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Learn about Shallots

Shallots: Direct Sow Seed or Vegetable Bulbs

How to Sow and Plant 

Sowing Directly in the Garden:

  • Sow in the North in early spring after danger of a heavy frost. In the Deep South, Gulf and Pacific Coast areas, sow from fall to early spring.
  • Choose a sunny location  with loose, well-drained soil. Do not plant where members of the onion family were planted previously.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Sow thinly in rows 18 inches apart. Cover with ½ inch of fine soil. Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.
  • Think to stand 2-4 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches tall.

Planting Bulbs:

  • Plant as soon as possible after receiving bulbs, in spring or fall.
  • If you are unable to plant right away, store in a dry, cool, well ventilated, frost free location until you are able to plant.
  • Choose a sunny location with loose, well-drained soil. Do not plant where members of the onion family were planted previously.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones. Incorporate generous amounts of quality compost and a slow release fertilizer before planting.
  • Separate bulbs into individual cloves.
  • Make a shallow furrow 1-1 ½ inches deep and lightly press in cloves about 4 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Plant with the pointed side up and cover with 1 inch of fine soil.
  • Firm soil and water.

How to Grow

  • Transplants should show new growth after 4 weeks of 50 degree F weather.
  • Never let plants dry out; shallots are shallow rooted and very sensitive to dry conditions. Keep 6 inches of soil moist.
  • Side dress with fertilizer.
  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Avoid disturbing the soil around the plants when weeding.
  • Keep plants well watered during dry periods to promote rapid, uninterrupted growth. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.

Harvest and Preserving Tips

  • If immature shallots are desired, before complete bulb development, harvest and use immediately. Immature shallots are edible at any size but do not store well. In 30 days, greens may be harvested. In 45 days, green bulbs may be harvested.
  • In 90-120 days, mature shallot bulbs may be harvested.
  • When ¾ of the tops have fallen over, bend over those still standing to hasten drying. After all the tops are yellow, pull up plants with their clusters of bulbs attached, and allow them to dry in the sun for a few days. Look at the weather forecast and pick the driest days to do this.
  • Spread out in an airy place until the tops are completely dry, about 2-3 weeks.
  • Braid tops together or cut tops to 2 inches above the bulbs. Discard rotting bulbs. One rotting bulb will spoil the bunch.
  • Store in a dry, cool, well-ventilated space.
  • Shallots can also be made into a carmelized jam, or pickled.

Common Disease Problem

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations. 

Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet. 

Onion White Rot: This soil-borne fungus causes yellowing and wilting of foliage above ground. Below ground, the roots rot and the fungus also infects the bulb. At the base of the bulb, a white fluffy fungus will appear with black fungal bodies. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected bulbs. Practice crop rotation with members of the onion family. 

Pink Root Rot: A fungus that attacks onion roots causing them to turn a light pink, then red and eventually purple-brown and causing them to shrivel. Infected plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies and drought because the roots cannot take up water and nutrients. Plants are stunted. The disease lives in the soil for several years and thrives in warm temperatures. Burpee Recommends: Plant as early as possible so the bulb of the plant growth will be I cooler temperatures. Rotate crops and plant resistant varieties. 

Rust: A number of fungus diseases that cause rust colored spots on foliage, stalks and husks. Burpee Recommends: Plant early as these diseases tend to be worse later in the season. Plant resistant varieties. Practice crop rotation. Remove infected plants. 

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage. 

Onion Maggot: This insect causes stunted or wilted seedlings and damaged roots and bulbs. The adult is a greyish colored fly which lays its eggs around the base of the plant. The maggots bore into the roots. Burpee Recommends: Remove all bulbs at the end of the season and remove all volunteer wild onion plants. Floating row covers can prevent the females from laying eggs. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls. 

Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls. 

Wireworms: These insects live in the soil and kill seedlings by girdling their stems at the soil line, bore into stems, and bulbs. They may be found around the stems in the soil are and ¼ to ¾ inch long, thin, yellow brown worms with a shiny skin. The adults are called click beetles, and are about 1/3 inch long, reddish brown with a hard shell. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations which must be applied prior to planting.

Shallots FAQs

Will shallots survive snow, ice and cold weather? Yes, and plants should be planted immediately upon receipt. If the ground is frozen, covered in snow, unworkable-hold off on planting until the ground is workable.

If the ground is unworkable, how should I store my shallots? Sets can be stored in a dark, cool, dry place. Then, plant as soon as possible.

What are the different types of shallots? Grey: elongated, gray-skinned (not sold by Burpee); French: pinkish-brown skin; Dutch: orange-yellow skin; Frog’s Leg: shaped like a frog’s leg (not sold by Burpee). 

What parts of the shallot are edible? The clusters of bulbs and leaves.

How can I use shallots as companion plants? Plant shallots with beets, cabbage, carrots, chamomile, mint, sage and thyme. Do NOT plant with beans or peas. 




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