What do you do when you want a flavor in between garlic and onion? Turn to a shallot, of course. While not common in gardens, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be, so find out when to plant shallots for all your cooking needs.
When to plant shallots: Shallots take a long time to grow, usually between 100 and 120 days. Plant shallots in the fall, just after the first frost. They will be dormant in the winter but start growing again in the spring. However, if you have very cold winters, plant your shallots in early spring, once the ground is workable. Harvest before it gets too hot in the summer.
Planting Shallots in Different Climates
Shallots prefer cool weather, which a tropical climate can’t provide. Furthermore, they do better when exposed to a cold season so they can become dormant, which again, is not possible in a tropical climate.
In order to grow, shallots need moist soil that doesn’t dry out. A dry climate can’t provide this. If you really want to grow shallots anyway, try planting them in a container so that you have more control over the watering.
Growing shallots in a temperate climate will provide the perfect conditions. You can plant in the fall and be guaranteed that the winter won’t be too cold to damage the dormant bulbs.
While you can definitely grow shallots in a continental climate, you do need to be careful about your winter temperatures. If you experience very cold winters, hold off planting your shallots until the spring so that the bulbs don’t freeze and then rot.
While shallots do like cooler temperatures, they still need sun and soil that eventually thaws out. Unfortunately, shallots won’t grow in a polar climate.
Choosing Shallot Seeds
This variety comes from France and only takes about 100 days to mature. You can expect a rustic brown color with hints of pink for a lovely display of hues.
Also known as golden shallots, this is a smaller version so don’t be surprised when you dig it up. With just a hint of onion to them, yellow shallots have a sweeter taste and are often used in soups and stews.
French Gray Shallots
One of the most popular shallots, this variety takes quite a long time to mature, up to 200 days, so you need to be patient and have a milder winter. The flavor is strong and robust but does not have a very long shelf life.
If you want a more pungent flavor for your shallots, this is the variety to choose from. The outer skin is a yellow color and the bulbs are round. They store really well.
How to Plant Shallots
Shallots are similar to both onions and garlic in that you want to plant them in the fall. They take a long time to grow and will need all fall, winter, and spring to properly grow.
However, if you live in an area that has very cold winters, then you will need to wait and plant your shallots in the spring. This means if you live in gardening zone 4 or lower, then you will need to plan for spring planting.
For fall planting, place your shallots in the ground just after the first fall frost. The ground should not be frozen but still workable, so don’t wait until the temperatures consistently drop below freezing.
For spring planting, aim for after the last hard freeze but before the last spring frost date. The soil should be workable but shallots benefit from cooler temperatures so the earlier they go in the ground, the less you have to worry about when they are growing.
Seeds vs bulbs
While you can actually plant shallots from seeds most gardeners skip this step and start with bulbs. Not only is it easier to find shallot bulbs than seeds but the planting steps are also easier.
You can actually save your shallots from previous harvests and plant these in your garden. If you don’t have any leftovers, they should be readily available at any local gardening center.
Always purchase your shallots from a reputable source. Many varieties are prone to disease and could wind up infecting more of your plants.
Shallots prefer full sun, so aim to plant in a location that has at least six hours of sunlight. Location is especially important as your shallots will be growing in seasons with fewer sunlight hours in the day.
While you can get away with growing shallots in partial shade, they will not have bulbs that are as large.
The best soil for growing shallots will be slightly sandy and have good drainage. If there is any pooling water, the shallot bulbs can get soggy and start to rot.
If you don’t naturally have sandy soil or are worried that it is too compact, simply purchase sand at your gardening center and mix it in. During this time, you can also remove any rocks or large clumps of dirt to make the growing process easier for your shallots.
Dig your whole planting area up to loosen the soil. You can also mix in some compost during this stage.
Plant your shallots so that they are 1 to 2 inches deep. The pointy part of the shallot should be facing upwards.
Spread your shallots out so that there are 6 inches between each bulb. Shallots have shallow roots which means they are better off being directly planted into your soil, rather than starting indoors and transplanting them.
How to Water Shallots
A fine balance is needed when watering shallots. While you don’t want them to become soggy, they still need moist soil to grow.
Test the soil out by placing your finger down a few inches. This will help you determine if the lower level of the soil is soggy or dry.
How to Grow Shallots
Because shallots have shallow roots, weeds can really interfere with their growth. To help prevent weeds from growing near your shallots, you can apply a layer of mulch after they start to grow.
This will also protect the roots from harsher temperatures as well as keep more moisture in the soil.
As long as you start off with good, nutrient-rich soil, you won’t have to add any fertilizer to your garden. However, if you plant in the fall, you can always add a bit of compost to the growing area in the spring. Just be careful of the shallots’ roots.
At some point in the spring, your shallots will start to grow flowers. Remove them once they start to grow so that the energy is directed back into the bulbs.
Just don’t cut back any leaves as this is how the bulbs get the energy to grow.
How to harvest shallots?
Shallots take about 100 to 120 days to grow, so be patient. Also, you should mark on your calendar when they will be ready as you may forget after a long winter.
Even though you will be eating the part of the shallot plant that is underground, there will be signs above ground that your shallots are ready for harvest.
Look for the foliage to turn brown. The tops should look like they are withering. If you’re still not sure, gently brush the soil away from the tops of the bulbs to see what they look like.
Once your shallots are ready, gently pull them up from the ground. Remove any extra dirt and then place them in a cool, dark place for a few weeks.
After this process, your shallots will be cured and you can then remove the tops and the roots. Store them in your pantry or a similar dark, cool place for up to eight months.
If you can, place your shallots in a mesh bag to promote air circulation.
How to propagate shallots
If you have a lot of shallots and want to keep some for your next growing season, you can propagate shallots pretty easily.
Start during harvest time and set aside some of the larger, healthier-looking bulbs. If you start with small bulbs, you will grow small shallots.
Be careful not to remove the papery coating that is on each bulb. The bulbs grow in clumps but need to be separated for planting.
Dry the shallot bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place. Then, you can use these to grow more shallots.
How long do shallots take to grow?
Shallots take quite a while to grow, sometimes up to 120 days. While it is best to plant them in the fall and allow them to grow dormant during the winter, if you live in a very cold climate you will have to wait until early spring to plant shallots.
Shallots are an important culinary addition and are easy to grow in your garden. Plant your shallots in the fall for a late spring harvest.