Onions & Shallots


Onions and Shallots are very closely related and belong to the same family as Leeks, Garlic and flowering ornamental Alliums.

  • One onion set will grow into one onion bulb whereas one shallot will split and produce a clump of smaller plants which can either be eaten as salad onions or left to grow on. 
  • Both can be grown from seeds, but it is much easier to use the prepared sets. 
  • These have the advantage of maturing more rapidly to produce a better crop in cooler climates, and can be sown directly outdoors.
  • If you buy your sets but can’t plant them straight away, take them out of their packaging and lay them our somewhere cool and dry until you are ready.



Choose a well drained and sunny spot that has not had onions, leeks or garlic growing on it in the previous year.  Dig the ground over in spring and put on some general purpose fertilizer, such as Vitax Q4, ideally a few weeks before you plant.  Usually onions can be planted in March and April as long as it isn’t too cold.  Very cold and wet soil will cause the plants to ‘bolt’, which means they put all their energy into sending up a flower rather than making a bulb.

  • Rake the surface of the cultivated area to produce a good layer of fine soil then simply push the onion sets or shallots into the fine soil to about two thirds of their depth and about 4 or 6 inches apart. 
  • Even though the bulbs are still visible it’s always sensible to mark the area with sticks or canes. 
  • Initially the sets will produce roots so you won’t see anything happening above ground for a couple of weeks,  but check plants regularly to ensure that bulbs have not been pushed up or dislodged by visitors like birds or cats.  
  • Keep the plants free from weeds, either by hand weeding or hoeing, and if it is particularly dry water the plants once they start to grow. 
  • The occasional application of a liquid feed, such as Maxicrop, as the plants develop will encourage the growth of larger bulbs.

In a normal season the plants will be ready to harvest in August or September.  Either pull the bulbs from the ground and use fresh , or for storage loosen underneath them with a fork to break the roots then leave the bulbs to dry on the soil surface for a couple of weeks.   To store, make sure that the bulbs are completely dry then put them in an airy place that is frost free either in trays, nets or strings.


CENTURION Yes Strong growing, uniform globe, tasty, productive, stores well
KARMEN   Red skin andrings, white flesh, productive, exceptional for salads
RED BARON Yes Very dark red, flat round shape, excellent in salads, best planted late
STURON Yes High yields, plump round bulbs, good flavour, stores well
STUTTGARTER GIANT Yes Mild sweet flavour, productive, keeps well, can plant earlier than most
BIZTRO   Relatively new red, consistent quality, spicy taste, stores well
GOLDEN GOURMET Yes Can plant from February, consistent heavy cropper, good flavour, stores
RED SUN   Large solid bulbs which store well, distinctive mikid spicy taste
YELLOW MOON   Easy to grow, consistent quality and yield, resistant to bolting, stores
HERMINE   New variety with white skin and flesh, consistent quallity, mild
LONGOR Yes Traditional'banana', copper red skin, mild flavour, easy to grow
MELOINE   Heavy crops of plump round bulbs, reddish skin, disease resistance
MIKOR   Large oval bulbs, superb flavour, red skin, white flesh
VIGAMOR   Long 'banana' with pink flesh, high yields, good storer, easy to grow
ARNO Yes Medium strength, ivory skin, pink cloves
CRISTO Yes Strong flavour, white skin, pink cloves
FLAVOR   Mild taste, pink skin and cloves, productive
MARCO   Strong taste, white skin and cloves,stores well
SOLENT WIGHT Yes Strong, large cloves, tasty, keeps well, well suited to UK climate


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