How and When to Plant Shallots

Credit: Flickr / Benson Kua

Q: How and when is the best time to plant shallots?

Shallots! There are two ways of planting shallots—from seed and from bulb, also
called “set.” There are several varieties of shallots including Ambition, French Red, Bonilla and more; Richter’s lists four varieties in bulb form.

Sow seed in sterilized potting mix when weather warms in spring, usually around mid-April, or in a greenhouse, if you have one, a few weeks earlier. Like many seeds, the onion family likes bottom heat, moderate temperatures and good circulation. Don’t crowd seeds; space them 1/2″ apart or more in the
little pots/flats, covering lightly with soil. They’ll take about two weeks to germinate.

When seedlings reach 2″, give them a feed of liquid kelp and/or fish fertilizer; at 3″ or so gently transplant to the garden to good soil in sun, spacing them about 6″ apart in all directions, leaving two-thirds of the shallot above soil. Tamp down, water lightly. They need little care.

When tops wilt in fall, gently remove shallots using a spade or fork, shake off soil, and “cure” by letting them sit in a dry place. These are now fine to use in cooking. Store in a cool, dry place.

Another way to grow shallots is to plant “sets” in early spring. Use some you’ve grown, purchase organically grown shallots from a farmer’s market or order online. Simply bury individual shallots (break apart if attached) about 6″ apart, covering with 2″ of soil. Harvest in fall.

If you live in a mild winter zone, try planting a few when you plant your other bulbs, just for fun. They’ll mostly lie dormant until spring, then send up green shoots. They’ll keep multiplying (turning from one bulb into many) every time you plant, similar to garlic.

Feel free to snip the greens—they are slightly stronger than regular green onions—but if you do, you’ll take energy away from the shallot bulb. Shallots adapt well to growing in containers as long as they are well-drained.