Shallots can be planted in the spring or fall. They require a dormant period of about 4 weeks right after planting with temperatures between 32 – 50 degrees. The the cool ground helps the formation of good bulbs. Fall planting should be done 4-6 weeks before the first freeze of the season. Fall planting yields bigger shallots with an earlier harvest. Spring planting should be done 4-6 weeks before the last frost or as soon as the ground can be worked, which usually coincides with the onion snow in my neck of the woods.
Shallots have very shallow roots and prefer loose, loamy soil. They also don’t like to get their feet too wet, so well drained soil is essential. Planting shallots is very straightforward:
- Make a furrow about 1 – 2 inches deep
- Plant the bulb pointy side up
- Space bulbs approximately 6 inches apart
- Cover with about 1 inch of loose soil
- Keep evenly moist and weed well
The old timer up the road taught me a trick to force the shallots mature: once the tops start to yellow, you bend the shallot tops over, approximately an inch or two from the top of the bulb. This forces the nutrients into the bulb instead of the leaves. In about 7 – 10 days, all the leaves will be brown and the shallots can be gently pulled out of the ground. I braid my onions and hang them in the barn where it’s cool and breezy.
The old timer did, however, forget to inform me of this process before he proceeded to tromp through my garden when I was not home. I came home to find all the tops of the shallots bent over and was completely flummoxed as to why I suddenly had “dead” shallots in the matter of a few hours. Thankfully, he pulled up the driveway later that afternoon, before I had a chance to rip out all the shallots. I called him a jack*ss and asked him to leave me a note next time he decided to trespass on hallowed ground. He just spat a wad of tobacco at my feet, rolled his eyes and got back in his truck and drove away.