Onions and Shallots 28/01/21
A ‘set’ is just a small, immature bulb, harvested prematurely from the previous year’s crop, which is used to grow more onions and shallots.
The great thing about sets is that they produce crops quite a bit earlier than seed-started ones, so using a combination of seed-started and onion sets will provide you with a plentiful supply across more of the year. If you have a small vegetable patch, it might be worth considering just growing from sets, because the earlier harvest will allow you to then plant something else in their place for later in the year - or even the following year (Pak Choy or Swede, perhaps). You can also plant seedlings and sets in autumn, to grow through winter for spring harvest. Plant in spring and autumn and you’ll have a year-round supply.
As a general guide, spring-planted shallots take around 20 weeks to develop; autumn-planted more like 36 weeks.
Like onions, shallots prefer sun and a moisture-retentive, fertile soil, ideally with plenty of well-rotted manure and compost.
Shallots: Plant sets with the tips just showing. Space them 15-20cm apart and leave 30cm between rows.Cover them with fleece or netting to stop birds pulling them up - just until their root systems have established. Give them a real kick-start with a spring feed of liquid seaweed fertiliser. As with all veg., water is key.
Onions: Plant sets 10-15cm apart with the tips just showing. They like the same conditions as shallots and again, it might be worth considering fleece or netting to protect your sets from wildlife for a few weeks. Harvest when they’re big enough to eat or when the leaves above ground have turned brown and started to wither.
Sow onion and shallot seeds indoors as early as January, so that the plants are big and strong enough to plant out into the garden in spring. Sow seeds in a tray of seed compost (which must be kept moist) about a centimetre apart. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, separate them out really gently and replant individually in small pots with fresh multi-purpose compost. Plant these out into the garden in late March/April with about 10-15cm between them (and 30cm between rows). Again, remember to water them!
As always, of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll do all we can to help.
The Lancasters Team.