Shallot Planting Guide

Rich, buttery, delicate, warm and wonderful blended with wine. Shallots are the refined sisters of the allium family, a clan that includes onions, garlic, leeks and chives. Used since the dawn of time, these cooking staples are especially beloved for French and Asian cuisines.

From the easiest (diced shallots blended with softened butter) to the most complex (zillion-ingredient curries), recipes for shallot entrees, soups, sauces and dressings abound online. Grow your own fresh shallots and have a key element for fabulous meals right there, whenever you want it.

Choosing a Site for Shallots

Shallot plants grow strongest in full sun. Scout out a site that drains well, where water doesn't puddle after a rain.

Soil Prep for Shallots

Loosen the soil in your shallot patch or row to 6” deep. Dig in a few shovels full of compost or well-rotted manure. Shallots produce the biggest and best heads in fairly rich soil with consistent moisture.

When to Plant Shallots

Shallots can be planted outdoors in the early fall or in spring. The shallots we offer are for fall planting; this timing allows the individual bulbs to develop a robust network of roots in the cool autumn soil and then take off strongly when spring arrives. For best root development, plant your shallots 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes hard, if that happens, in your area. If your soil doesn’t freeze, allow for a bit of cooling from summer’s heat before planting; any time from October through December is fine for planting shallots in warm regions.

How to Plant Shallots

Divide the shallots into individual bulbs and push each down into the soil with 1/2"-1” of dirt covering the pointed end, which faces up. Space 6-8” apart in rows with 12-15” spacing between the rows. The bulbs fill out sideways so they need more space than onions and garlic. Pat the soil to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. Bulbs will often develop small sprouts in the fall.

If you live in an area with freezing winter temperatures, mulch your shallots with 4-6” of straw, chopped leaves or fine bark mulch. (Avoid aspen or poplar leaves.) This helps limit soil freezing and thawing, which can cause frost heave, and helps protect early sprouts from freezing cold. In warmer regions, a light mulch blanket can hold moisture and help reduce weeds.  

During the Growing Season

In the spring, pull the mulch back gently to keep it from getting in the way of new growth. Make sure your plants get about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two. Shallots have shallow roots so keep the top few inches of soil lightly moist, but never soggy. Keep your shallot patch weed-free.

Should any flower spikes develop, remove them to channel the plants' energy into the bulbs rather than into blooms.

When and How to Harvest Your Shallots

Shallots mature from late May to July, depending on your growing region. Observe your shallot plants’ growth for clues. When the plants stop developing new foliage and the leaves begin to brown, withhold any supplemental water. This encourages the bulb skins to dry a bit, which helps the shallots keep well for use in late fall and winter. When the top growth has browned and died back, it’s time to harvest.

Loosen the soil around your shallot plants with a garden fork or shovel being careful not to cut the bulbs. Pull up each plant, gently shake/brush off the soil and let the plants dry for three to four week on sheets of newspaper in a garage or other dark, well-ventilated spot. This curing time will mellow the shallots' flavor and increase storage ability.

Shallots can be braided for decorative storage. Bulbs last longer when stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

Insider Tips

  1. Fall planted shallots are ready to harvest 3 to 5 weeks before spring planted ones. Sooner is better, right?
  2. If shallot plants flower, that’s usually an indication of stress; lack of water or too much heat. Cutting off the flower stalk is recommended to channel energy back into bulb, rather than flower, growth.
  3. Keep a few of your bigger shallots for planting in the fall and growing another year’s crop.
  4. A half-pound bag of shallots usually plants a 8-10 foot row.
  5. Shallot leaves look a lot like those of scallions and can be used in similar ways in the kitchen. Feel free to snip some of the outer leaves for late spring to summer use, making sure not to strip too many from a single plant.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average soil

Depth: Cover with 1” of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Best in garden soil, not containers

Tip: Plant in fall for vigorous root development and earlier summer harvest

GUIDE: Shallot Planting Guide

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