Garlic, Onions and Shallots

LOCATION: Choose a sunny well draining location.

SOIL PREPARATION: Work into the soil 2 inches of organic matter such as Pay Dirt or Gold Rush and gypsum at the rate of 5 pounds per 100 square feet and Master Nursery Master Start at 2 pounds per 100 square feet.

If your soil is extremely hard or can not be made to drain well, it would be wise to consider raised beds that are 6–24 inches high.

Garlic and Elephant Garlic. Elephant Garlic - Allium Ampeloprasum - is probably more closely related to the Leek than to ordinary Garlic. The bulbs are very large and can weigh over a pound. A single clove of Elephant Garlic can be as large as a whole bulb of ordinary Garlic. In terms of flavor, Elephant Garlic is to garlic what Leeks are to Onions. It is much less intense and sweeter. It has been described—rather unkindly—as "Garlic for people who don't like Garlic".

White California Garlic and Red Spanish Garlic (Allium Sativum) are both true Garlic. The white Garlic has won fame at the Gilroy Garlic Festival and is the one most commonly found in the produce section of your favorite grocery store. For a real stand-up-and-shout Garlic experience, try the red Spanish Garlic. It is guaranteed to get your attention. Both of these are available along with the Elephant Garlic.

GARLIC CLOVES: Break up the Garlic bulbs and plant the largest of the cloves. The pointed tips should be facing up and be 1-1 1/2 inches below the surface, 4-6 inches apart and in rows that are 1 foot apart.

SHALLOTS are often thought to be another variety of Onion, but they are actually a species of their own. They grow in clusters, where separate bulbs are attached at the base and by loose skins. The Shallot has a tapered shape and a fine-textured, coppery skin, which differentiates it from Onions. Shallots were first introduced to Europeans during the 12th Century. Crusaders brought them home as “valuable treasure” from the ancient Palestinian city of Ascalon. Shallots have a mild taste that combines the flavor of a sweet Onion with a touch of Garlic. Shallots are planted and treated the same as Onion sets.

ONIONS: Onions can be planted as seeds, sets or transplants. Onion sets are miniature Onion bulbs. Plant the smallest sets you can find and in the same way as Garlic. Onion transplants are planted 2 to 3 inches apart in a hole made by plunging the index finger up to the second joint in the soil prepared as above and then firmed around the transplant. If all the transplants survive, they can be trimmed and used in salads where we call them Scallions. As the transplants continue to grow, and become too large to use in salads, thin them to 8 inches apart.

CARE: Keep soil moist and weed regularly but do not hoe too deeply because onions have very shallow roots. Apply Master Nursery Tomato & Vegetable Food when the plants have grown four to six leaves.

HARVESTING: Three to five months after planting, the tops will start to turn yellow and fall over. When one-third to one-half of the leaves are like this, stop watering and press all the leaves flat to the ground with a rake or your bare feet. Leave the Garlic or Onions like this until the leaves are all brown. Dig the bulbs with a fork and store in a cool dry area or leave them in the ground and dig as needed.

PLANT PESTS: Aphids and onion thrips may sometimes cluster on the new green growth of any of the Onions. Spray with a stream of water to dislodge them. Spray with Safer Insect Killing Soap to kill any insects on the foliage.

Rarely onion maggots will bore down the stem and into the bulbs. Avoid over fertilizing with manure to discourage egg lying around the plants. Using beneficial nematodes in the soil will kill the maggots or avoid planting in the same area for two years.

Fungus or bacterial diseases are rarely an onion problem if they are properly watered and receive adequate sunlight.


  • If Onions or Garlic send up a flower stalk (bolt) cut it off as soon as possible, close to the ground.
  • Onion transplants are much less likely to bolt than are sets.
  • Do not cultivate around the plants so that you disturb the roots.
  • Plant onions and garlic between September 1st and December 1st.