During autumn’s bulb-planting time it often seems like you can’t move for dozens of different bulb varieties lined up at the garden centre; I include onions and shallots in that too. Next to the oodles of tulips and daffs is often plenty of onions and shallots side-lined to their own section. Grab a bag or two and get planting one of the easiest to grow and most useful crops – they’re a no-brainer for all gardeners. Shallots, of course are milder than onions, often sweeter, and grow in bunches unlike onions.
You can grow onions now in the ground, in containers and in modules for growing on before planting out in spring. They sunny a sunny spot and improved soil, but other than that are quite unfussy. Plant 10cm apart, except in pots or modules, just level with the soil surface. For those of you worried about another drought next year, onions and shallots are notorious for needing much less water than most crops! There are some lovely varieties out there, if you don’t want to stick to the ones garden centres give you – shallot ‘Zebrune’ is a large heritage variety with long, pinkish roots with a mild, sweet taste. Onion ‘Long Red of Florence’ is fantastic – it’s a long, red, sweet onion that can be harvested as a spring onion or left to grow larger. A total novelty, but an intriguing choice to try out, are walking onions, or tree onions. They’re top heavy onions that grow at the end of the stalks; they’re nick-named walking onions as they fall over and root where they land, producing new plants a foot away from the original – ‘walking’ over your plot! Take note, however, these varieties may only be available as seed.