Don’t be put off by shallots’ uppity reputation. These sweet French onions are a cinch to grow in the vegetable garden. If you can grow onions or chives, you can grow shallots. Shallots are sometimes referred to as potato onions or multiplier onions, although the three are slightly different. Dutch shallot varieties have a more intense onion flavor than French varieties.
Like all onions, shallots grow best in rich, loamy soil with consistent moisture. Spread three to four inches of compost or manure over a sunny garden space and till it to a depth of eight inches. You can buy shallot bulbs at a nursery, or simply pick up some from your grocery store. Just make sure they’re true French shallots and not multiplier onions, which grow easily, but do not taste like shallots.
To plant shallots, separate the bulbs and pop them into the ground with the points up. Space the bulbs four to six inches apart and bury them so the tips are half an inch under the soil surface. In cool climates, plant shallots in early spring. In the south, plant them in the fall.
Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season and feed shallots a couple of times with a top dressing of rotted manure, fish emulsion, or an all-purpose fertilizer. Weeds can quickly overtake your shallot planting, but cultivate carefully. The roots are shallow and easily disturbed. Also, it’s easy to confuse grass with shallot greens. Mark your plantings so you don’t accidentally pull them up.
Pests And Diseases
You probably won’t experience any pests or diseases with shallots, although they are susceptible to the same problems onions occasionally experience—namely, onion thrips and onion maggots. Onion thrips are sucking insects. They pierce the tender leaves and suck the juices. Hose them off with water or apply insecticidal soap. Onion maggots cause the bulbs to rot. Spray insecticidal oil or soap spray on the ground to deal with them, or install floating row covers immediately after planting.
Shallots are ready to harvest when the leaves wither and die down. Dig them up gently. Instead of forming one bulb, you’ll find clusters of small shallots instead. Lay them on warm soil to dry for a few days or place them on screens in a warm, dry location. Then braid them by their withered leaves or store them in baskets or mesh bags. Save a few to plant the following spring.
Unless you order from a catalog, you might not have a choice of shallot variety. Take the time to find an heirloom variety such as Zebrune for best results.