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Lockdown Project Guides: Grow Onions and Shallots

An essential part of the gardener’s vegetable patch, onions and shallots are very easy to grow and come with excellent health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, combating infections, plus reducing fat and cholesterol levels. Plus, they add plenty of flavour to many dishes!

Sets (immature bulbs) are the easiest way to grow onions and shallots, and you’ll be delighted by the difference in quality and flavour compared to those available from supermarkets.

Simply plant the sets in spring or autumn (check the pack for details), water and weed, and they’ll be ready to lift and dry in a matter of months! They will thrive in ordinary garden conditions and require no special treatment, plus they’re rarely attacked by pests.

Here’s Your Guide to Achieving Sensational Shallots & Onions In 10 Simple Steps

Difficulty:       Moderate

Duration:       60 minutes

You will need:

Onion or Shallot Sets

A good, all-round onion to grow in spring is Sturon, which is renowned for its flavour and will give you round, straw coloured onions that are plump and medium in size, and store well too.

Shallot Jermor is an excellent spring planting variety with a great taste, slightly elongated shape and copper coloured bulbs with pink tinged flesh. Each set will produce 6-8 bulbs at harvest !

Digging Fork

This stainless steel digging fork with a sustainably sourced and quality checked FSC certified Ash handle is strong and durable with a lifetime guarantee. It’s ideal for digging your plot and harvesting your crop!


Liquid feed, such as Organic Pour & Feed Ecoffective, will encourage strong, healthy vegetables and this Garden Potash fertiliser guarantees longer preservation of veg after harvest.

Plant Protection Netting

Birds can sometimes pull up freshly planted sets, so protect your sets until they’ve taken root with these Easy Netting Tunnels.


Prepare your veg plot for your onion & shallot sets

digging earth with a fork
Dig your soil over to prepare before planting
  • Step 1: Unpack your onion/shallot sets on arrival and store them in a light, cool place until it’s time for planting (October-April – please check the packet).
  • Step 2: Onions and shallots like a sunny, sheltered site in well-drained soil. Prepare your plot by digging over the soil with a fork to break up and large clumps, and remove any weeds. 250g of onion sets (approx. 60 sets) will plant a row about 6m (19′) long.

Plant your onion and shallot sets

planting out onions and shallots
Plant out your onions 10cm apart
  • Step 3: Plant the sets 10cm apart in rows that are 30cm apart from October to mid-April (dependant on variety – check the packet for details). Gently push the sets into the ground and firm the soil around them, so that just the tips are showing above the soil.
  • Note: Shallots will grow perfectly happily in a window box or a container on a sunny patio. Plant one bulb to a 15cm (6″) pot and keep the compost moist until the leaves start to yellow, then just let them dry out ready to harvest.
  • Step 4: Water your sets if the weather is dry and give them an occasional feed with a general liquid fertiliser.
  • Step 5: A light feed of high potassium fertiliser in June will help to ripen the bulbs ready for storage.

Growing onions and shallots on

growing on onions
Stop watering and feeding onions when they have gained some colour on the top
  • Step 6: Stop watering and feeding once your onions have begun to gain some colour on the top. Remove any mulch or soil to expose the bulb to the sun.
  • Step 7: Onions and shallots can be harvested when the foliage turns yellow and starts to topple over.
  • Step 8: Leave them in the ground for two to three weeks and then carefully lift them with a garden fork.

Harvest your delicious onions and shallots!

harvested onions drying on rack
Harvested onions drying in the sun
  • Step 9: If you wish to store your harvest the bulbs must be firm and disease-free, so inspect them carefully. Dry the bulbs for two to three weeks, either laid out in the sun or in a shed if the weather is wet. They can be stored once the skins and necks are dry – a dry, unheated garage or basement is a good choice – as long as the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing.
  • Step 10: Use any damaged onions or shallots asap as they won’t store. Why not make a delicious onion jam or French onion soup? Or simply chop and freeze them for later.
French onion soup
Delicious French onion soup, ready to eat!

What Next?

  • Protect newly planted sets from birds using plant protection measures – make sure birds don’t become trapped in mesh or netting.
  • These plants don’t like weeds – make sure you weed around them regularly.
  • Monitor your crop for onion white rot and mildew.

Storing onions

  • Check stored onions regularly and remove any soft or rotten bulbs.

Try some different onion varieties

We hope you have enjoyed our lockdown project guides all about onions and shallots and be sure to stay tuned as there a plenty more to come this month!

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