Try growing shallots for looks and taste

Now is the time to get to grips with your strawberry bed.

BRIAN KIDD: Strawberry fields forever – but renew them every three years

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The Britain in Bloom contest used to be all about flowers, trees and shrubs. But a couple of years ago it was decided to make sustainability an important part of the judging criteria.

Conservation of water, composting and recycling became elements of the initiative and vegetable-growing is now highlighted as part of the sustainability category.

Does this mean we should all grow vegetables?

No, but including vegetables in the flower garden is a very novel way of attracting valuable points when a garden is being judged.

Would you like to have a go at something quite different which can be done next week?

What about planting some shallots as an edging around a flower border? If you enjoy adding onions to your cooking, you might be interested to know that one shallot equals the same amount of flavour as a large onion.

Vegetable onions don’t look particularly attractive in flower borders, but shallots are only 6-8 inches high and the array of about 25 bright tubular leaves looks very much like the leaves of dwarf irises,

You can’t eat irises, but you can eat shallots. Used around the edge of a rose border, they also discourage greenfly.

Simply fork over the surface of the soil to a depth of only 4-6 inches on a pleasant day. Then with a hand fork lightly break down any clods and push in a shallot bulb so that just the nose is poking out of the soil. Each bulb is planted 9 inches apart.

After about a week the roots will form and you may find some of them pop out of the ground. This is quite natural and very often they can jump out up to 9 inches from where they were planted. Simply push them back again.

During the winter the leaves will grow and in spring each bulb will produce up to five daughters, equally spaced around the outside of the original bulb.

They will be ready to harvest next August – after the judges have gone! The interesting thing about shallots is that the foliage can be eaten and it tastes exactly the same as spring onions.

It can be used chopped up in salads or cut finely with scissors and added to a casserole 10 minutes before serving. The leaves add a lovely taste but remain attractively green.

Honestly, this is the easiest vegetable to grow,even if your are a complete novice.

Shallots are ideal for the tiniest garden and some of you tell me cats don’t like the smell.

I’m not going to guarantee that, but I will guarantee you that you’ll find them very easy to grow, with no notable pests and very rarely any diseases.

All the best gardeners plant shallots on the shortest day of the year – a gardening tip which is very easy to remember.