Q. Last fall I planted shallot bulbs. In late spring, I waited for the leaves to shrivel, signaling they were ready for harvest. Instead, they began to send up flower stalks. Where did I go wrong?

Q. Last fall I planted shallot bulbs. In late spring, I waited for the leaves to shrivel, signaling they were ready for harvest. Instead, they began to send up flower stalks. Where did I go wrong?

A. Shallots love cool weather. They tend to flower in response to stress. You can grow a passable crop, however, if you take advantage of the cool part of the growing season. Shallot bulbs prefer to have the first part of their growing cycle cool, followed by gradual warming until they reach maturity by forming bulb clusters. The problem with fall planting is that they grow initially and then encounter the cold of winter. This primes them to flower as soon as warm weather arrives in the spring. Thus, it's best to plant them in December.

You also can plant them in February, as soon as the weather rises above freezing for a few days. If they are allowed to grow in uninterrupted cool conditions, the first hot days in late May or early June will cause the plants to begin to go dormant, as desired. Shallots can typically be harvested before mid-June.