Shallots are among the best additions to any dish, as well as in various sauté recipes, dressings, and sauces. It provides some dishes with a nice depth of taste and flavor without ending up being too overpowering.
Do you know that you can grow shallots in your own garden? By doing that, you can have easy access to this incredible ingredient in a lot of dishes. Let’s learn about growing shallots through this article.
Quick Facts About Shallots
- Botanical name: Allium Cepa var. Aggregatum
- Type of plant: Biennial, bulb
- Family: Amaryllidaceae
- Sunlight exposure: Full sun
- Type of soil and pH level: Well-drained soil and loamy; acidic and neutral
- Mature size: 1 to 2 feet tall; 6 to 12 inches wide
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 2 to 10
- Bloom time: Spring
Shallots (Allium Cepa Aggregatum) Defined
Shallots have a strong resemblance to leeks, chives, and ramps in the sense that these species belong to the Allium genus, part of the Amaryllidaceae family. Note that some countries, like Australia, call scallions shallots. However, keep in mind that scallions, also called green onions, are actually not shallots.
Also, note that most shallots have a few similarities to garlic and onions in the sense that the former has bulbs enclosed in a fine and papery skin. Inside, shallots come in layers, similar to onions. However, take note that you can see two to three cloves similar to garlic separating the layers.
Shallot is also known for having a pungent taste, making it resemble the taste of onion if raw. Once you cook it, though, you will notice the taste of shallot turning sweet, mild, and rich. It also boasts a kind of consistency that melts in your mouth.
Common Types and Varieties of Shallots
The following are the most common types of shallots:
French shallots are among those shallot varieties that are rare to produce flowers and set seeds. Growing them, therefore, requires the use of the sets from last year, specifically the immature bulbs.
French shallot bulbs tend to come with a hard scar found at the bottom composed of only a few hairs. The reason behind this is that you always need to grow the French shallots in plant sets.
This particular trait is what you can use in identifying the French varieties from the Dutch varieties that are usually grown and cultivated from seeds and feature a group of hairy roots found at the base.
One crucial fact about French shallots is that they are kind of costly if you purchase them in the US and France. The reason is that unlike the Dutch variety, the French one has to be hand-planted and manually harvested.
Dutch shallots are delicious bulbs that are considered an onion variety at present. Note, though, that many also classify this variety as the shallot. Rather than creating a single large bulb, you can see the shallot being classified as a multiplier onion. It is also referred to as potato onion from time to time.
Every small bulb got the name aggregate bulb. The Dutch shallot actually tastes similar to the French variety, only it is slightly sweeter. It also has a more yellowish color, rather than copper or red.
Dutch shallot (potato onion) also differs in terms of its bulb clusters. The reason is that you can often see these bulbs being rounder and larger compared to the elongated French varieties.
The Best Time to Plant Shallots
The best time for you to plant and grow shallots will be dependent on whether you decide to grow them from sets (immature bulbs) or seeds. If you are growing sets, make sure to plant during the late fall, so you can start harvesting shallots once the early summer comes.
The problem with fall planted shallots is that they can’t be expected to work in colder parts of their growing zones. It is also possible for you to plant shallot sets during the early spring, so you can have a fall harvest.
What you should do would be to start planting shallot sets around 2 to 4 weeks prior to the anticipated last frost date in your area during the spring. If you prefer planting seeds, you have to sow them outdoors four weeks prior to the previously anticipated frost during the spring.
Alternatively, you can start shallot seeds indoors around eight to ten weeks before the expected last frost date.
Best Planting Location
When planting shallots, you have to pick a sunny area in your garden for them. There should also be sufficient space between each plant to prevent shallots from competing for the nutrients and moisture in the soil.
One more thing to consider when searching for the ideal planting location for shallots is that it needs sharp and effective soil drainage. There should also be a low risk of flood in that area. You can also choose to grow shallots in a container.
Depth and Spacing Guidelines
In most cases, you can grow shallots from cloves. What you should do is put every clove in the ground or soil. Make sure that the thick end points down while the top should be over the soil line.
The spacing should be around six to eight inches apart. Each row of shallots also has to be spaced around twelve to eighteen inches apart. As for the need for a support structure, keep in mind that such is unnecessary when growing shallots.
How to Use Seeds to Grow Shallots?
