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How to grow shallots from bulbs

Looking for an easy-to-grow crop that yields amazing abundant results? Look no further than shallots. For an abundant early summer harvest, late fall is the ideal time to plant shallots.

What a coincidence. It’s late fall! And we just happen to have a video — all about how to grow, plant and harvest shallots — ready to share.

In the video, you’ll meet a most generous and genuinely expert instructor in Petra Page-Mann. Petra is one of the co-founders of Fruition Seeds — a certified organic farm and seed company in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. Petra has years of experience growing many, many (300+ varieties of) vegetables. But, she has a particular passion for shallots — which she shares with us in her warmly delivered and easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions.

So, if growing shallots is on your gardening wish list, press play — and get ready to go forth with your shallot bulbs and multiply.

The skinny on shallots

What are shallots?

  • shallots are members of the onion family (along with their close relatives garlic, green onions/scallions, leeks, and chives)
  • shallots are closely related to multiplier onions or potato onions (with bulbs that multiply freely and produce several lateral bulbs)
  • shallots can be grown successfully wherever onions are grown
  • much like garlic, shallots have distinctive bulbs made up of cloves (but without the papery membrane that encloses a head of garlic)
  • as a rule, a shallot bulb is about the size of a chestnut or a bit larger, pear-shaped, and narrows to a longish pointy end
  • shallots can be grown from seed, but are most often grown from bulbs, often called “sets” which can be acquired from nurseries and other reputable seed sources
  • shallots are planted in late fall or early spring
    there are three main types of shallots; the video shows Petra planting organic Dutch red shallots
  • as it grows, the ’mother’ or original planted shallot bulb divides to make many ‘child’ bulbs
  • Dutch red shallots are plentiful producers that can produce 20 or more bulbs for each bulb planted in well-nourished soil

How to plant shallots

  • plant from shallot “sets” acquired from a good seed source — shallots from a grocery store can work, but not always as successfully
  • be sure to separate individual bulbs from their cluster of bulbs, plant each individually
  • shallots grow best in loamy, well-draining soil that’s well-nourished (amend with 2-3 inches of compost)
  • plant shallots in an area that gets full sun for 6-8 hours per day in the growing season
  • plant 8 inches apart (in row and between rows), 3 inches deep
  • cover with 1 inch of mulch: straw, grass clippings, other organic matter, or leaves that have been cut up by a shredder or mower
  • shallots grow best in USDA hardiness zone 2-10

When to plant shallots

  • plant shallots in late fall or early spring
  • late fall plantings of shallots will result in spring blooms and an early summer harvest
  • planting in early spring may be preferable for zones that get deep winter freezes
  • if planting in early spring, plant bulbs 2 to 4 weeks before the forecasted last frost date for your region
  • size matters — when you plant bulbs of a similar size you can expect to be able to harvest all of your shallots at a similar time (if that’s important to you)
  • if you’re planting in spring, you could consider succession planting (plant your biggest bulbs first, then after they mature, plant the medium-sized bulbs, then the smallest bulbs)

Caring for shallots

  • keep your shallot beds well-weeded (to keep weeds to a minimum, add and maintain a generous topping of mulch)
  • if you’d like to plant a companion crop, look no further than spinach — this leafy green makes a great companion plant for shallots
  • shallots have shallow root systems, so consistent watering is essential. Keep soil lightly moist (another reason mulch will be of considerable benefit)
  • but beware of persistently wet soil, which can result in rot
  • about an inch of water/week is ideal
  • feed with compost in the spring, additionally, Petra recommends weekly foliar feeding/root drenching with compost tea or dilute fish emulsion for optimal health and harvest
  • in the 100% good news department, pests are generally not a concern with shallots, another reason they are considered to be quite easy to grow

When to harvest shallots

Petra shares excellent advice in the video about how you’ll be able to tell when your shallots are ready for harvesting. Be sure to watch to the end for her harvesting and curing/drying tips (and here’s a quick pro tip: have your fans ready).

She also gives her recommendation for the best spot in your kitchen to store shallots once the curing and drying process is complete. Hint: think cool, dry and dark for best shallot storage.

Save the best shallot bulbs to plant next year

We’ll leave you with one last tip.

After you’ve harvested your shallot bounty, save your biggest and best quality bulbs for planting next year’s crop. It may be tempting to keep all of the stars of your shallot harvest for making fabulous meals, while setting aside smaller bulbs for planting. But you’ll get the best results from your biggest, healthiest bulbs — so bear that in mind when you’re admiring, er, evaluating, your shallot harvest.

Are you planting shallots this fall? If you’d like to share your journey, we’d love to hear about it in the comments for this video on our YouTube channel.

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