Author Topic: A diverse patch of shallots  (Read 392 times)

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #15 on: 2019-11-17, 03:20:13 PM »
Hi Doro.   It sounds like we have a similar climate but opposite problems!   
There are some articles written about how to get shallots to flower.
This one is about short day shallots, but observations are similar to other studies of shallot flowering:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288283897_Flowering_physiology_and_some_vegetative_traits_of_short-day_shallot_A_comparison_with_bulb_onion
Maybe useful:  "Shallots can be induced to flower by cold treatment in storage, the optimum temperature being 5-10°C, whereas high and intermediate storage temperatures delay the development of the inflorescence. During growth, high temperatures may suppress already initiated inflorescences. Plants from larger sets flowered more readily than those from small ones, and genotypes varied significantly in their response to cold induction."
Another one looked at induction of flowering in F1 shallot cultivars.   I believe this is the same one that used long cold treatments during growth (up to 90 days) to induce flowering, with temperatures 12 C and lower being more effective over 60-90 days (iirc) depending on cultivar.  From my notes they also commented that "Under  optimal  vernalizing  temperature,  small  bulbs  show  little  or  no  bolting  while  sensitivity  to  bolting  increased  with  bulb  size".   
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4e40/f105e649c0faa088bad6e9a9139432bd771a.pdf
So if I were you I would try putting a few larger bulbs into cold storage for the winter, and then plant them in the coolest, shadiest part of your garden - maybe extra early as well, to try and get 60 days in at lower temperatures. :)
I'm pretty sure my shallots survived winter only because they didn't bulb.  The immature form of a clump without bulbs seems to be as hardy as any green onion or chives.   Fall planting of bulbs hasn't been good with other shallot varieties here.
I'd be happy to share seeds if you want to try a cross with them.  I'm assuming they will survive this winter and will flower again if I let them, so there will be future seeds as well.

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #16 on: 2019-11-17, 04:09:31 PM »
Doro, here's one more paper I found about bulb size and storage temperature for true seed production.   Similar results re bigger bulbs and cold storage:
http://agro.icm.edu.pl/agro/element/bwmeta1.element.agro-a176b5cc-1eb3-46f5-ad77-86e360ca8830
Hey, from your comment in the soil discussion, you could use sawdust to keep the ground cold too!   ;) 

Doro

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #17 on: 2019-11-18, 05:14:05 AM »
Yes I think we are both suffering from similar climates ;D
After reading all of the links, measuring temperatures in various places of the house and rethinking my regular shallot growing and storage regime... I'm getting an idea of why my shallots never flower in regular growing conditions. And why my experiments to induce flowering in a few sets were unsuccessful.

I always eat the biggest ones lol only medium to small makes it into storage. Storage is warm, at regular room temperature 16-20C in my house. The medium ones are the ones for planting and planting time is around the same time as potatoes. At least 8C soil temperature and from then on it warms up quickly in the full sun spots where I'm planting the shallots.
That's how I learned that shallots should be stored, planted and grown. Which, when thinking about it, is all aimed at optimum bulbing and avoiding flowers that reduce the edible harvest. Makes total sense.

My attempts to induce flowers did involve starting them indoors in a cool room. But the used sets were too small and stored too warm before planting. After the starting phase in the cool guest room I planted them into places that got too warm over the summer too. Photoperiod was also way too long by then.
Sadly I do not know which variety of potato onion I'm growing. I don't remember where I got it from. But it could be one of those that are reluctant to flower.

I'll see if I can hunt for other varieties of potato onions and find out which one I'm growing.
I just went through the stored ones and took the last 7 big ones into the unheated guest room. It's at 14C at the moment, but it should drop under 12C soon. After a month at 12C I'll just plant them and grow them at the window. I am thinking that they have to start bolting early in spring already, before days are getting too long.

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #18 on: 2019-11-18, 07:27:26 AM »
You're probably further north than we are - our longest day is just short of 16 hours.    ::)  So we don't get much daylength compensation for being cloudy wet and cold.
I found another article about flowering genetics in shallots of Indonesia.   They identified 5 alleles and three different groups - freely flowering, inducible flowering, and non-flowering.    In your climate, they may well have selected for non- or barely inducible varieties because of course that's how you will certainly get your bulbs, even in the cool.   They sound really early as well .   Those are ideal genetics for a northerly shallot, and will be great to breed with if you do get seed. :)
http://sabraojournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SABRAO-J-Breed-Genet-50-3-313-328-MARLIN.pdf
I'm going over my data and thinking about which ones I should focus on.    Since all of mine came from seeds in the first place, they are all either 'freely flowering' or 'inducible'.  I did have two outliers that produced very reduced flowers, and only one of them produced a few seeds.   They both had very thin and profusely divided stems, pale lime- green leaf, and some leaves were even flat.  Interesting but not that promising from the pov of getting a good sized bulb. 
I'm also looking at some that flowered later as being (possibly) a bit resistant to being 'induced'.
OTOH I found at least three research papers that correlated plant height with size of bulb, which means the tallest ones would be most likely to produce a good crop.   But I don't want to miss something special by only going down that road.  ???

