What to plant? Shallot and Onion Sets are So Easy to Grow
Few things in life are easier than growing Shallot and Onion Sets. Prepare their bed in a nice spot with well-draining, neutral pH soil with a minimum of six hours of daily sunlight. Plant each individual bulb, root end down, 1” deep and 4” to 6” apart in rows spaced 18” apart. Once planted, bulb tips should be level with the soil surface. (HINT If you want those big onions, have half of the bulb out of the dirt, that is what makes the big onions, if you want green onions that put the whole bulb so it is level with the surface. )
Do not mulch because the dark green shoots that appear within a couple of weeks of planting are not strong enough to push through mulch and may rot. After planting and over the course of the season, water at the rate of about 1” of water per week if rainfall is sparse and the soil becomes dry (lighter in heavy soil).
Weed the bed regularly and remove any seed stalks so that the plant’s energy focuses on bulb formation. Stop watering once the tops begin to brown and dry out, and the bulbs have reached maturity. Once harvested, dry and cure Shallots (for one month) and Onions (for two to three weeks) in a warm spot out of direct sunlight with good air circulation. Do not dry and cure them outside or in the sun where they can get sunburned and become vulnerable to rot. Once cured, both Shallots and Onions should be stored in mesh bags in a cool dry area for up to eight months at an optimum storage temperature of 35° to 45°F.
Our Onion Sets are small bulbs up to 1” in diameter for planting as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Or, you may plant them 2” apart so that you can harvest every other plant as slender green Onions (scallions) in four to six weeks: they intensify in flavor as they mature and grow larger. The remaining bulbs take another six to nine weeks to grow into mature storage Onions, depending on the season.
The other alternative is to plant onion plants, also called transplants or onion seedlings. Transplants can be purchased from nurseries or garden centers, or started from seed in your own home. However you come by the transplants, putting them in the ground is a bit different than planting the onion sets.
Plan to put your onion plants in the ground as soon as the soil can be worked, and immediately after your last expected frost date. The cool temperatures, and the fact that the soil is still moist, is actually beneficial to the development of onion bulbs.
Harden off your seedlings before putting them in your garden. To do this, leave them in their current pots and set them outside for a few hours at a time, gradually increasing exposure to outdoor weather and temperatures over the course of two weeks. If your onion plants are not currently in soil, set them out by laying them down on a screen, and plan to get them in the ground as soon as possible. ( Ours here will be in a small pot with dirt to keep them growing.)
Prepare the garden row for your onion plants by digging it to a depth of 4 inches. Spread one cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer along a 10-foot row, then fill the trench in with a layer of soil 2 inches deep. Place your onion plants in the ground, spacing them 4 inches apart. Cover the roots with dirt, and water enough to moisten the soil. Space rows of onion plants between 12 and 18 inches apart.
Another vegetable for you to think about planting in your garden. Are you getting excited, ready to plant and just playing in the dirt? I know you are.
For the Irish in all of us...
May you always walk in sunshine,
May you never want for more,
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa