growing-shallots

How to Start Sowing and Growing Your Garden Shallots

Shallots are related to both onions and garlic and share traits with both. They have a thin, papery covering and layers of concentric rings like both onions and garlic. They look like green onions, but they grow in clusters, and the clustered bulbs contain three to four cloves. Though bound together by their roots, each plant in the cluster maintains a separate identity.

What Is the Best Temperature Range for Growing Shallots?

Shallots are cold weather crops that can withstand frost. They can be grown at temperatures between 35°F and 90°F (2°C and 32°C). In order to sprout when planted in the spring, though, shallots do need about 30 days of temperatures between 32°F and 50°F (0°C and 10°C).

When Should I Plant Shallots?

Except in areas with extreme winters, shallots can be planted in the fall for an early spring harvest. In fact, exposing shallots to a winter freeze can produce even larger bulbs with more flavor. When planting shallots in the fall, plant them in October and cover them with about 6 inches of leaves. They’ll be able to push through the leaves when they sprout.

When planting shallots in the spring, work the soil in your chosen area in the fall and cover it with leaves. To be certain that they have the 30 days of temperatures between 32°F and 50°F (0°C and 10°C) that they need, plant your shallots four to six weeks before the last frost date for your area. If you don’t know when the last frost date for your area is, check with your local extension area.

How Much Sunlight Do Shallots Need?

Shallots like full sun, but they will tolerate partial sun.

What Type of Soil Is Best for Shallots?

Look for a well-drained area, one where water does not collect in puddles and where the soil does not remain muddy for several days after a rain. However, the soil should retain moisture below the surface. The soil should feel damp, but not muddy, at depths below 1 inch.

Shallots grow best in nutrient rich, lightweight, loamy or sandy soils that contain lots of organic matter. The pH balance should be between 5.0 and 6.8, although shallots will tolerate soils with lower, more neutral pH balances. Work the soil well to make sure that it is thoroughly loosened.

If you must plant your shallots in heavier, clay soils, work the soil over even more thoroughly before planting and don’t push the bulb down into the soil. Instead, dig a hole for the bulb, and replace half of the soil. Then, place the wide root end, or basil plate, of the bulb firmly but gently down upon the soil. Finally, cover the bulb with the remainder of the soil.
Shallots grown in clay soils may have less flavor than those grown in lighter soils, and because clay soils tend to be retain moisture to the point of muddiness, they can cause shallot bulb to rot instead of sprout. So if you have clay soils, you might be better off growing your shallots in containers.

Avoid planting shallots where you have grown garlic. If your shallots were infected with white rot during a previous growing season, avoid planting shallots in that area for five to eight years.

How Much Moisture Do Shallots Need?

Shallot root systems are very shallow, so the plants can dry out quickly, especially before they mature. On the other hand, shallots can rot if the soil becomes too wet. This is why choosing an area where the soil drains well is so important. So test the soil by pushing your finger down into it daily to be certain that you are maintaining the right level of dampness without allowing it to dry out too much. A covering of well-rotted manure, compost, or peat will help retain an even level of moisture.

How Many Shallots Should I Plant?

You should plant at least four to six shallots per person in your household. Keep in mind that some varieties of shallots, such as Golden Gourmet or Longor, produce more cloves than others. Also consider how often you will want to add shallots to your recipes.

How Do I Plant Shallots?

Like onions and garlic, shallots are grown from sets, not seeds. Immature shallots grown from seed require a great deal of care, so planting sets is easier, and after harvesting and curing, or drying, your shallots, you can reserve some of the bulbs for planting as sets for your next growing season.

Separate the cloves. Space them 6 to 8 inches apart in rows that are at least a foot apart. Spacing cloves too closely reduces the size and number of bulbs that form in clusters.

Dig a small, shallow hole just a bit larger than the clove, and add some compost to the bottom of the hole. Place the clove in the hole with the broad, basal plate down and the pointed tip up.

Allow just a bit of the tip to show above ground.

Cover the clove with 1/2 inch or less of soil.

How Do I Care for My Shallots?

Keep your shallots weed free so that they aren’t forced to compete for moisture and nutrients.

Midway through the growing season, you can spread aged compost around each cluster of plants. This is referred to as side-dressing the plants.

What Pests Can Attack Shallots?

