Shallots are closely related to onions and garlic with mild overtones of both in taste. They develop clusters of bulbs like garlic and are often used in place of onions in cuisines. Gray shallots are preferred by some as the only true shallot and are propagated only from bulbs. French red shallots are more widely grown, easier to peel, and may be started from seed. Like some onions, shallots grow best in Sonoma County as day length increases.
- Grow from certified, disease-free bulbs rather than relying on those from a grocery store.
- Grow from seed by planting indoors July-August and transplanting out October-December. Plant bulbs directly October-December.
- Wait until late in the year if you accept the advice applied also to garlic: Plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day, although most shallot varieties mature in shorter periods.
- Check seed packets for length of time before harvest which may take 4-10 months, depending on variety and conditions in your microclimate. Plant in early spring in very cold areas.
- Separate multiple bulbs from clusters and plant each one individually with the root end down and the tip at soil level, spacing them 6-8 in. apart in rows 10 in. apart. Each bulb will form a cluster of 5-10 bulbs around the original one planted.
- Plant in full sun in well-drained, loose soil amended with compost to provide excellent drainage. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer which promotes leafy growth at the expense of bulb size. In spring, side dress with additional compost or a very light, balanced organic fertilizer to promote large bulb size.
- Avoid threats of rot in soggy ground by planting in rows of mounded soil separated by drainage trenches on each side. Poor drainage and rot are problematic in heavy soil.
- Mulch sparingly until tops appear, then augment depth to hold in moisture and control weeds.
- Remove any flower stalks that appear to promote larger bulbs and discourage flowering.
- Irrigate during dry spells with about 1 in. of water per week.
- Reduce amount of watering a few weeks before harvesting mature bulbs.
- Harvest shallots in early spring to use as green garlic similar to green onions or wait to harvest after tops turn yellow and weaken, fall over, and turn brown in late spring or early summer.
- Protect shallots from hard freezes in winter; light frost is easily tolerated. Pests and diseases are rarely a problem.
- Allow bulbs to cure for 3-4 weeks in a cool, dry area before storing.
- Sonoma County Master Gardener Vegetable Planting Summary