[Beginners Guide] How to Plant Onions in Dry Season in Zambia - Agrolearner.com
How to Plant Onions in Dry Season in Zambia

[Beginners Guide] How to Plant Onions in Dry Season in Zambia

Planting onions during the dry season in Zambia can be a challenging task, but it is still possible to achieve a good yield with the right techniques. Onions are a staple in many Zambian dishes, making it an essential crop for both personal and commercial use.

Learn how to plant onions in dry season in Zambia with these tips. Start by selecting a variety of onions that are suited to the dry season in Zambia. Make sure the planting site has good drainage and is in a sunny spot. Dig a shallow hole and fill it with well-draining soil. Plant the onion sets about two inches deep and 12 inches apart. Water the soil regularly and provide plenty of sunlight. Harvest the onions when the tops start to yellow, and enjoy!

In this article, we will explore the steps you can take to successfully plant onions during the dry season. We will cover the appropriate planting time, soil preparation, seed selection, planting methods, and irrigation techniques.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of having a successful onion harvest even during Zambia’s dry season.

How to Plant Onions in Dry Season in Zambia

In this article, we will discuss the steps involved in planting onions during the dry season in Zambia. Planting during the dry season requires extra effort due to the texture of the soil. However, it is possible to grow onions during this period if the following steps are followed.

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Step 1: Soil Preparation

Preparing the soil is crucial for growing onions during the dry season. To grow well, onions need soil that is both rich in organic matter and well-drained.

To achieve this, you can add compost, manure, or other organic materials to the soil. Sand or gravel can also be added to the soil to improve drainage and prevent soil compaction.

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The soil should be loosened and made crumbly, and the pH level should be between 6.0 and 6.5.

Once the soil is prepared, the next step is to create a seed bed where the onion seeds can be sowed and allowed to germinate before transplanting.

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The seed bed should be cleared of debris, weeds, and stones that may hinder germination.

The soil should be levelled, and a garden fork or tiller can be used to loosen the soil.

Step 2: Select High-Quality Onion Varieties

Selecting high-quality onion varieties is essential for successful onion farming in Zambia’s dry season.

For best results, choose onion varieties that are well-suited to dry conditions and have a short maturity period, good drought tolerance, and disease resistance.

Recommended varieties include Red Creole, Red Pinoy, and Yellow Granex.

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Step 3: Planting Onions

Timing and technique are critical when planting onions during the dry season. Begin planting at the start of the dry season when there is still some moisture in the soil.

Onions should be planted in rows, with a spacing of about 4-6 inches between each seed. Make small holes in the soil and place the seeds inside, covering them with a thin layer of soil.

Arrange the onions in straight lines with a distance of approximately 15 centimeters between each row and ensure that the individual plants are placed with a separation of about 5 centimeters. Plant the onions 1-2 cm deep in the soil.

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Step 4: Watering Onions

During the germination period, which can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days depending on the variety of onion, it is important to keep the soil moist.

To avoid washing away the seeds, use a gentle spray or mist when watering the seed bed. To save water, you can either apply water directly to the soil around the plants or use drip irrigation.

Water the onions deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. The recommended amount of water for onions is approximately 1 inch per week, although this may differ depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

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Step 5: Fertilizing Onions

To grow effectively, onions need nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply a balanced fertilizer containing all three nutrients to the soil before planting.

During the growing season, additional nitrogen fertilizer can be applied to promote leaf growth.

Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen, as this can lead to excessive foliage and reduce bulb size.

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Step 6: Pest and Disease Control

Onions are susceptible to pests and diseases, particularly during the dry season. Thrips, onion maggots, and cutworms are common pests that can damage onions.

Diseases such as fusarium rot, botrytis, and purple blotch can also be problematic. To prevent pest and disease issues, practice good sanitation, rotate crops, and use insecticides and fungicides as needed.

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Step 7: Harvesting Onions

When the tops of onions start to turn yellow and fall over, it indicates that they are mature enough to be harvested. The onions should be carefully lifted from the soil and left to dry for a few days in a warm and dry location.

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Once the onions are dry, they can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. To prevent spoilage of onions, it is advisable to keep them away from fruits or vegetables that emit ethylene gas.

Benefits of Planting Onions in Dry Season

#1. High yield

Onions planted in the dry season tend to produce higher yields due to the reduced risk of diseases and pests that thrive in moist conditions.

#2. Increased market demand

During the dry season, the supply of onions decreases, leading to an increased demand in the market. Planting onions in the dry season can lead to higher profits due to the high market demand.

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#3. Reduced competition

Planting onions in the dry season means that there is reduced competition from other crops, resulting in better access to inputs and resources.

#4. Better quality

Onions grown in the dry season tend to have a better quality, due to the fact that they are not exposed to the excessive moisture that can cause rotting.

Challenges of Planting Onions in Dry Season

#1. Water scarcity

The dry season is characterized by a lack of rainfall, which can make it challenging to provide enough water to the onions.

