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Finally a good quality shallot from seed! Shallot F1 Matador is an excellent variety that produces reddish brown bulbs with good flavour. It is a high yielding variety which has a high dry matter content that aids storage.
Shallots grown from seed have the advantage of producing large single bulbs rather than bunches of smaller bulbs and are less likely to be affected by downy mildew.
Shallots, like their onion and garlic cousins, are a member of the allium family. They are used in a variety of dishes, especially French dishes, and cherished for their rich, distinctive flavour, which is described as sweet with a hint of garlic.
They range in colours from brown to grey and from pink to purple and are cooked in the same way as onions, although roasted shallots are said to be far superior to roasted or fried onions. They can also be eaten raw in salads. Growing shallots from seed is relatively easy, although they do need quite a long growing period.
Sowing Shallot Seeds
Shallot seeds can be sown directly into outdoor beds or started off early under glass and then transplanted when large enough to handle. If sowing outdoors then ensure the growing area has been well prepared at least two months in advance by incorporating plenty of organic matter.
Prior to outdoor sowing, which can be carried out during March or April, rake the growing area to a fine tilth. Use the edge of a hoe and create a shallow furrow about 1cm deep, then sow the shallot seeds thinly along the line. If growing in rows then allow 30cm apart. Cover gently with soil and apply water with a watering can and rose attachment if the soil is dry. After germination, which can take 10-14 days, thin the plants to 10cm apart.
Sowing seeds under glass in modular trays can speed up the whole growing process considerably. Prepare trays of seed compost and sow one or two seeds per module at the end of February or early March. Lightly water and then leave in a cold greenhouse, poly tunnel or cold frame until ready for planting out into prepared beds during late April or May.
Keep the growing plants well watered during dry conditions and remove weeds as they emerge. Also remove any flower spikes, should they appear, and any yellowing leaves. It is not advisable to use a hoe for weed control because there is the possibility of damaging the delicate bulbs. Planting seedlings through black polythene or weed suppressing membrane can prevent the need for weeding and reduce watering.
Pests and diseases
Downy mildew can be a problem especially if plants are too close together. To avoid this ensure there is plenty of room for light to penetrate the base of plants and for air to circulate. When watering, apply directly to the soil and not overhead. Onion white rot is another possible problem. This is a soil borne fungus, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and a white fluffy fungus will then appear at the base of the bulbs. There is no chemical cure so best to avoid planting in infected areas and always remove debris from the site.
Harvesting and storage
Shallots are ready for harvesting from July, when the leaves begin to turn yellow. They will keep for many months if lifted, dried and stored in a cool, dry and frost-free place.
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