheated room in the house is ideal. Don’t store any thick-necked or soft bulbs; use these up as soon as possible instead.

Individual onions can be placed – carefully – into net bags. Use purpose-sold vegetable storage nets or netting sacks used to hold, for example, oranges. The bags should then be hung up off the ground. Check the nets periodically and remove any onions that have gone bad.

Braided onion string

How to Braid an Onion String

Onion strings are a very practical and attractive way to store onions. To make one, begin by cutting a length of string to about three to four feet, or a meter. Tie the two ends together to form a loop, then hang the loop from a hook to begin working.

Insert the first onion through the center of the loop then bend the stem around the back of the string to return it through the loop. Push the onion right down to the bottom of the loop to anchor it into position. Now begin working in additional onions in exactly the same way – placing the stem through the loop, weaving it around the back of the string and returning it back through the loop and pushing down to sit snugly against the previous onion. Rotate the position of each additional onion so they sit neatly in a spiral. Hang your completed string in a cool, dry place and enjoy the onions as needed, remembering to take onions from the top of the string rather than the bottom.

And there you have it! Preparing onions for storage is very easy and will keep you in bulbs right through the winter. If you have any other ideas for storing onions then please let us know – just leave us a comment below.

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Show Comments


"I used to use onion sets and the results was I got marble size onions..a neighbor gave me onions she started from seed which looked like grass growing is a small flat...I found these grew very well and I had much better results in size. Therefore I now grow all my onions from seed.I start them several weeks before planting them in the garden. I prefer the Patterson variety that Johnny's Seeds sell...Stores very well."
john boulay on Sunday 24 September 2017
"I always use onion sets now!Seed growing without a greenhouse too hit and miss.My set came from the pound shop!Just harvested 24 very big nicely formed onions with 2% failure.Very early this year in Cornwall.Taste good,quite strong and next year I will hopefully get 100% by feeding correctly. Three onions had thick stems which is caused by lack of nutrients.Still edible though.Great weather for curing.Hopefully my Cara and Maris spuds will be ready to sunbathe soon.They are huge but I`ll wait for the foliage to go yellow.GL "
Anthony on Wednesday 25 July 2018
"Sounds like you're doing really well done there in Cornwall Anthony - congratulations on the magnificent onion harvest!"
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 25 July 2018
"cheers ben,yes everything goes mad and now the rain has come giant tomato plants ,100 runner beans a day ,huge beetroot,etc..I reckon we can get two harvests of some of these crops down here .IE when harvesting starts you can plant again and just get another in.Very happy despite the very cold start this year.(unusual) I plant spuds in early January normally.Trying Garlic this autumn."
Anthony Martin on Monday 30 July 2018
"Sounds like you've got plenty to keep you busy (and well fed) there Anthony - great stuff! You plant your spuds very early indeed!"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 31 July 2018
"my onions are huge but inverted at the base, nice and strong flavour but i'm not sure they will store well. they have been drying for a couple of weeks. my shallots are as big and round as shop bought onions so I will have those if the onions do save. "
melanie on Saturday 18 August 2018
"Good luck with your onions Melanie. It's worth trying to store them, then prioritise using up the onions you're uncertain about, leaving the solid, well-formed onions for last."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 August 2018
"Good luck melanie(belatedly) I`ve still have a couple left in perfect condition.Big mistake I made was not to note the variety! Doh. Planting 60 this year so hopefully the weather will be kind.Good luck all!"
Anthony Martin on Tuesday 22 January 2019
"G'day Does anyone know how to plait garlic please? I've watched a couple of videos but I'm not doing so well :( Hooroo! Gypsy"
Gypsy on Sunday 17 February 2019
"Hi Gypsy. It's very hard to explain by writing alone, and we haven't got an article on plaiting garlic as yet. There is a fantastic step-by-step explanation in Natasha Edwards' book 'Garlic The Might Bulb' (published by Kyle). Otherwise I'd suggest the usual Youtube search till you find something suitable. I'll definitely give it a go this summer and will report back. It would make a great article for"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 21 February 2019
"I tried putting individual garlic cloves in water using one clove per 16 oz plastic water bottle. I planted at least 60 and when they rooted, which is rapidly, I just dug a little larger hole, put them on drip and just harvested some real nice big bulbs. Great way to start the garlic. "
richard on Wednesday 17 June 2020
"Thanks for the tip Richard. They can be very obliging vegetables. Looking forward to a crop myself in the next few days."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 18 June 2020
"My mother used to store onions in tights. Just tie a knot between each onion to keep them apart and cut below the knot to use one. Going to give it a go this year"
Mary on Tuesday 11 August 2020
"I have used this method too - it's a great way to use up old tights."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 12 August 2020
"Thanks again Grow Veg (and Ben) for a lovely short how to. I harvested just over 120 onions about the size of oranges and grapefruits (which I started from seed this year, woohoo!) and was trying to find a new way of storing them that allows me to quickly inspect for rot/etc. I think they'll make nice onion strings to hang in my dry basement!"
Jamie on Monday 2 August 2021
"So pleased you're inspired to try an onion string Jamie. They're very satisfying to make and look superb too! "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 3 August 2021
"When making onion strings, does the "neck" get wrapped around the string more than once? Do you kind of tie a knot or what. I'm still not sure how to do this but would really like to know."
Christine White on Friday 10 September 2021
"The remainder of the stem that's left is weaved around the string and completely back on itself so that it 'grips' onto the string and is held in place. Check out the video, which shows it very clearly - but do come back to me if it still isn't clear."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 September 2021
"In 2019 we were very late picking our onions as we were away for 6 weeks. When we arrived home we were greeted by onions the size of Grapefruit, they kept fairly well but as we had so many of them they started to go off. Me, never wanting to throw anything out decided to cut them up and freeze them, some were diced and others chopped. We vacuum sealed them and used them over the next 12 months, they were great in soups and stew/stir fry type dishes but a bit too mushy for the bbq. This year I have about 40 to pick soon along with 30 garlic plants."
Steven on Tuesday 9 November 2021
"Sounds like you enjoyed a truly gargantuan crop there Steven! Good luck with this year's harvest."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 9 November 2021
"Great video Ben! As always. I’m curious as to what is the purpose of laying the onions on the ground for a week before curing them? Why not just straight to curing?"
Caroline on Saturday 6 August 2022

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