Drying out Garlic, Shallots and Onions

You may remember that about seven our eight months ago now I planted some red sun and golden gourmet shallots, Casablanca garlic and Sturon onions into the ground.

Soon after planting the red sun, gourmet garlic into the ground I had a terrible problem with birds and squirrels pulling out the bulbs.  As a result the bulbs were very difficult to establish, but once they had taken root they soon started to grow.

By the time I planted the onions, I came across a neat trick to deter the birds from picking out the bulbs, however I’m little bit disappointed with this years result, they’re not very big and they’ve failed to swell.  I suspect that I may have planted them at the wrong time of year and this has caused a stunt in growth. Lesson learned.

But now the time has come to pull them out of the ground. You can harvest your garlic bulbs, shallots and onions once the tops of the bulb have fallen over and started to brown.  If you can, pick your onions in the morning when the temperature is lower.

If you plan on storing your onions for long period of time, then drying them out is essential. It’s really easy to dry out onions, you just lay them out on a dry surface and place that has good ventilation, like a shed, or in a porch or windowsill.

It’s great going into the shed after the onions have dried out, the place is filled with that sweet onion aroma only drying onions can produce.

Onions can take a few weeks to dry out and the outer layer will become brown and crisp. After that you would want to store the bulbs in a wire cage, nylon bag or hessian sack to reduce the risk of condensation forming.

If where you plan to store your onions is too damp, then you’ll find that some of your bulbs will begin to rot.

Seed update February 2016

It’s been quite a busy month and so far I’ve been managed to plant shallots, garlic and sown broad beans, brussels sprouts, leeks, lettuces and peas.

Since then, however, I have been battling some pests as my seedlings did get eaten by a little mouse.  I can’t blame the little blighters as the weather has been frosty at this time of year.  However, this does mean that I’ve had to resow the broad beans and the peas about three times and I’ve had to put together a better coldframe.

I’ve also had to contend with birds pulling out the shallots from the ground.  I’ve read a number of reasons as to why birds pull at bulbs, from thinking that the heads of the shallots are worms to them thinking that the tips of the onions are ideal nest-making materials.  Needless to say, this has stunted progress!

Because of the delays, I was hoping to show off tiny green shoots, however, the only thing I have to show are a few tiny wisps.

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Planting Shallots: Red Sun and Golden Gourmet

Planting Shallots: Red Sun and Golden Gourmet

Planting shallots is something I missed out on last year as I ran out of space. This year, however, I’m making up for it by planting two varieties – Red Sun and Golden Gourmet.

First of all, I had to prepare a border so that a. they’ll be easier to plant and b. to get some air into the ground to help promote germination. I’ve chosen a border that hasn’t been used to grow onions, garlic or leeks before, and also a border that hasn’t been manured for at least two years.

Red Sun shallots are a popular red shallot variety and are great for pickling, using in a salad and even if you’re cooking. Golden Gourmet is enhanced version of the more traditional variety ‘Giant Yellow’. Golden Gourmet is said to produce large bulbs that will store well during the winter.

Planting shallots

Planting Shallots

Shallots can be planted between 10cm and 15cm apart in rows, with rows spread around 25cm apart. Shallots sit 2cm in the ground, traditionally with the tops poking through the top.

Birds love to peck at these, so I won’t be surprised if I come back and find them above the ground, out of the nice neat rows that I was meticulously measured out.

There is a simple bird deterrent you can build and that’s by laying out a giant X with string from corner to corner of the plot.  You can see how I’ve built a bird deterrent in this article about Sturon Onions.  Birds tend to pick out the shallots because they believe the tips of the bulb will make for good nesting material or they think it could just be a worm.

Planting shallots in the soil

I’m hoping for a harvest from July onward, shallots seem quite expensive in the supermarkets for what you get, so I’m hoping this is the start of a fruitful and frugal tradition.