growing shallots

WHEN TO PLANT: Shallots may be planted spring or fall in the Puget Sound region.

SOIL PREPARATION: All members of the onion family grow best in light loam that is rich in organic matter and plant nutrients. Waterlogged soil will make the bulbs rot or adversely affect their appearance and quality. In infertile soil the bulbs will be very small.

HOW TO PLANT: Space shallots 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows 15 to 18 inches apart. Plant the bulb root side down, the top of the bulb 1 inch below the surface. Planting too deep grows elongated bulbs that don’t store well.

GROWING: If you want really large bulbs, side dress the plants when growth resumes in spring. Organic gardeners can use chicken manure or any kind of seed meal (cottonseed meal, canola meal, linseed, soybean, etc.) at a rate of about 1/2 to 1 gallon per 50 row feet.
When the bulbing begins, any mulch or soil covering the bulbs should be pulled back so the bulbs form on the surface of the soil and dry down.

HARVEST: The tops of these species often make very tasty scallions. However, if you snip off too many sprouts, there will be fewer and smaller bulbs. It is important that the bulbs form tough protective skins. To accomplish this the plants must mature in dry soil. So as the bulbs are forming you should stop watering them. The time to harvest is when most of the tops have browned off and fallen over. Loosen the soil and then gently lift the bulbs. Their skins have not hardened yet so it is important to avoid bruising. The bulbs, with their
tops still attached, should be air-dried for 2-3 weeks until the tops have completely shriveled. Then cut the tops off with sharp scissors or pruning shears about 1 inch above the bulb, spread the bulbs out on wire racks in the shade (in a garage) to cure for 2-3 months. By then it will be time to replant or store them for the winter (those you haven’t eaten yet).

STORAGE: Like all onion bulbs, shallots need cool, dry storage with lots of air circulation. They are best hung in mesh sacks at a temperature of about 40°F., but they will keep quite well at 50°F. if they have been properly cured and are not tightly packed.