Shallots are closely related to onions and garlic. Chefs love them for the unique, pungent flavor they bring to the kitchen, but home cooks often avoid them because they tend to be quite expensive. Not to worry. As these instructions on how to grow shallots will demonstrate, just about anybody in almost every region can easily cultivate their own delicious shallots at home.
Shallots come in different varieties that may vary slightly in color and taste. Growing is the same for each type of shallot, but consult with local growers to find out if there’s a variety better suited to the unique climate of your area.
WHEN TO GROW
Shallots can be planted in the spring for a fall harvest or in the fall for an early summer harvest. They are best when planted in the fall, except in regions with extreme winters (zones 1-4). In moderate climates, both harvests are possible. Most varieties of shallots mature in 90-120 days.
For spring crops, plant 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost of winter or as soon as the soil can be worked. In the fall, plant them just after the first frost but before the ground freezes.
WHERE TO GROW
Shallots grow best in regions with moderate to cool climates. Severe winters of zones 1-4 make them difficult to grow over winter and spring crops produce smaller bulbs but can still be delicious. Zones 9-11 may be too hot to produce great shallots, but they can still be grown in these regions.
Plant shallots in an area of the garden that gets full sun. However, if necessary, they will tolerate a little bit of shade but avoid full shade. Raised beds are best for shallots in rainy environments.
Shallots grow shallow in the soil and work well for container growing as well.
BEST SOIL FOR GROWING SHALLOTS
Shallots will grow in a variety of soil types. Be sure you have really good drainage, fertile soil and a pH of 5.0 – 7.0 for great results. Amend heavy, clay soil with lots of mature compost prior to planting.
Shallots are grown from sets (or small bulbs which contain individual cloves, similar to garlic). Break up the bulbs and plant each individual clove 2 inches deep. You can also just plant the bulbs with the thick end down and the thin tip end just barely protruding from the soil. Keep them spaced 6-8 inches apart and allow 1 foot between rows.
Look for green foliage to emerge. They’ll look similar to scallions. Hand-weed carefully to allow these greens to thrive. Cut the outer leaves and eat them if so desired.
As the bulbs grow, gather soil around them so that just the tops are exposed.
Add a thick layer of organic mulch, such as 6 inches of leaves or straw, after planting. This will protect the plants over winter and they will easily shoot right up through it in the spring.
WATERING & CARE
Water just after planting but only occasionally after that. Too much water will cause the bulbs to rot. You don’t need to water them over winter when planting in the fall. Water only when the soil dries out. They will need a dry, dormant period of 1 month just after planting, even when planted in the spring, so plant them early.
DISEASE & PEST CONTROL
Shallots are most susceptible to different types of rot. Be sure they are not over-watered and planted in soil that drains really, really well. Raised beds and hills help with drainage.
Do not plant where other alliums have recently grown.
Pests do not usually present a problem to shallots, though you may need to use fencing or covers to protect them from mice, rats and other rodents.
Shallot bulbs need 90-120 days to mature. Once the leaves turn brown, your shallot bulbs should be ready for harvest. Each clove should produce 10-20 shallot bulbs. In the early summer, harvest bulbs before the greens flower.
Cure shallot bulbs in a warm, dry place for about a month after harvest. Keep them out of the sun and protected from pests.
TIPS & ADVICE
Shallots need a dry, dormant period of about 1 month after planting. This will happen automatically over winter when they are planted in the fall, but measures may need to be taken for spring planting should rain come early. Soil temperatures should be 32° F – 50° F during this dormant period.
Harvest the green shoots of shallots after 30 days, or once they are large enough to eat. They can be used similarly to green onions.
Shallots are actually biennials grown as annuals; they are just very hardy.
We recommend planting 4-6 shallots per member of the household.
Do you have questions or tips on how to grow shallots? Let us know in the comments section below.