Growing Shallots

From seed or from sets, shallots are easy to grow and a must have in a kitchen garden

Once the soil is beginning to warm up, shallot seeds can be planted outdoors. In Scotland this is usually in mid-spring to late spring. Sow the seeds thinly, in drills 1cm (½in) deep, spacing rows 20cm (8in) apart. Closer planting will result in more bulbs and a heavier crop, but smaller bulbs.

Sets can also be sown in mid to late Spring. Shallots grow more quickly from sets, and sets fare better in colder regions, like Scotland, and are less likely to be attacked by some pests and diseases. Plant shallot sets 2cm (¾in) deep in drills or, and much easier, gently push each set into loose soil, so the tip is just showing at the surface. Space them 15–20cm (6–8in) apart, in rows 30–45cm (12–18in) apart. Firm the soil around the sets and water well.

Shallot sets a produce a cluster of bulbs, while seeds produce just one, but shallots grown from seed are less likely to bolt – so choose what works best for you.

Shallots need a sunny, sheltered site with fertile, well-drained soil for best crops. They dont do so well on acid soil and if the soil is clay, prone to being wet, the crop is more prone to fungal diseases. 

Shallots will ripen in late summer. You can tell when they are ready for harvesting as the foliage starts to go yellow and bendy. For the best shallots, lift the bulbs before the foliage goes complely yellow.

Shallots can be stored when lifted, as long as the bulbs are properly dried. Lay them out in a single layer. Leave them outdoors in full sun to ripen for about two weeks or in a greenhouse or well-ventilated shed if the weather is wet. Well dried and stored shallots will keep all through the winter when stored in a light, cool, dry and well-ventilated spot.

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