If you decide to grow and cultivate shallots from seeds, you have to plant them around eight to ten weeks prior to the last anticipated frost date in your area during the spring. Prepare a shallow tray then put a seed-starting mix there. This is where you have to sow shallot seeds at a depth of around one-fourth inches.
Once done, you can look for a bright area where you can put the tray. Wait for the germination process to be completed, which is usually in just around one week. Ensure that the soil surface does not dry out during the germination process.
It also helps to harden the shallot seeds before you plant them. After the passing of any harm associated with frost, you can start planting the seedlings at around four to six inches apart in your garden.
Sowing the Seeds Outdoors
When planning to plant shallots outdoors, what you should do is sow seeds directly outdoors, specifically in a spot, which receives a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sun. The soil where you plant it also needs to be well-draining.
Use compost or well-rotted manure to amend the soil when necessary. Form holes, around half an inch deep then put two shallot seeds within each hole. Each hole needs to have a spacing of around 6 to 8 inches in between.
They should then be in rows that should be spaced around twelve inches apart. Maintain the even moisture of the soil surface but ensure that it does not end up getting waterlogged.
Wait for the seeds to germinate then start to water slowly, only around one inch every week. Once the seedlings grow to around two to three inches, you can start thinning them to just one plant.
Growing the Plant from the Sets of Shallot Bulbs
You can also use bulb sets in growing shallots. What you should do is select a spot in your garden that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. It would be ideal to grow these plants when the mild winter comes as the shallot bulbs are fond of the cold.
You can also expect them to grow tastier and larger if you let them grow a bit then go through dormancy once the first freeze ends. You should then let them reemerge the next spring.
Fortunately, it is not that hard to plant shallot bulb sets. What you have to do is to separate the bulbs carefully prior to planting. Be extra careful, so you can lower the risk of butchering the shallot bulbs into separate cloves.
Make sure that you keep their protective skin layer intact, too. This is to ensure that the bulbs do not rot. You can also amend the soil using manure, well-rotted compost, or a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer.
To plant, dig a hole with a depth similar to that of the bulb. Put them inside while ensuring that the scarred side faces down. Fill it with soil. It should cover all the plants except for the tip of the bulb. Once done, you can thoroughly water the plants.
Give around one inch of water to the bulbs every week, giving them consistent moisture without ending up becoming soggy that only leads to rot. Expect some green shoots to pop out after several days.
In case the bulbs are planted to the ground during the early spring, expect a group or cluster composed of at least eight bulbs to be perfect for harvest within just 100 to 120 days. If you plant the bulbs during the fall, be more patient as it takes slightly longer for them to reach maturity.
The reason behind this is that they will have a slower growth pace during the cold winter months, though, there is still an assurance that they will grow heartier and bigger. Start harvesting shallots you planted during the fall around seven to nine months after sowing.
Caring for your Shallots
For the successful growth of your shallot greens, make sure that you are able to supply them with the following:
Of course, you can maximize the growing capabilities of shallots if you put them under the full sun. This means they should receive a minimum of 6-hour direct sunlight. While they are capable of tolerating slight and partial shade, they won’t end up becoming as robust as those grown under the sun.
Use well-draining soil in planting shallots. Make sure that you also enrich it using organic matter. One more thing you have to do is to ensure that the soil pH level is acidic to neutral, specifically around 5.5 to 7.0.
Another key requirement in growing shallots is water. They need a continuous supply of water for the entire growing season. This is especially true in those instances when there is a dry spell.
Keep the light soil moisture, though, you still have to be cautious to avoid letting the bulbs stay in soggy soil. It is also important to supply them with around one inch of water every week.
Humidity and Temperature
Shallots are also often in need of a dormant period that is cool for a minimum of one month. The temperature should be around 32 to 50 degrees F before you can see them growing.
Many shallot plants also prefer being in a soil temperature that is around 35 to 90 degrees. One more thing to note is that provided you water them regularly and maintain them in well-draining soil, you have an assurance that the shallots will no longer become too sensitive to humidity.
In general, there will be no need to provide shallots a fertilizer. Note, though, that soil amendment is necessary, especially if you do spring planting. Use compost for this. By amending the soil, you can improve its drainage capabilities and nourish it.
When to Harvest Shallots?
You can expect shallot to be ready for harvest around 100 to 120 days after you plant them. Similar to onions, shallots tend to indicate their readiness for harvest once you notice their leafy tops withering and turning brown.
