Growing shallots is a fun and relatively easy way to create produce at home. Both the bulb and the leaves of shallots, which are a smaller relative of onions, can be used in dozens of recipes to add a light onion flavor. In order to successfully grow shallots, plant during the right time of year, plant cloves for a faster harvest, choose good soil, and pick the right spot in the garden for optimal growth.
Choosing the right time of year for planting is essential for anyone trying to grow shallots. While these plants can tolerate some heat, they prefer a milder climate and can freeze in especially cold weather. Most gardening experts recommend planting in early spring, after the final frost of the year. In warm areas where winters are mild, a second crop can also be planted during late fall, as the weather begins to cool from summer highs.
Shallots are unreliable at producing seeds, so finding shallot seeds for planting can be difficult. A far easier method is to simply grow shallots from existing cloves, either from previous harvests, or by obtaining some from a garden supply or farmer's market. Growing from cloves also allows the shallots to mature much faster, averaging about 60-100 days before they are ready for harvest. Since the growth period is short, gardeners may want to consider planting two crops a month apart, to ensure a consistent supply. Cloves should be planted with the pointed end up, with about six inches (15.2 cm) of space between each clove.
Choosing the right type of soil can help produce an abundant, flavorful crop. While shallots are fairly tolerant, some garden experts warn against using a soil with a high clay component. They prefer soil with a very mild acidity, ranging from about 5-6 on the pH scale. Using compost to help grow shallots can help enrich the soil, allowing the plants to flourish as they absorb more nutrients. Soil should be kept slightly moist, but the planting area should offer good drainage and protection from too much water. Over-watering can lead to bulb rot, so be certain to grow shallots in a protected area if heavy rains are expected.
One final tip to help grow shallots is to choose a good spot in the garden. Shallots are typically grown in the shade, but can tolerate some sunlight. Consider planting the cloves in an area of the garden that receives dappled sunlight, or is exposed to full sun for less than five hours a day. Since shallots grow well in shade, they can be planted under trees or bushes for extra protection from the sun.