Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Shallots (page 3 of 4)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Growing from Seeds or Sets

Growing from Seeds or Sets
Plant shallot sets about six inches apart in rows that are 8 inches apart

Shallots grow best in cool temperatures. Seeds are best planted in spring but can be fall planted at the same time you would seed short-day onions in zone 8 and warmer.

You can plant shallot sets in fall anywhere you plant garlic then: plant sets four to six weeks before the first hard freeze. In spring, plant sets two weeks before your last frost date. Fall-planted shallots, which tend to produce larger bulbs, will be ready to harvest about two to four weeks before spring-planted ones. Last fall, I planted shallot sets in my garden, and more than 80 percent of them overwintered. They did send up flower stalks in spring, but I snipped them off. Flower stalks on fall-planted shallot sets are usually a sign of water, fertilizer, or heat stress (we had a dry, hot spring). Still, these fall-planted shallots matured two to three weeks earlier than the spring-planted sets and produced larger bulbs.

Before planting, prepare the soil as you would for garlic or onions, creating a well-drained raised bed, amended with compost. Direct sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch apart and sets 6 to 8 inches apart. Like onions, shallots are shallow rooted, so keep the soil evenly moist, fertilize with 1 pound of a complete fertilizer such as 5-5-5 per 10 foot row, and keep the bed weed free. In areas where the temperatures drop below 0° F, cover fall-planted shallots after the first hard freeze with a 6-inch layer of hay or straw.

In spring, remove the mulch at the first signs of new growth, side-dress with a 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer, spreading 1 cup per 10-foot row. You can harvest the young shoots as green onions when the bulbs are 1/4 inch in diameter, whenever the bulbs are large enough for your taste, or when the tops naturally die back. To allow the bulbs to form a tough, protective skin, reduce watering a few weeks before harvest.

Once harvested, separate the bulbs from their bunches and dry them in a warm (80° F), well-ventilated room for two to three weeks to allow the tops to dry and the bulbs to cure (toughen their skins). Cut off or braid the dried tops, and store the bulbs in mesh bags hung in a cool (40° F), humid area, such as an unheated basement. Many shallot varieties are good winter keepers, and I've found that the storage varieties usually last through the winter even if the temperatures in my basement are a bit higher.

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