Doro

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #19 on: 2019-11-18, 03:10:43 PM »
If in doubt keep all of them ;D can't grow too much onions! Especially when they keep a long time like potato onions usually do.

My longest day is almost 19h, but I'm grateful that it's not midnight sun :P our winter days are awfully short, but at least it's not dark all day.

I have been reading some about our local heirloom potato onions. There is a variety that is reported to flower on occasion, which sounds promising. Now I just need to find someone who has them and knows what variety they are... most times they just get traded between gardeners as potato onions without a variety name or location of their origin.

The ones that I'm growing are smaller than French shallots from the store. The plants also have fewer leafs than what is reported in the papers. They are quite short too. I never measured their hight or counted leafs, but I'd say 5 leafs and just about 20cm high. Typically I only get 6 bulbs per cluster. Maybe their earliness is connected to small plants with short leafs. It could be just my photoperiod though and they could look different when grown further south. A lot of plants do odd things when grown here.

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #20 on: 2019-11-18, 03:56:14 PM »
It's really helpful to hear about your shallots!   8)
Good to know that a nice sized bulb can come from a short plant - they don't have to measure up to store shallots for me.   The most important thing is whether they bulb at all, but I didn't know if the smallest might have bulbs that are really tiny.   I have lots of plants that were on the short end.   The short bushy ones were so cute, we wanted to keep them for flower borders if nothing else. 
Also re the number of divisions, I was already thinking that fewer may be better, because the best advice to grow from true seed is to plant densely enough that they don't divide at all, and get a single bulb from each.   The rationale is that the plant from seed doesn't have enough time/energy to produce bulbs if you give it room enough to multiply - that is in theory why I didn't get any bulbs in year 1.  It may be that those with fewer divisions are the best candidates for a shallot that I can get bulbs from by planting a bulb in spring that is allowed enough room to divide.   For a cold climate and short season, that might actually be the thing that works.
I estimated the clump sizes by number of flowers - the biggest clump had 34 flowers.  :)They were continuing to multiply all season, so even though the flowering stalks died back, the clumps are bigger than ever.   :o  Assuming that they do survive the second winter, I will certainly try to separate a few from each plant to try and force them to bulb for me.


Doro

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #21 on: 2019-11-20, 03:28:39 AM »
That's such a beautiful look! I bet you got many questions about these beautiful flowers ;D my neighbours asked me this year what these giant ball flowers were and if the bulbs were expensive. Nope, just regular spring onions and kitchen onions.
Did you try eating the greens? They look so lush and full that, even if they do not bulb, they should be great for eating them like spring onions.
I'm normally planting mine 20cm apart to get bulbs. I'll crowd some of them next year, to see if they show a reaction in terms of seed heads or more greens instead of bulbs. Thinking about it I had crowded my spring onions once and the appearance of the plants was so different than normal. The normal ones are quite thick with long white parts and do not divide from the base unless I harvest them. The crowded ones had lots more leafy parts, less white base and made new shoots from the base like crazy.

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #22 on: 2019-11-20, 06:33:02 AM »
I would definitely keep them for the flowers alone.  :-*  I  was already growing up some more Hardy Evergreen to plant around for those early flowers, but the shallots fill that same gap for the bumblebee queens when there's not much else in flower.
I only tasted the shoots late summer when I realized they weren't going to bulb.   Delicious garlicky taste near the base, but they were super tough.   Even chopped up fine they were like bits of leather in your dish.  :P  So I'll have to try them in spring instead.

I found another comment last night re: number of divisions, from a growout of Green Mountain potato onions from true seed.  She said:
"My ideal multiplier divides into 3-6 medium onions. The ones that divide into 8-12 bulbs are just two small to bother peeling in my opinion."
https://www.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/project/23

So I could see this going in two directions (1) to select those with fewer divisions for lines that will be planted from bulbs in spring, and (2) see what happens with spacing plants from true seed.   If the tight spacing is enough to suppress multiplying and produce bulbs, then the taller plants might be the best producers by true seed method.     If I can find a strategy that works well from seed, it would be just perfect to have a large patch of perennial favorites to bloom, feed the bees, and make seed every year. :)

Ferdzy

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #23 on: 2019-11-20, 02:53:12 PM »
Wow, those are amazing. The photos look more like chives than allium cepa, but far more variable than I've ever seen in chives.

Steph S

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Re: A diverse patch of shallots
« Reply #24 on: 2019-11-20, 04:11:17 PM »
The resemblance to chives is actually a bit of a sore point, since I didn't get any bulbs.  :-[    They looked more like shallots in spring when they were small enough to see the stem colors.   And then the different colored buds came on, which are really diverse and pretty.  ;)  Most of the buds were quite round although a few were more pear shaped like the chive.   It's also true that by the time they were in full flower, the difference in petal color was very subtle if any.   ::)  We had red onion sets that bolted one year, and their flowers were the same color.  But of course, no clump there to make them look like chives. 
There's no diversity in chives at all.  I looked into it, and the one that I have from my grandmother's garden is identical to every other chive in existence.  (Chinese chives are a different thing and don't count.)    The taste of chives is really distinctive though.   There's no hint of chive in these ahem lovely shallots.  ;)