Top of The Crops - Shallots

Growing Shallots in a Polytunnel

Shallots are a great-value crop that can be a good value addition to your polytunnel. Not only will these bulbs impart a delicate onion taste to a variety of dishes, they will also, as an allium, help to repel a wide range of common polytunnel pests. There is a great variety of different shallots to choose from and so you are sure to find one ideally suited to your garden and culinary needs. Though they do need a long growing period, they can take up little space and can easily be inter-planted with other crops to make the most of the space in your polytunnel.

Sowing and Growing Requirements for Shallots

Though they can be grown from seed, shallots are usually grown from sets (immature bulbs). These are easier to work with and will be better in colder regions. They are quicker to mature and less likely to be weeded out by mistake or lost when very small. Sets are also less likely to be beset by pests and diseases.

Shallots like a fertile soil and so it is best to add a good quantity of organic matter/ good quality organic compost to your soil before planting. Take care to ensure that your growing area is as weed-free as possible before planting the sets, and keep up with weeding assiduously throughout the growing season.

Shallot sets can be planted any time between mid-November and mid-March. Gently push them into a soft, well prepared growing area so that the tip is just showing and firm the soil around them. Polytunnel growing should reduce the incidence of bulbs being uprooted by birds, which can be a problem with these and other bulbs grown outside.

Water shallots when they are dry but do not overwater. If flower shoots form then these should be removed as soon as they appear. As with onion flowers, shallot flowers can also be eaten.

Harvesting Shallots

Shallots are ready to harvest when the tops begin to yellow from July. Each shallot set will divide into a number of new bulbs. These bulb clusters can be lifted, separated and dried for use in the kitchen. You could also keep back a few bulbs to sow again in the autumn, to allow you to continue your crop and get more shallots for the coming years. Store shallots in trays or bags in a frost-free location for later use in the kitchen.

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