In that case, you have to dig up the entire plant then shake off and remove any excess soil. You then have to put it in a shady and dry area for several weeks to support curing. Once done, you can take out the tops and roots.
Store shallots you harvested in a dry and cool room, preferably 35 to 45 degrees F for a max of eight months. You can put them inside a mesh bag with enough and good air circulation.
You can expect your harvested shallots to have a garlic or mild onion taste and you can use them in all recipes that require onion. Shallots also seem to be really great whether you serve them cooked or raw.
Pest and Diseases Affecting Shallots
To guarantee the healthy growth of shallots, here are some pests and diseases that may affect them. Watch out for these issues, so you can deal with them in a timely manner:
This is one of those pests that resemble small grains of rice. Onion thrips can invade the leaves of your shallots and munch them. This may lead to the plant weakening. Fortunately, they often do not disturb the bulbs that are still growing.
Remove thrips by using neem oil or insecticidal soap. Just spray the infected leaves with the mentioned products and follow the instructions on how to use them indicated in the package.
Another pest that may damage your shallots is the onion maggot. It causes a terrible problem for your shallots as it tends to damage the root systems and the bulb. What they do would be gnawing on shallot bulbs.
An even bigger problem with onion maggots is that you can’t often realize that there is already damage unless you see the leaves turning brown and becoming stunted. This is the main reason why you have to examine your plants every now and then.
Find out whether there are small white maggots appearing on the surface of the soil or brown and slim flies that hover over your crops. If you see them, take out the infected plants.
After that, release beneficial nematodes into the soil based on the directions stated in the package. They are actually worm-like and microscopic organisms capable of parasitizing various pests and insects, like onion maggots, even if they are still in the form of larvae. They can, therefore, help in stopping the life cycle of the pests.
Does your shallot plant show signs of stunted growth? Or have you noticed the seedlings turning brown? Then take out a plant and examine its roots to find out if there are hints of pink, the most noticeable symptoms of the fungal disease, pink root.
This disease may develop because of waterlogged and excessively wet soil. This can create the ideal environment that can stimulate the development of the fungus. With that said, you have to prevent overwatering your plants.
Ensure that the soil where you plant your shallots is well-draining. During the rainy season, use a row cover to cover your shallots. This should help prevent oversaturation in case of heavy rains.
Another disease that may affect your shallot is pink rot, which can be indicated by the presence of pale-grown, tiny, and oval-shaved lesions on their leaves. It could also be that the signs have progressed into purple-brown and huge splotches.
This fungal disease will not cause the shallot bulbs to become inedible. However, there is a high chance that they will kill the foliage, resulting in the plant stopping its growth.
Prevent it from stopping to water the foliage. It also helps to irrigate at the level of the soil only. You can then spray a fungicide based on copper on the infected leaves.
Have you noticed the leaves of your shallots becoming prematurely yellow? Have you noticed the plant stunting its growth? Then check out the area where the bulb specifically is.
If you notice the base showing off a white and fuzzy mold, then the problem could be white rot. This fungal disease may end up destroying the whole crop. It also tends to stay in the soil for a max of twenty years.
In case there is a white rot outbreak in your garden, avoid planting allium crops in the area for up to two decades. Of course, there is an alternative to dealing with white rot as soon as possible.
What you have to do is to take out the soil infected by the disease. Dispose of this soil in a place where they can no longer infect other plants and soil. Another tip is to begin a fungicide rotation plan.
This should help in treating the entire area while refilling it with fresh and uninfected soil. You then have to treat it with the appropriate fungicide.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do shallots come back every year?
No. The reason is that shallots are real biennials. This means that their natural cycle would be to develop bulbs one year then die the next year.
How long does it take to grow shallots?
It takes at least ninety days.
How many shallots will grow from one bulb?
One bulb is capable of producing around four to twelve shallots.
Where do shallots grow best?
Shallots grow best if they are in zones 3 to 10. It is also crucial for the soil where you plant them to be well-draining, loose, and fertile. In addition, the best planting location is one where the shallot plants receive sufficient sunlight.
How to differentiate shallots from green onions?
One major difference between green onions and shallots is that the latter are among those onion species that had to be separated. Meanwhile, green onions refer to those onions that you have to take out before you can expect them to be fully ground. They also vary in terms of sharpness and taste.