Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Growing Onions and Garlic in the South ~ Part 3 Shallots and Leeks

Welcome to Part Three in our series about autumn gardens growing onions and garlic. This time we'll discuss both shallots and leeks.

Growing Shallots and Leeks in the South:

Both of these plants have similar requirements to onions. Just in case you missed our first post, lets do a quick review.

Vintage Leek Seed Packet
Feed the Soil, Not the Plant
"Raised beds are ideal for growing onions and garlic since they provide good drainage and can easily be amended by tilling 2”-3” of compost into the soil." (source: NC Cooperative Extension)

 Shallots need a soil pH of 5.0-6.8. (source: Virginia Cooperative Extension) Soil pH meters can be purchased at any hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot.

Shallots also need plenty of moisture during their growing season to help your onions form nice bulbs.

The best thing is to submit a soil test to your local extension agent and add any lime or fertilizer according to your test results. Avoid giving onions to much nitrogen fertilizer. (source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

Stay on top of any weeds, as they can force your onions to compete for need moisture and nutrients.

Crop rotation is very important when growing members of the Allium family such as: shallots, onions, garlic, and leeks. Do not replant these in the same spot for at about four years. Instead, plant a different vegetable there next year. This helps prevent soil born diseases.

Just like onions, they can be grown from seed, transplants, or sets. Bunches of sets may need to be divided into individual bulbs before planting.

Plant sets 1 to 2 inches deep. Spacing should be "standard 4 to 6 inches x 12 to 18 inches or in double rows". (Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension)

Plant the bulb tip just below the soil. Sets are planted with the pointed side facing up.

Shallot bulbs often develop on top of the ground. Do not cover them with soil. (Source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

When planting seeds, plant them "½ inch deep, ½ to 1 inch apart, in rows 10 to 18 inches apart". (Source: Cornell University)

Recommended Varieties of Shallots
The following varieties of shallots are recommended for planting if you live at a latitude below 35 degrees. 
  • Matador 
  • Bonilla
  • Prima

Harvesting Shallots
Green shallots are harvested when bulbs are about 1/4 inches in diameter and tops are about 6 to 8 inches high. They can be stored for two weeks in the refrigerator.

"Mature, dry bulbs are dug after the tops die back, usually in mid- to late summer. Cure in a warm, dry place for about a week. Store in mesh bags in cool, dry conditions." (Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension)

The smallest bulbs can be saved and replanted again or they need to be used first because they do not store well.

Leeks are grown from seeds or transplants.

"Leeks do not form bulbs or cloves but produce an edible 6- to 10-inch-long round stem about 2 inches in diameter." (source: West Virginia University)

"Plant 10 to 15 seeds per foot of row, and thin to 4 inches apart, or set transplants 4 inches apart." (source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

When leeks are the size of a pencil, pull 2-3 inches of soil up around the base of the leek. This produces the blanched (thickened, white) stalk found on leeks.

Recommended Types of Leeks
The following leeks are just a few of the many varieties to choose from.
  • Akansas (recommended by Clemson University)
  • Giant Musselburgh (slow to bolt in the spring)
  • King Richard
Harvesting Leeks
"Leeks are ready for harvest when they are an inch or more in diameter. Leeks will keep for several weeks in a refrigerator." (Source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

When harvesting leeks, cut off the roots and all but 2 to 4 inches of the top. (source: West Virginia University)

Leeks can be used in soups or eaten raw in salads.


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