How To Grow Shallots (Not Another Onion Guide!)

With spring approaching, a gardener cannot stay calm and relaxed. For several weeks so far, I’ve been walking up and down throughout the house, itching to plant something. My article about vegetables to grow in March was written because of this feeling. Of course, since I need diversity, I decided to try something new.

How to grow shallots is a question which many gardeners ask themselves. Although it is very similar to onions, shallots are different, and because of that, here’s this guide.

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What Are Shallots?

Are there any things I can say about shallots exclusively, without mentioning onions? Well, there are, but I will instead present the differences between these two, and for now, here are some of the facts about this vegetable.

  • Shallots originate from Central and Southeast Asia
  • Its name comes from the city of Ashkelon since the Ancient Greeks believed that this vegetable is native there
  • If you ask for shallots in New Orleans, things might get a bit confusing. This expression there is used for scallions
  • Of all members of the onion genus, shallots have the mildest taste overall
  • pH of the soil should be between 6.2 and 6.8
  • Shallots need full sun, so be careful about this

As we can see, these are rather exciting vegetables. There are several different cultivars which you can grow, but consider growing Pesandor, if you wish to use them in salads, Golden Gourmet if you want a plentiful harvest or Matador AGM which sports excellent size and is suitable for any usage.

Speaking of varieties, until recently I have believed that shallot is a different name for scallions, but the thing is a bit more complicated. Imagine onions which look and grows similar to garlic. That is shallot. It has several bulbs joined together and has thinner leaves than the onions. Also, regarding taste, they tend to be a bit sweeter.

Other conditions and demands are pretty similar with onions. Full sun is needed, good drainage and pH level are the same. Therefore, if you have grown onions earlier, you will do just fine.

How To Prepare The Soil?

Concerning that onion family has a weak and tender root system, the land has to be prepared with care. This means fluffy and well-aerated ground, with enough organic matter. Speaking of latter, I have avoided using fresh manure, since it can burn tender plants. Any other kind was good enough.

So, old manure can do the trick, or organic residue collected in the kitchen can be made into beautiful compost. Of course, this requires time, but if you have it already, apply few inches of it, and turn the soil. Benefits of doing this are numerous, so besides feeding plants, you can expect drainage to be better, and this also matters.

As for the compost, avoid those rich in nitrogen. This element is slightly aggressive, and vegetables which have it too much will grow large and healthy leaves, but the bulbs will be small.

There are cases when you cannot improve your soil. For example, soil rich in clay is highly unwanted and changing that into loam is a long process. Also, if the ground is not leveled, the water will gather in lower sections, so avoid planting there. Instead, try making a raised bed

This will help you deal with the problem, and since you don’t have to bend over too low, your back will be grateful.

When And How To Plant Shallots?

As with all other kinds of onions, shallots can be planted during two seasons, depending on when do you want to harvest them. If you decide that spring is ideal for planting, then you can expect them to be ripe at the beginning of August, while those planted in autumn will be ready at the beginning of July.

Of course, if you can wait until the first frosts in autumn, you will be rewarded with plants with slightly better taste, but again, it is up to you.

As for planting, you can try and start them from seeds, but since this procedure is much more demanding, and there is a lot of fuss about it, I suggest you pass it. Starting from bulbs is much more convenient, and better since vegetables grown this way will be more resistant to diseases.

The planting process is straightforward. Just stick a bulb with pointy end upward at each 6”. Leave the neck slightly above ground level, and press the soil firmly, to push out the air from the soil. That is it.

Of course, you can shorten the distance, but this will do just fine. Next, space rows at least 15-16” apart. They tend to spread, so don’t worry, the leaves will fill the gaps. Right after planting, you should water the shallots, and if you have planted them in autumn, mulching can be a right thing to do.

In fact, there is no case when you should pass on applying mulch. This benefits the vegetable in many ways. It will hold back the weeds, and it also prevents evaporation of the water. Since shallots are not overly fond of competition, keeping a garden clean of weeds is essential.

Caring For Shallots

Luckily, there is not much care about these would-be onions. You have to look after three things.

  • check
    Watering
  • check
    Fertilizing
  • check
    Pests and diseases

The first item is something which will depend on your climate. When the soil in the garden is dry and hard, apply water, it is easy as that. Of course, in case of extreme heats, or if the plants are struggling, use some mild manure tea. This will give them much needed a boost.

As for pests and diseases, there but a handful of those which need to worry you. Onion white rot and downy mildew are most often diseases, and since there is no cure for those, prevention is a must. Don’t overwater the vegetables, and see that the air flow is undisputed.

Furthermore, there are some pests which can cause you trouble, such as onion fly, which can cause quite the damage, and thrips. First ones can be removed by eliminating infected plants and peeling off the top layer of the soil. Apply the wood ash, and cover it again.

As for thrips, anything based on pyrethrin can help to thin the numbers and introduce their natural predators afterward, to finish the job.

Also, if you see that flowers are appearing, take shears and cut them off. Those will only draw the strength of the plant, without any particular usage. There is a way to replant, don’t worry, I’ll cover it in the next section.

How To Harvest Shallots And When To Do So?

If the season went well, without diseases or another catastrophe, during July and August, you could expect to harvest your shallots. Since this depends on when you planted them, you will have to watch for foliage. Once it starts turning yellow, the harvesting time draws near.

In the beginning, do nothing. Wait for leaves to dry out completely, or cut them off a few days before harvesting. By using spade or fork, loosen the soil around the bulbs and pull them out of the ground. Shake off any dirt which remains, and leave them someplace with good air circulation.

Once they dry, separate bulbs into sets, and store them in the basement. If everything is done right, you can expect them to last for six months. Of course, any weak or soft sets should be removed, in order not to infect the rest of the harvest.

Naturally, these sets can be used to plant them again, so as I promised, this is the best way to replant shallots. Surely, you will want to choose those which are the biggest and best looking for replanting.

Conclusion

So, there it is. How to grow shallots is not a question which will bother you, I hope. Now that you know how things work, there is no reason not to get outside and start preparing the soil, since the time is perfect to do so.

As always, if you have thoughts, opinions or questions, feel free to use the comment section below.

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