Fruit and Veg
When to Plant Shallots
- There's an old adage that you should plant shallots on the shortest day and harvest them on the longest! It's not far from the truth as shallots are hardy and will tolerate winter weather well.
- It's worth noting that by contrast onions planted out before early March often fail by 'bolting'. Bolting means that they send up a flower stalk at the expense of producing a bulb.
- Personally, I always try to get mine started around the first few days of the New Year. I can't help but have a thrill that this is the first crop to start a new growing season!
Should You Grow Shallots as Sets or Seed?
- Most gardeners grow shallots from sets.
- Sets are immature and small bulbs that are widely available from mid-winter onwards.
- But shallots can be grown from seed and if you want to grow lots and are on a budget then growing from seed is well worth considering.
How to Sow Shallots as Seed
- You'll need to start seed off really early and this can be done on a bright warm windowsill.
- Option 1 Sow shallot seeds singly into cell packs (if you have lots of room) or sow thinly in seed trays and carefully prick the seedlings out into cell/module trays when big enough to handle.
- Option 2 You can sow a pinch of seed and then remove all but the strongest seedling when they have germinated.
- Tip Always use clean containers and fresh seed compost.
- Seed can be sown directly into the garden but it's unlikely in most areas that the soil will be warm enough to get good germination until early March.
How to Growing Shallots as Sets
- If your soil is friable and easy to work then you should be able to plant shallot sets directly into the veg garden where you are going to grow them.
- Make certain that the soil is well cultivated and has added organic matter such as garden compost worked in. Alternatively, shallots can be grown without cultivating by the 'No Dig' method.
- Shallots will grow well if fed well. Apply a general balanced fertiliser at the recommended application rate (Vitax Q4), Growmore, etc.) prior to planting.
- Plant each set about 18-20 cms apart (in all directions). Cell/modular seed raised plants are planted at the same spacing.
- Plant them with a trowel but not too deeply. The tip of the bulb should be just poking out of the soil.
- Curious birds may pull them out until firmly rooted so keep an eye out for this!
- If your soil is like mine and too wet and sticky for planting in mid-winter then start shallot sets off in cell packs.
- I use the cell packs that you can buy 6 or 9 pack bedding plants in.
- Plant each set in a cell using peat-free potting compost. You can do this in a cold frame, polytunnel, unheated greenhouse or just a sheltered spot outside near a wall.
- When your veg plot soil is ready simply transplant each shallot as described for direct planting of sets.
Growing them on
- Shallots need very little attention! However, it is important to keep them weed-free.
- Water well during dry periods. A boost of a high nitrogen liquid fertiliser when the bulbs are swelling will help too. But don't over-do the feed as that can result in shallots that do not store so well.
Find seeds to buy on Candide
Tools for Every Gardener
When to Harvest Shallots
- Around mid-summer, you will notice that the tips of the leaves will start to turn yellow. Those leaves will also flop over and lie flat.
- This is an indication that the bulbs are not going to increase in size any more.
- Taking a fork, gently loosen each plant so that it now rests on top of the soil.
- After a day or two you can transfer the bulbs to a dry place in the sun to ripen the bulbs off.
- Don't hurry this as fully ripened and well-grown bulbs will store in a frost-free dry place until spring of the next year!