Read Also: [Beginners Guide] How To Grow Onions In Zambia

#2. High temperatures

The high temperatures during the dry season can cause the soil to dry out quickly, leading to stunted growth of the onion plants.

#3. Pests and diseases

Although the risk of pests and diseases is reduced in the dry season, there are still some that can affect the onion plants.

Best Practices of Planting Onions in Dry Season

#1. Irrigation

To ensure adequate water supply, it is essential to use efficient irrigation methods such as drip irrigation or sprinklers.

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#2. Soil Preparation

The soil should be properly prepared by tilling, adding organic matter, and ensuring adequate drainage.

#3. Pest And Disease Control

Although the risk of pests and diseases is reduced, it is still important to take preventative measures such as using insecticides and fungicides.

#4. Variety selection

Choose onion varieties that are suitable for the dry season and have good drought tolerance.

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Common Diseases and Pests of Onion Plants

#1. Onion Thrips

These are tiny insects that feed on the leaves of the onion plant, causing yellowing and stunted growth.

#2. Onion Maggot

These are larvae of flies that feed on the roots of the onion plant, causing wilting and death.

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#3. Downy Mildew

This is a fungal disease that causes yellowing and curling of the leaves.

#4. Fusarium basal rot

This is a fungal disease that causes the lower part of the onion plant to turn yellow and die.

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How Much is Onions Sold in Zambia

The price of onions in Zambia varies depending on the season and location. However, the average price of onions in Zambia ranges from ZMW 4 to ZMW 8 per kilogram.

Is Onion Farming Profitable in Zambia

Onion farming in Zambia can be profitable if done correctly. The profitability of onion farming depends on various factors such as the cost of inputs, market demand, and yield.

With good crop management practices and proper market research, onion farming can be a profitable venture in Zambia.

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Varieties of Onions in Zambia

Some of the common onion varieties grown in Zambia include Red Creole, Texas Grano, and Valencia.

Best Time to Plant Onions in Zambia

The best time to plant onions in Zambia is during the dry season, between May and August. Planting during this period ensures that the onions receive enough sunlight and warmth to grow, and reduces the risk of disease and pest infestation.

Step By Step Onion Farming Pdf

Step 1 – Choose a Suitable Location

Onion requires full sunlight and well-drained soil. Select a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Step 2 – Prepare the Soil

Onion requires loose and well-drained soil. Till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches and add organic matter such as compost or manure to improve soil quality.

Step 3 – Planting Onion Seeds

Onion seeds can be directly sown in the field or started indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 3-4 inches apart in rows spaced 12-18 inches apart.

Step 4 – Watering

Onion requires regular watering to establish a good root system. Water the plants deeply once a week, or more frequently in hot and dry conditions.

Step 5 – Fertilization

Apply a balanced fertilizer before planting and again after 4-6 weeks of growth.

Step 6 – Weed Control

Keep the area free of weeds by regularly removing them by hand or using an appropriate herbicide.

Step 7 – Harvesting

Onion bulbs are ready to harvest when the tops begin to turn yellow and fall over. Pull the onions out of the ground and let them dry in the sun for a few days before storing.

How To Plant Onions In Zambia

Onion production per hectare varies depending on the variety, soil quality, and farming practices. However, with proper care and management, it is possible to achieve yields of up to 20-25 tons per hectare.

Onion Production Per Hectare

Red Creole Onion is a popular variety of onion that is known for its sweet and mild flavor. It is a small to medium-sized onion with a red skin and white flesh.

The Red Creole Onion is suitable for both fresh consumption and cooking. It is easy to grow and requires full sunlight and well-drained soil.

Red Creole Onion Pdf

Onion takes approximately 90-120 days to reach maturity, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

However, green onions or scallions can be harvested after 30-60 days of growth. The onions are considered ripe for harvesting once their tops start turning yellow and bending down.

How Long Does Onion Take To Grow

Onions are a cool-season crop, which means they grow best in cool weather conditions. Typically, onion seeds take about 7-10 days to germinate, and it takes another 3-4 weeks for the seedlings to become established.

After the seedlings have established, they will continue to grow and develop for several months. Depending on the variety of onion you are growing, it can take anywhere from 90 to 150 days for the onions to mature fully.


Planting onions in Zambia’s dry season is possible with proper preparation and management. By selecting suitable varieties, preparing the soil, irrigating, and controlling pests and diseases, farmers can produce a successful crop. With careful attention to detail, planting onions in the dry season can provide a lucrative opportunity for farmers in Zambia.

Author: David

David is a Kenyan farmer from the rural village of Nairobi. Growing up, he was surrounded by the beauty of the Kenyan countryside, which sparked his passion for farming. After completing his education, he decided to pursue a career in agriculture and has since dedicated his life to providing food for his local community. David is an experienced farmer and is experienced in a range of agricultural practices, including crop rotation, animal husbandry and soil management. He is passionate about promoting sustainable agriculture and is actively working to reduce food insecurity in his community.

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