Shallots can be attacked by:

  • Grubs
  • Snails
  • Aphids
  • Onion root maggots

Aphids can be flicked off of plants with a spray of water from a garden hose, and their legs are generally too weak for them to climb back up the plants.

Diatomaceous earth spread around the base of the plants will pierce soft-bodied pests like aphids, maggots, snails, and slugs causing them to become dehydrated and die.

What Diseases Attack Shallots?

  • Allium white rot
  • Onion downy mildew

Allium White Rot

Allium white rot is a white growth that can appear on the neck and leaves of shallots, onions, garlic, and other related alliums.

Once it attacks your plants, there is nothing you can do to save the infected plant(s).

Before it spreads to other plants, remove the infected plant and destroy it. Do not use it in your compost.

Avoid planting shallots and other alliums in an area where plants have become infected with allium white rot for five years.

Onion Downy Mildew

Onion downy mildew generally occurs in humid climates and where plants are crowded and experiencing an extended period of dampness from recurring fog or rain.

It causes yellow or light green oval spots lower on the leaves while the tips shrivel and fall over. The spots may turn purple if they are invaded by other fungi or as the mildew matures.

You can clip off infected leaves.

To prevent this disease, water your shallots in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall and avoid crowding shallots and other alliums too closely when planting them. Keep your shallots and other alliums well-weeded so that they are not crowded by weeds. When you clear your garden in the fall, be certain to gather and compost all debris from your shallots.

When you harvest bulbs from infected plants, don’t try to cure and store them as they are likely to rot. Set them aside to use in the short term instead.

What Companion Plants Should I Plant With Shallots?

Companion plants are plants that ward off or lure away insect pests, add needed nutrients to the soil, or, in the cases of plants like cabbage and some of its companion plants, improve flavor.

These plants are beneficial for shallots:

  • Tomatoes – shallots repel red spiders that attack tomatoes
  • Carrots – protect shallots from onion root maggots while shallots repel the carrot fly
  • Cabbage – similar growing preferences
  • Beets
  • Strawberries – shallots keep many strawberry pests under control
  • Summer savory
  • Chamomile – improves flavor and root growth

Are There Plants That Should Be Separated From Shallots?

Some plants don’t grow well near each other because they fight each other for the same nutrients in the soil or because their root systems are at the same depth and interfere with each other. Some plants release compounds into the soil that are toxic to other plants, and some plants create too much shade for shorter plants. In other cases, plants just don’t grow well near each other simply because they just don’t grow well near each other for reasons that have not yet become clear.

Shallots do not grow well near these plants:

  • Beans
  • Peas

How Do I Grow Shallots in Containers?

Allow 8 inches for every two or three bulbs that you plan to grow.

Space the bulbs as you would when planting them outdoors.

Because top soils are too heavy for container gardening, use a potting soil mixed for herbs and vegetables with the correct pH balance.

Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between each watering, but keep your shallots evenly moist below the 1 inch depth. Watering will drain nutrients from the soil, so feed your shallots with an organic fertilizer following the package directions.

If you are growing your shallots indoors, and you need to use a grow light, invest in LED lights that provides a full spectrum from blue to red. It’s especially important that plants grown under grow lights receive light at the red end of the spectrum at the end of the day because that duplicates the light of the setting sun. Plants use that red light to time their growth to maturity. In short, plants actually “know” how many days old they are.

How Do I Know When to Harvest My Shallots?

You can begin clipping off leaves to use for seasoning within a few weeks after your shallots sprout. Avoid clipping off the new leaves coming up in the middle of the older ones, though.

When your shallot bulbs are ready to harvest, the leaves will begin to fall over and turn brown. You can hasten this process by waiting until the leaves are about 16 inches tall and then bending them down yourself.

Don’t pull up your shallots as you would green onions.

Instead, use a gardening fork, pitchfork, or shovel and place the tines or shovel blade near where the cluster of bulbs appears to be. Angle the shovel or the fork so that it will go under the cluster of bulbs, and lift the cluster up out of the ground together with the surrounding soil.

Gently shake the dirt off, and then choose an area where you can lay your shallots to cure or dry for at east a month. Don’t wash the dirt off because that prolongs the drying process and gives mold a chance to grow.

What Do I Do if I Grow More Shallots Than I Can Use Right Away?

After you allow your shallots to cure, you can place them in mesh bags and store them for months in a cool dry place.