Discover a whole new world of flavor by growing garlic and shallots in your garden this year. Grocery stores offer just a single variety of garlic, called silverskin, favored for its long shelf life and ease of production. But there are dozens of garlic varieties with surprisingly diverse flavors, from the hot and spicy ‘Spanish Roja’ to mellow and mild ‘Applegate’.
When it comes to shallots, one of the great benefits of growing-your-own is cost savings. Shallots are fairly expensive to buy at the store, but are easy to grow. Planted in fall along with your spring-blooming bulbs, you can tuck garlic and shallots into any open garden space. The tall slender leaves and unique architecture look right at home among herbs and perennials. Just make sure the planting site has loose, well-drained soil and receives plenty of sun.
Garlic and shallots are not planted from seed like other crops. Instead, garlic is planted as individual cloves and shallots as individual bulbs. Pieces are set into the soil with the pointed end oriented upward and the flattened, hard end down.
Start by loosening the soil with a garden fork. You can mix in a little bone meal to give the roots a boost. Garlic and shallots have slightly different planting requirements:
- Garlic: Space cloves 4 to 6 inches apart. Plant 1” to 2” deep in warmer climates and 2” to 4” in colder climates. Planting depth is measured from the top of the clove. Cover garlic with mulch.
- Shallots: Space bulbs 8 inches apart. Set shallots just deep enough that the tip lies level with the soil surface. In very loose soil, you should be able to simply press shallot bulbs down into the soil. Do not mulch shallots.
For both crops, water bulbs well after planting, then water only when soil is dry. Keep the planting area free of weeds. Garlic and shallots will overwinter in the garden.
Growth and Harvest
In spring, warming temperatures will initiate foliage growth. This is an indicator to fertilize the plants. There are two methods that can be used for fertilizing garlic and shallots, use the one that fits your gardening style.
- Apply a single application of slow release nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal. Feed each plant 1 to 2 teaspoons, mixing fertilizer into soil around the plant.
- Foliar-feed plants with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks through mid-May. A mixture of equal parts liquid kelp and fish emulsion can be used, mixing one tablespoon of each per gallon of water.
Bulbs begin to form in mid-May and take several weeks to develop. Stop watering once the plants begin to turn brown. Crops can be harvested when one half to three-quarters of the leaves turn yellow-brown, typically in June. Cure the crops out of direct sunlight and enjoy the diverse flavors.
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