Delicate flavored shallots grow best in slightly sandy, well-drained soil. Where the soil is even a bit heavy with clay, you will get the best results growing shallots in raised beds evenly amended with organic matter such as aged compost.
Plant shallots—like onions—early in the season. Leafy top growth which nourishes the bulbs comes during cool shorter days. Bulbs begin to form and grow during warmer long days later in the season.
Choose smaller “seed” shallots (and onions) for starting new plantings; they are less likely to bolt. Larger shallots will yield large clumps of small shallots. (Shallots are seldom grown from seed. They are commonly propagated by means of small cloves or divisions.)
How to grow shallots in raised beds:
• Where you plan to grow shallots, enrich a raised or mounded bed with plenty of aged compost. Add two to three inches of compost into your raised bed twice a year; add compost first 2 or 3 weeks before planting and again at the end of the season after harvest. You can also sprinkle a bulb booster or wood ash across the bed—adding phosphorus and potassium.
• Rake the bed smooth and then set out parallel rows 8 inches apart for your shallot starts. Use your finger or a dibble to space planting holes 8 inches apart in the row. Each hole should be deep enough to just cover each bulb. Plant shallot bulbs pointed end up.
• Water in the newly set bulbs. The soil should be kept just moist during the growth season—not too wet, not too dry. Add about an inch of water across the bed each week—meaning enough water so that each square foot of the bed is moist to 1 inch deep. Your raised bed will allow for quick drainage; shallots do not like to sit in soggy soil. Be sure to water if it does not rain.
• Feed shallots every three to four weeks until about a month before harvest. Sidedress shallots with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea or fish emulsion. If you add a rich layer of aged compost to the raised bed twice a year, sidedressing will not be necessary.
• Harvest begins when the shallots’ green tops start to fall over and turn brown, about 90 to 120 days after cloves are set in the garden.
• Set harvested bulbs in a warm, dry place to cure for about ten days before storing. Trim the tops after drying. Store shallots in ventilated bags at about 40°F.
The flavor of the shallot is both mild and pungent—somewhere between a sweet onion and garlic.
Grow more vegetables: The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide