Avoiding Malformed Shallots
4th Mar 1998
Now we are into the month of March and the day is lengthening, there won't be any respite for the keen gardener with so many different things to contend with. The first task for me this month will be to get my shallots into the ground at the far end of the garden where the celery used to grow. I have never had much success with shallots as inevitably they can get so malformed that they become useless for the show bench. I am definitely not alone in this as many growers regularly ask me the same question, How can I stop my shallots from being misshapen?
There's no doubt that the eventual shape of the shallot is dependant on when the plant was harvested, the important thing being that it should not have started any secondary growth. Once the secondary growth commences the shallot will most definitely grow out of shape and this can continue even after you have harvested them. I remember my father on many occasions telling me what fantastic shallots he had just harvested, perfectly round and well shaped, only to tell me after a few weeks that they had all gone out of shape.
There is only one way that I know of to try and prevent this from happening and that is to keep a very careful eye on the plants development from mid June onwards. The central young growth or new leaf should always be seen sprouting away, once this has stopped, then the plants must be immediately lifted to prevent any secondary growth from happening. That is my reasoning anyway but if any readers can help on this point, then not only would I pleased to hear about it, so will all the other growers who regularly experience the same problem.
The shallots were potted up into 3" square pots immediately after Christmas and kept in my greenhouse for a few weeks to establish early growth before being placed in the cold frame. The bed where they will be planted is full of organic matter so I should have some good growth. We had a lovely spell of weather during the last week in January and at that time the bed was worked over and 4 ounces of Chempak BTD was raked into the top 4" layer. After they are planted a few slug pellets will be scattered around each bulb.
After the disaster of losing my old Eden greenhouse that had served me well for 25 years, my new AGL professional house arrived in double quick time and is now fully operational. One of the great benefits of buying the professional range is the double doors, it makes life a lot easier when you are carrying things in and out of the greenhouse and even allows you to have the wheel barrow inside. The other benefits are the extra strengthening bars that's incorporated into the design as well as the extra roof lights that I ordered with it. I now have four of these with three of them having automatic vents fitted. The miraculous thing was that it also fitted perfectly on to the old brick base so no construction work had to be carried out; after twenty five years the measurements were the same.
I was very fortunate to be able to deal with the islands largest garden centre, Holland Arms and the service that I received from them was second to none. The other good news was that I was able to employ their own maintenance man to erect it and more importantly to re wire both greenhouses as well as getting two extra double power points into both polytunnels.
Russell Davies has been with Holland Arms for many years and knew exactly what sort of system that I needed in my houses, both were therefore rewired from scratch from a new fuse box in the potting shed. Each greenhouse is now wired separately to the power as is the lighting system and all the fittings comply with the relevant British Standards for external usage. There's no doubt that this will be a boon for me as the old wiring was starting to give me some problems.
When Russell and I got our heads together it was amazing how many power points that I required to run two relatively small greenhouses efficiently, I had two fan heaters, one extractor fan, one fan to move the air around the growing chamber, two electric blankets for bottom heat in the growing chamber, one propagator unit, and three SGR 200 lamps as well as tubular lights in the ceiling. All the lamps have been wired through a proper timing mechanism as well so that they can be adjusted to suit my growing needs. With all these electrical gadgets, it's no wonder that my wife takes a sharp intake of breath when the electricity bill arrives!
Superior Set Up
It may be a strange thing to say, but I am now glad the disaster happened because out of the mess I now have as near a perfect system now that I could possibly have dreamt of. It's far superior to the old set up that had evolved over the last twenty years or so as the growing techniques altered and the plants needs were better known.