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How to easily grow the best shallots

The first stage of growing great shallots

The first stage of growing great shallots

I love using shallots in my recipes. I prefer their mild taste to most onions and the fact that they generally store so well gets the thumbs up from me. Until last year my shallots were not the chubby specimens that I saw in the supermarket. If I was lucky they were the size of a small walnut.

I tried investing in more expensive sets, giving them more water, feeding them, putting grit in the soil and still the results were disappointing.

So last year I took a tip from Monty Don, on Gardeners World. He set his shallots in trays of compost. Perhaps this could be the answer? The method was so simple.  I nipped down to Homebase and invested in a couple of bags of shallot sets the next morning. I set these in trays of multi purpose compost. It’s quite important to be very gentle at this stage so as to avoid damaging the delicate roots – make a dip in the compost and ease each shallot in and then add extra compost around each bulb. I put the trays in the Solar Tunnel and I didn’t let them dry out – just kept the compost slightly damp, checking every couple of days on their progress.

Ideally shallot sets finally go into the ground at a 20cm/8″ spacing. This gives them enough room to produce well.

They sprouted fairly quickly and although they were eventually planted out in one of our shadier borders the results were amazing. There was a decent yield from each set of chunky shallots. A few didn’t sprout and those went in the compost bin. The positive side of this was that all the shallots that I planted were producers – no irritating gaps in the rows.

So last week I spent a happy hour beside the pond setting my shallots in trays of potting compost. A few will be planted in the kitchen garden here but the majority will be going in our allotment as the soil is lighter and more free draining and alliums prefer good drainage.

Incidentally when I was writing this post I remembered that I’d bought some shallot seeds from More Veg last autumn. So I’ll start this seed off tomorrow in the tunnel. It will be interesting to see what happens to them over the summer. More Veg is a great seed selling site that offers smaller amounts of seeds at competitive prices. Ideal for the small garden or seed addicts that like to test out seeds – you can find the latter everywhere.

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  1. treecutter

    I have previously started onion sets in trays to “get them going”. As my soil is so wet at present (yes and I live in a sandy area!), I am going to do this with shallots.

    Last year I bought my onion sets from Poundland and they were pretty good, so I have done the same this year and also bought shallots from the same place.

    Interesting to note the comments about expensive seed/sets don’t work too well. Have had the same problem myself& seeds from Wilko & Poundland seem to be as good

  2. Ruthdigs

    I have to admit to not using shallots very often – I find they affect my eyes far more than onions when chopping them – to the extent that I’ll end up stood in the kitchen with uncontrollable tears running down my face unable to see a thing! That means I’ve never grown them either but perhaps I need to invest in some of those onion goggles in order to be able to use them! 😀

  3. I have already put mine in the garden but if they are a disappointment I will try Monty’s method next year.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Margaret

    Yes! I’ll be fascinated to see the difference. Can’t wait to see the results in the autumn.

    Hello GEH

    Definitely worth trying Monty Don’s method!

  5. Nice ideas for growing the shallots…..

  6. Margaret Thorson

    Our experience has been to get better shallots from seed than from sets. It will be interesting to see how yours compare.

  7. Gardening Edgbaston Harborne

    I have never been very succesfull at growing shallots, i have always tried to grow from seed. Very interesting to read about Monty Dons advice. Im going to put it into practise this year and see if i have any more success.

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