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Growing shallots

nasturtiums in the kitchen gardenI love this time of year, everything winding down from the rush of the summer. A sunny day seems so much more precious now that the days are shorter. I was down in our kitchen garden this morning planning to lift two rows of shallots. I knew that I should have lifted them in August but assumed that they would be happy to be left in for a few more weeks. It was difficult to spot them at first as the nasturtiums have romped across half the vegetable patch. When I did find them they were disappointingly small and had started to sprout. What a waste.

We usually dry and plait them. These hang in the kitchen in an airy spot. They last right through to the following summer. If only I had taken half an hour to lift them. I was so despondent that when I got back to the house, I went onto the internet to find a use for the sprouting sets.

Shallots can be planted in the autumn or spring (how do I plant shallots? See Tricks and tips below). We plant in both seasons, buying the sets (bulbs) from our local garden centre. I perked up when I discovered today that you can save shallot bulbs from your harvest to plant as sets. So I’m going to divide up my bulbs and use these as sets for a couple of rows at the weekend. I’m going to try one row of sprouting bulbs and one row of non sprouting. I’m not sure how well they will do, as they are not dried sets. Hopefully they’ll take but if they don’t I can plant more sets in the spring. Incidentally, our autumn shallots are not ready for lifting before the summer but autumn planted shallots are supposed to do better if we have a long hot summer.

Tricks and tips:

  • Shallots thrive on fertile soil, so spread a decent amount of rich compost from your compost heap over the soil and dig in well.
  • Plant the bulbs six inches apart in rows one foot apart. Gently press the sets into the soil so that the papery tops are just peeking out from the soil. Be careful not to damage the root system at the base of the bulb.
  • Birds love pulling up the sets so I protect them with a tunnel of chicken wire, anchored into the earth with four inch wire stakes.
  • Each set will produce several shallot bulbs. When the green tops die down, lift the crop and dry outside for a few a sunny days or in an airy shed.

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  1. Gerda Mayer-Wittmann

    Last year i tried growing shallots for the first time. The new shallots were almost to see above ground and were small

    this year I had planted the smallest of last years harvest in the Fall. The greens came up well and are wilted now. I do not see new shallots. should I try to dig for them?

    Do they need fertizer during growing time? shouls I plant larger shallots rather then smaller size?

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sue, I don’t see why not if you water the ground well before planting.

    It really does depend on how long you are going to be away.

  3. Sue Henshall

    Hi, I am going away on the 11th March for a while and wonder if it would be safe to plant out my shallots before I go, covering them with a cloche ?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Phyllis

    Many apologies unless someone passes by chance all your questions are answered by me. Usually a question is answered within 24 hours. But I do work full time and many evenings too and I also write a post a day. At the moment I have about fifty emails and comments to answer and it’s bedtime!

    Stop taking the green leaves. When they start to die down (go yellow and wilt) your shallots are ready to lift. Dry them in strings or separately and store for future use. Each shallot bulb that you planted should have produced a cluster of new shallots.

  5. phyllis

    Hi where do the answers to your questions go? to my email address?

  6. phyllis

    I’ve never grown vegetables in my life, until now, i planted some shallots june time, into a big 2 foot high bin, they now look like a bucket of spring onions, is this normal, or have I messed up.I have been using the foliage in my new potatoes, can anyone give me some advice on what I should be doing.. many thanks

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sue W

    I’m planting my shallots this weekend. A bit late but not too late.

    In fact I am way behind with all my seeds. I have an electric propagator which speeds things up a bit.

    There is a good sowing/planting calendar here

    The answers to comments always appear on the post where you left the question.

  8. where do the answers go? On this website or to my email address?

  9. we haven’t grown veg for 25 years – can we plant shallots this weekend 13/04 ???
    What else could we plant in the next months?
    Thank you

  10. tractorfactorsteve

    i’ve come across some ‘banana’ type shallots which were in a tub alongside two or three varieties of overwintering/japanese onion sets. i’ve assumed they’re meant to be planted at the same time as the onions (normally i don’t plant shallots till feb, if the ground’s ok). fingers x’ed they’ll be ok and i’ll have some early shallots to go with the early onions. i love the self-satisfied feeling of harvesting ‘mature’ onions in early june, not too long after having planted the ones i’ll be pulling in late aug/sept. anything to avoid BUYING veg, of any kind!

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