When to Fold Over Onion Tops

When should you fold over the tops of your Onions to encourage them to start to ripen in readiness for pulling? Well, the answer is, when they start to do it themselves anyway. Once the bulbs are big enough and the tops are heavy then the plants will naturally start to bow their tops over. You can give them a helping hand by doing it for them and creating neat rows rather than messy beds.

When you do decide to bow the tops over make sure to do it gently and if you have more than one row bend the heads in different directions to get as much sunlight to the bulbs as possible. Remember the intention here is to ripen the bulbs and encourage the tops to dry out.

Once the leaves have dried out and you can pull the bulbs easily from the soil then your onions are ready for storing.

21 Comments on “When to Fold Over Onion Tops

  1. Ooh! I never knew you should do that. It’s my first year with onions. I shall be out turning my tops over tomorrow! Thanks for the tip. My shallots have all bowed down already, don’t know if that is normal either.

  2. I didnt know you had to do that to onions. Thanks for posting this :)

  3. Aha, what a great tip! It’s my first year growing onions and I was wondering what to do with the mass of green currently hiding my bulbs from the sun!

  4. Not sure if my post will get deleted…but I’ve read that if you force onion tops over, then it encourages rots in storage. Hmm. Just trusting Joy Larkcom here! I’ve always just waited for them to bend over naturally. I can cope with a slightly messy line though.

  5. Sorry,but I must disagree with some of the above.
    As soon as your onions have toppled over naturally (never ever bend the tops over yourself !!) then you should lift them and dry them with the BASES of the bulbs facing the Sun either in a greenhouse or if you’re lucky, on the soil if you can guarantee it wont rain for a month.
    Don’t remove the leaves when drying as this will just open up a cut into which Botrytis spores can gain entry into the neck and they’ll rot in storage.
    Then once the bulbs have dried and the leaves have shrivelled up,cut the leaves off and store in a dry airy spot.
    Some may disagree, but I do know my onions,If nothing else..
    Check out my 10 pound onion attempt if you don’t believe me…LOL.


  6. Hi Lyddie,

    You’re right you should wait until the tops start to bend over naturally. I did mention that at the beginning of the post.
    Claire, don’t bend the tops over until they start to do it by themselves. That means they’re ready to start ripening. I haven’t had any problems with rotting but I can imagine the onions wouldn’t like it if you fold the tops over before the bulbs are big enough.

  7. I was just trying to help. You said you can give them a helping hand by doing it for them. But anyway.

  8. Hi Gill,

    Do you have any photos of what the onions look like when they are starting to fold over by themselves? This is also my first time with onions and I want to be sure that mine are ready for a helping hand before I do it wrong and lose them all. I rely on your photos and compare them to what I’ve got then I know I’m doing things right. It’s served me well so far!!

    I LOVE this site. The photos are such a help to us beginners.

    Also, is it the same for shallots or just normal onions?



  9. As always, fabulous photos. I love how all your veg are in perfect rows!
    I don’t have space for onions, so I can only look and yearn… :)

  10. Having only got my allotment this year, I didn’t have enough time to get any onions in. I shall have a go at growing them next year though.

  11. Phew, that’s a load off my mind – I’m growing onions for the first time this year, and a few of them have flopped over on their own. I thought I might’ve killed them! *LOL*

  12. Hi Andrea,

    Sorry I don’t have any photos of them before I folded them over. You’ll probably know when is the right time though. The bulbs are nice and big and the tops flop over. It will be sometime between now and mid August (depending on when you planted them).

    Shallots will just wilt down on their own. They normally flop out from the middle outwards and that’s the best thing for them as that brings in the most sunshine to all of the bulbs at the same time. So just leave those.

    Hope that helps.

  13. Wow, Allotment-diary, those are some big onions!

  14. Thanks MTP. I ran out of time to check onions today. I was too busy digging up new potatoes for Homity Pie. Had to use store bought onions to keep me going. I took some photo’s so will blog the recipe soon!

  15. Jo, if you plant some onion seeds late summer (second week of August is good time), then you can overwinter them and get a nice early crop. You could plant sets, but I always go for seed as it actually means I’m getting onions cheaper than I would in the shops!

  16. Hi Gill,

    Thanks for replying. I’ll leave mine another week or so just to be sure, but I’m pretty sure they’re ready.

    Another question, how long do I have to leave them to dry out once I’ve harvested them – or do I not need to???



  17. Onions have a great tendency to rot in store, and before. This year they are awful and rotting before lifting!. It is very annoying. Does anyone else have this problem this year?
    This rot appears on teh bulb, under a layer of skin, it has been a damp year in the Midlands, but I expected better than this.

  18. my onions are rotting badly in storage. I did force over the tops probably prematurely, as i had read some where that you should do that. Also we had a very, very wet August/Sept here in the west of Scotland and they would never have dried if left outside so we put them in a shed on top of a wire grill about 4 ft off the ground – but they have nearly all rotted from the neck down in to the centre of the bulb. They look OK from the outside and even feel reasonably firm when you handle them, but as soon as you cut the top off you hit rot – much gnashing of teeth as it was the first year I have succesfully grown them and they were a good size!

  19. Hi…I live in Ontario Canada
    My onions yellow and sweet white are only starting to grow well now and we had snow today can i just leave them in the ground over the winter?