Spring onions always make me think of my mother. Growing up, we never ate a salad as a family that didn’t have spring onions in it. My mum also used to make the most delicious omelette with spring onions. It’s a favourite to this day. Whenever I visit her, I ask her to make it.
Since they are essentially a part of my DNA, I am happy to share what I know about them in this comprehensive guide to growing and caring for spring onions in Australia.
Spring onion, scallion, green onion
Indoor and outdoor
Up to 90 cm tall and 60 cm wide
End of winter and beginning of spring
Leaves and stalks
Poisonous for pets:
Introduction to Spring Onions
There is plenty of confusion when talking about what a spring onion actually is. This is because we’re usually talking about green onions. These are the ones with the long green leaves and no bulb at the end of the white stalk.
Real spring onions grow a bulb at the bottom and are usually harvested in spring. To add to the confusion, green onions are often called spring onions, shallots, or scallions.
Scallions are a must for any kitchen. The leaves have a lovely mild flavour and can be enjoyed fresh or cooked. They grow easily using seed or cuttings and are happy in a pot or garden bed.
How to Grow Spring Onions in Australia
Ideal Planting Location for Spring Onions
Scallions grow well in most parts of Australia. In places with a tropical or subtropical climate, they can be grown throughout the year. For other climate types, plant from the beginning of spring into autumn.
Scallions need full sun with some protection in the afternoon otherwise the leaves might wilt or burn. Spring onions like a well-draining soil that is slightly acidic, so a pH between 5 and 6. Add lots of organic matter to the soil before you plant.
Propagating Spring Onions
How to Propagate Spring Onions Using Cuttings or Existing Plants
Wash the white part of the stalk and cut off about two thirds of the leaves. Prepare the planting site, then dig a small hole to insert the cutting. The white part of the stem should be covered and then fill up or surround it with soil.
Water the newly planted cutting. Within a few weeks, there should be new leaves and the spring onion is now ready for harvesting.
Propagating Spring Onions Using Seeds
Once the planting site is ready, create a small trench for the seeds and sprinkle them over. Cover them slightly with the soil. Keep the soil moist by watering and apply organic mulch to keep moisture in.
The seeds take about 2 weeks to sprout. Once this has happened, space the seedlings 5 cm apart. Give the seedlings regular water during the growing season and feed them every few weeks with a suitable fertiliser.
Growing Spring Onions in a Pot
Select a pot at least 20 centimetres deep and place it somewhere with full sun. Fill it with a potting mix and follow the same seed planting method as you would for the garden as I mentioned above.
Use a watering can if possible to water the mixture as it needs to be cared for gently. Once again, provide water and fertiliser as recommended for the growing season.
Caring for Spring onions
Scallions are hungry plants that need plenty of nitrogen. Using a fish emulsion each month will keep them happy. Water your spring onions regularly. The rule is soil that is moist but not wet. For the hotter summer days, give the plants more water.
How to Harvest Spring Onions
The long green leaves of spring onions are actually hollow and have a mild flavour. The plant is ready for harvesting after eight weeks but the leaves can be snipped for use before this when needed.
When fertiliser is applied, give it a few days before harvesting the scallions. It’s important to rinse them really well before you cook and eat them.
How to Store Spring Onions
There are a few different ways to store spring onions once harvested. The jar method involves filling a glass jar with around 5 centimetres of water and then popping the scallions in with their roots facing down. Cover with a plastic bag and keep in the fridge. The scallions will stay fresh for around a week.
Spring onions can also be stored in a damp paper towel. It mustn’t be too wet. Put the scallions on the paper towel and fold it so that the plant is completely covered. Pop it into a plastic bag or container and if the paper towel becomes dry, you can just wet it again.
For more long term storage, you can freeze scallions for up to 6 months. First rinse and dry the spring onions and then cut off the roots. Cut them up however you prefer and place them on a sheet to freeze for 2 hours.
Once that’s done, pop the frozen spring onion into a freezer bag or appropriate container. Make sure it’s properly sealed.
Common Spring Onion Pests and Diseases
Aphids have a love affair with spring onions. These sap suckers hang out in colonies on the plant leaves but you can’t always see them. They also have different colours, from black to pink.
The best defence is a plant oil like neem or canola oil which smothers the aphids. The leaves need to be well covered for the treatment to be effective.
Thrips are another pest that can be difficult to see. The giveaway is usually tiny white spots on the leaves. Neem oil is one of the best options to put thrips in their place.
Downy mildew looks like mould growing on the underneath of the leaves and the top leaf surface is blotchy. The mould can be different colours including white, grey and purple. I have two homemade fungicide suggestions that work well.
Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with half a teaspoon of liquid soap in 3.8 litres of water to create a spray. Another option is 1 part milk to 3 parts water mixed to create a spray.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spring Onions
What is the difference between scallions and spring onions?
Green onions and scallions are essentially the same. Scallions have a white stem with no bulb on the end. Their flavour is like an onion but milder. Spring onions look very similar but they have a bulb at the end of their stem.
Basically, a spring onion is a grown up version of a scallion. They are called spring onions because they are planted at the end of autumn and then harvested the following spring.
Can you substitute scallions for spring onions when cooking?
Their flavour and texture is very similar but the intensity is different. Spring onions will have a stronger flavour if you are using them raw in comparison to scallions. If they are being cooked, this process will smooth out any differences so yes, then you can use one for the other.
Does spring onion offer any health benefits?
For a start, they have plenty of fibre, about 10% of what you need daily. This keeps cholesterol down, and can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Scallions and some other plants in the allium family can help fight against cancer, in the stomach in particular.
The plant contains allicin and it’s this ingredient that can stop cells from becoming cancer or slow down the spread of tumours.
Spring onion along with its relatives has medicinal properties like killing off or slowing the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The antioxidants found in scallions protect cells from damage that causes inflammation and other disease. To get the full health benefit, eat the spring onions fresh.
Are scallions nutritious?
Scallions are low in calories and fat, and they have no cholesterol. One cup of scallions offers twice the daily amount of vitamin K needed for the body. To my surprise, scallions have around 25% of the vitamin C needed and around 16% of the folate needed daily.
What plants are scallions related to?
Chives, leeks, shallots, and garlic.
Why are scallions sometimes called a Welsh onion?
You would assume it’s because scallions are from Wales but the name is actually from an old German word “welsch” which means “foreign”.
Wrapping Up Our Guide to Growing and Harvesting Spring Onions
Scallions were among the very first crops to be cultivated in the world. This dates back to 3500 B.C. This plant has journeyed and evolved into a household name, and in the case of my family, a fresh favourite. Growing my own spring onions has brought me immense joy. I can harvest them within a few weeks and have a personal supply on demand.