Shallots, much like onions, can be grown from sets (bulbs) or seeds. Growing from sets is easier, and now is the time you need to be planting. So let’s look at how you can grow this very tasty bulb!
How To Plant Shallots
The best way to start shallots is by planting the sets into a cell tray, each bulb in an individual module.
You want to be doing this in February and March, ideally, as they do require a slightly longer growing season when compared to onions.
Alternatively, you can sow them directly into your soil in spring, but severe weather and snow storms can still occur at this time of year that can harm your plants.
This is why I start them in trays and keep them in the greenhouse just for a little while.
You can also plant them in the autumn, and they will overwinter well, just like garlic. These will be much tougher than spring-planted bulbs as they have hardened up all winter, which is why they can survive outdoors but newly planted bulbs may not.
Move your March planted sets out into their final growing spot in April after hardening them off for a week.
You plant them much like you would with onions, with just the tip sticking above the soil level. You want to keep them a reasonable distance apart as they form clusters, as you can see above.
This is how shallot sets grow differently from onion sets. Rather than growing into a larger single bulb, shallots actually split and form a cluster. One bulb can turn into 5-10 shallots!
Keep them at least 15cm away from the next plant in all directions.
Much like onions, shallots don’t need much ongoing care except keeping them weed-free.
Both shallots and onions have a very shallow root structure and struggle to compete with weeds, particularly shallow-rooted annual weeds which occupy the same soil level.
So it is important to keep them weed free. An onion hoe is a great tool for this, as the name would suggest.
Just rake between the bulbs with the hoe to easily remove any shallow-rooted weeds.
Birds are a common problem with newly planted sets, they love to lift them and carry them off. The easiest solution is to grow then in a greenhouse or polytunnel initially.
Or if you can only grow them outdoors, then net your crop to protect them against the birds.
This is a fungal issue that damages the leaves which in turn leads to weaker plants and smaller harvests.
If this only appears late in the season then it is usually not much of an issue as the plant has already done most of its growing.
If it appears earlier, then you need to do something about it. Remove infected leaves and don’t water the plants as too much moisture is often the cause.
Also, make sure you are weeding often to help strengthen the plant so it is better placed to fight off issues like this. You could also give it a bit of a feed with a multi-purpose veg feed to perk them up a little.