Monty Don shares ‘essential’ vegetable that needs planting before the end of March

updates his blog once a month with jobs that need doing around the  to keep his followers well-informed.

With this month’s instalment, the gardening guru has shared what needs sowing and planting in the garden. One of the main things to plant is shallots. 

Shallots and onions are of the same family and share many characteristics. Shallot bulbs are smaller and, once grown, tend to have a milder flavour than onions. 

The main difference in the garden is that shallots form clumps of bulbs, whereas onions grow as individual bulbs. Regardless of this, they’re planted and grown in the same way.

The 68-year-old noted that he believes that shallots are “even more essential” to grow and cook with than onions.

Monty said: “They have a sweeter taste, tend to be easier to grow and store incredibly well, lasting a year or more in a cool, dark well-ventilated place. 

“Unlike onion sets which swell to become one full-sized onion, shallot sets multiply to form a clump that can contain as many as a dozen individual bulbs.”

The gardening pro recommends planting them directly outside, nine inches apart in rows about a foot apart. 

This makes them “easy to hoe”. Make sure to not completely bury them, instead leave the shoulder of the bulb and tips clear of the soil. 

Monty suggests covering them with fleece for the first few weeks so they can get anchored to the soil with new roots, otherwise “birds have a habit of tugging them out of the ground”.

However, if the ground is still too wet or you do not yet have space for them, you can plant them into plugs, just burying them deep enough to sit in the compost. 

Keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame and then plant out when your soil is ready and has warmed up. 

Like most types of plants, it is important to keep them weed-free and regularly watered.

Shallots come in many shapes, colours and sizes but Monty suggests a slender, red variety like ‘Simiane’ or ‘Longor’ as well as a round one like ‘Meloine’

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