Onion sets & shallots

All onions require good soil and free drainage. Choose a sunny site for planting, and dig the ground well in early winter, incorporating a generous quantity of manure or compost. Firm the surface before planting and rake in a general fertiliser like bonemeal.


Lightly firm the soil and make sure it’s fairly moist before planting. Make shallow drills 9”–12” apart, deep enough to cover the sets so that their tips just appear above the soil surface. Space the sets 6” apart. Fill in the drills after planting, making sure that the sets are fairly well spaced.

Planting time

March – April.

Crop care

Protect your onions from birds with black thread or netting. Hoe carefully or hand weed between rows to keep weeds down and water if weather is dry (but not otherwise). Break off any flower stems if they appear. Mulching is useful for cutting down the need for water and suppressing weeds. Stop watering when the onions have swollen, and pull back the mulch to expose the surface to the sun.


When onion bulbs are mature, the foliage turns yellow and topples over. Leave them for about 2 weeks and then carefully lift with a fork on a dry day. Onions that are to be stored must be dried. Drying can take 7–21 days depending on the size of the onion and the air temperature.