FARMERS’ DESK: Best Tips On How To Grow Onions In Uganda


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Onions (allium cepa) locally known as “obutungulu” in luganda are cool season biennial crops. This vegetable is typically grown as an annual. The dry bulb onions are harvested after the leaves have dried back and the bulbs fully matured.

Common Onion Varieties in Uganda

The common Onion varieties grown in Uganda include; Jambar F1, Red passionF1, and Bombay red and Red pinoy- these have a lower yield but are in high demand at the market and they fetch a higher price than the Jambar F1.

Soil requirements for growing Onions

Soil requirements; bulb onions do best in well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH range between 6.5 to 7.0.

How to Propagate Onions in Africa

You can plant onions from seeds, sets or transplants. For commercial farming, I would recommend that you use either transplants or sets to plant onions.

An onion set is a small dormant bulb that will produce a larger bulb once it’s planted.

Onion transplants are however started from seeds in the bed before planting them in the main garden.

How to Plant Onions in Uganda

It’s preferable to plant your onions at the onset of the rains, though you can plant when you have means of irrigating your field.

Make rows 12 to 18 inches apart, and then place onion sets or transplants 4 to 6 inches apart in 1cm deep holes in the soil.

Gently cover the new transplants with soil.

Water thoroughly after planting, and regularly thereafter when it does not rain.

Watch out for pests like the onion fly, onion thrips, and onion neck rot dis-order.

How to Harvest Onions in Uganda

Onions need around 4 months to mature. In the last 3 weeks before harvesting, the weather should be rain-free.

Plan to start your nursery bed according to the dry season of your planting area. Count back 4 and ½ months so that you can harvest at the end of December.

Proper treatment at harvest maximizes the amount of time you will be able to store your onions.

When the tops of the onions turn brown or yellow and fall over, it’s time to harvest; ideally, the plant will have about 13 leaves at this point.

Pull the onions early in the morning on a sunny dry day, Shake off excess soil.

Cure the onions by putting them in to sun to dry for at least 2 days. Then transfer your onions to a shaded warm, dry, and well-ventilated room to enable them to completely dry and cure.

Where to sell your Onions in Uganda

You can sell your onions right from your nearest fresh market including wholesale markets, restaurants, roadside stands and national markets like Owino, Nakasero, and USAFI.

Alternatively, you can go ahead and add value to your onions by drying them to get an onion powder which you can sell at a better price as a spice.

Quick Tips for Planting Onions in Africa

  • Get ready for onion planting by setting up your field meant for planting the onions.
  • You start with setting up a fine bed needed for bringing up seedlings.
  • Alternatively, you can directly sow your onions into the main field.
  • Make 2cm furrows, broadcast in manure and finely mix it with the soil.
  • Place in your onion sets or transplants then gently cover with soil.
  • Water the onion plantlets to give them the moisture needed for proper root establishment.
  • Make it a point to weed your onions because they are not good at competing at a young age.
  • Late in the 3rd month, you can now start to prepare for harvesting the crop.
  • Thoroughly dry and cure your onions as this helps enhance flavor.

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