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Growing A Green Onion: Scallions

by a Friendly Gardener
Fresh green onion bunches

Scallions are an easy plant to grow and can be eaten fresh upon harvesting or used in cooking for flavoring. The scallion is a specific cultivar of the onion but with a gentler flavor. They are commonly known as “Green onions” and often referred to interchangeably as a shallot, although they are different.

Botanically named the Allium fistuosum and members of the Amaryllidaceae family, there are distinguishing characteristics between green, spring onions, and scallions.

 

  • Green onions are onions that are harvested when bulbs are very small but tasty when eaten. They are called Allium cepa. Plant foliage can be consumed.
  • Scallions are onions that grow in clumps with bulbs that are thin. They tend to be tender and milder than green or spring onions.
  • Spring onions are also Allium cepa. These onions are harvested when bulbs measure smaller than a quarter. Foliage can be consumed but may not be ideal.

 

Scallions are considered onions without bulbs. They are perennial plants that are characterized by tubular dark green leaves with tiny bulbs underground that are bright white. These leaves can grow 3 feet high but will be harvested by growers when they reach a foot. Bulbs and stalks are appreciated and used for a mild oniony flavor. They are most often eaten uncooked. Growth is rapid and your crop should be ready to harvest and enjoy within 60 to 80 days.

 

Planting Scallions

Green onions growing

 

When Should You Plant Scallions?

If you’d like a summer harvest, plant your crop in the spring. If your climate permits you to grow them as perennials, you will be able to harvest scallions all year and not be required to replant.

 

Choosing the Planting Site

Green onions

Scallions need well-draining soil in a bright sunny spot. They can be cultivated in containers. Keep weeds away from your scallion plantings because weeds will compete with your plants for soil nutrients and moisture. Putting down a layer of mulch can be effective in contrasting weed development.

 

How to Plant Scallions

Spring onions growing

Plant scallion seeds approximately one-fourth inch deep. If you are transplanting seedlings, place them at the same depth they were in their container. When planting, space plants with 2 to 3 feet between them. Scallion rows should be spaced at distances of 1 to 2 feet. Scallions generally do not need any kind of support structure.

 

Caring for Scallions

 

Soil

Scallion plants like sandy loamy but rich soil. It needs to have excellent drainage and the soil bed’s pH should be slightly acidic to neutral. Add in compost or organic matter when you are planting. Blend the organic matter 6 to 8 inches deep before planting.

 

Light

As leafy vegetables, they thrive the most in full sun for at least six hours daily, although they can handle some shade.

 

Water

Scallions are characterized by a shallow root ball or system. Regular watering or local rainfall becomes necessary as soil beds begin to dry out. Even so, plants should never sit in wet soggy soil. This will lead to root rot and other soil-borne diseases. You need to keep the soil bed evenly moist.

Drip irrigation is ideal as a watering system. This allows you to keep the roots sufficiently watered while still protecting scallion leaves from excessive moisture.

 

Temperature

Scallion seeds require that the soil should have a temperature of at least 45°F for successful germination. Warmer soil temperatures are even better. Seedlings and plants like environmental temperatures that measure from 68° to 78°F.

 

Humidity

Scallions don’t mind humidity if they have sufficient drainage to combat root rot and similar diseases.

 

Feeding Scallion Plants

Spring onion

You can use a balanced plant fertilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in use. A fertilizer like fish emulsion, which is high in nitrogen is recommended for growth.

 

Pollination

Scallions are plants that are self-pollinating; however, it is better that they do not flower as this can negatively affect the taste of foliage.

 

Scallions and Garlic

It’s common to mistake garlic plants for scallion plants. Upon closer examination, you’ll note that garlic foliage smells like garlic and scallion foliage smells like onions. Garlic leaves are also slightly thicker than scallion leaves.

 

Harvesting Your Scallion Crop

Scallions

When still young, scallions will be mild-tasting and tender. When your young plants reach 6 to 8 inches tall, you can begin to harvest. They should have a width as wide as a pencil. You can begin harvesting foliage by snipping off the leaves you need for cooking or eating. If you wish to harvest an entire plant, remove it from the soil. Wash them and use them as desired.

Fresh foliage can be kept in the refrigerator for no longer than a week. If you are planning your scallion crop as perennials, skip harvesting the first season. This will encourage the plant to establish itself fully and increase production. Snip off foliage as needed.

 

Growing Scallions in Containers

Scallions are very successful container plants because root balls are small. Containers need good drainage holes. Unglazed clay or terracotta pots are best to permit excess moisture to escape.

 

Potting and Repotting

When cultivating scallions in containers, use well-draining potting soil. Large container crops that are harvested regularly will most likely not require repotting. Keep soil beds evenly moistened.

 

Scallion Propagation

Scallions are propagated through division if they are cultivated as a perennial crop. If you plan on using division, divide mature plants in the springtime.

  • Remove a scallion clump with its roots.
  • Pull parts apart gently and create two sections or more.
  • Replant each section individually.

 

Growing Scallions from Seed

Lettuce and scallion

Begin seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the final projected frost date for your area. You can also sow seeds directly into the garden bed once the final frost has passed.  Sow seeds about ¼-inch deep into the soil. Make sure seeds have constant moisture. Seedlings will emerge in a few weeks. Once growth has developed, thin out seedlings to approximately 2 inches apart. Should you wish for a continuous harvest you can plant succession crops monthly.

 

Overwintering Scallions

If you have planted a perennial crop, apply a thick layer of mulch at the end of autumn. Remove the mulch the following spring after the soil bed has warmed.

 

Diseases and Pests

Scallions may suffer from the same pests as onions do. These include

  • allium leaf miner
  • cutworms
  • onion nematodes
  • slugs
  • onion maggots
  • thrips

Damaged leaves or stunted growth may indicate a problem. Rotating crops will help. Leaf spots, mildew, and rust can occur if proper sunlight and watering are lacking.

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