Early to mid Fall is the perfect time for planting garlic. Garlic planted in the Fall almost always does better than spring planted garlic.
Planting garlic in the spring in most areas produces small bulbs that contain even smaller cloves. There just isn’t enough time for spring planted garlic to get established and growing before the heat of summer arrives.
Planting Garlic in the Fall
Planting garlic in mid fall allows the garlic cloves you plant some time to get established before the cold weather sets in. Fall planting also means that your garlic is able to start growing in the spring very early! Most years I see the first shoots of my fall planted garlic poking out of the soil as early as mid February. Having your garlic in the ground in the fall means the plants will have 6 or more weeks head start.
There are many differing opinions on when you should get you garlic planted. Many growers suggest getting your garlic in as soon as possible. Others say you should wait until just before the ground freezes.
Timing for planting garlic
Here’s the schedule I have settled on. I plant my garlic about two weeks after my average first frost date. But well before we have had any hard freezes that would cause the ground to freeze. So for me here in my zone 5b garden that means I plant garlic right around October 15th. Notice I said 2 weeks after my AVERAGE first frost date, I don’t actually wait for my first frost, instead I plant based on the first expected frost date which for us is about October 1st.
Technically you can begin planting garlic any time after the weather really starts to cool off (when temperatures in the day start settling in the 60s). And you really have up until the ground freezes. If you are reading this post a little later in the year then don’t worry too much. As long as your ground hasn’t frozen you are still okay to plant your garlic.
I really like that mid point of two weeks after your first frost date. (Remember this is the average first frost date for your area. Not the actual first frost date). That time of the year is after the weather has cooled, but before the ground has frozen. So figure out that date for your area and use it as your target.
How to plant garlic
Planting garlic is simple, just select the largest cloves in a bulb of garlic. Gently remove the cloves from the bulb. Larger cloves mean larger healthier plants
You plant garlic bulbs pointy side up and about 2 to 3 inches deep. The “pointy side” is the side from the top of the bulb, opposite from where the roots were growing.
I made this little stick with a 2 inch line on it that I use to gauge the correct planting depth while planting garlic. It’s handy to have!
Spacing should be around 8 inches in all directions. Garlic does well planted in patches instead of rows. Just keep the spacing to around 6 to 8 inches so the plants have plenty of room to grow.
If you live in an area with extreme winter cold it would also be a good idea to cover your garlic patch with some type of mulch. Straw, leaves or even grass clippings will help insulate the ground and prevent frost heave from disturbing your bulbs.
Also don’t forget to amend your soil before you plant. A few inches of compost mixed into the soil will help your crop out in the spring!
Where to get garlic cloves to plant
You have 4 options for getting your garlic “seed” (the cloves you plant):
Either online, from a catalog or from your local nursery. There are many sources out there for ordering garlic. Try to order early so you are sure your favorite grower has the varieties you want!
Save your own seed
This is the method I use. You can save your own seed garlic by selecting the largest cloves from this years harvest and planting them. After as little as 3 years selecting only the largest and healthiest cloves you will have your own locally adapted variety!! Garlic is very good at becoming adapted to your very specific growing conditions, so by saving your own cloves for planting in the fall you can build your own health variants of many popular varieties.
Find a variety you really like from one of your local farmers, then buy some extra garlic to plant in your garden. Again remember to select on the largest and healthiest looking cloves.
The grocery store
You can even choose your favorite garlic from the grocery store and plant it. I really don’t recommend this method for a few reasons, first you have no idea what you are getting. Second, commercially produced garlic is often treated with chemicals that are meant to prevent sprouting. Third, the part of the bulb where the roots are attached are often cut very close. This can damage the cloves keeping them from ever sprouting.
Having said all this I do know folks that have great success planting garlic from a store.
Garlic is one of the easiest and most carefree vegetables to grow in your garden. Just plant it in the fall and water when needed in the spring. That along with a little weeding is all you need to grow a great crop of home grown garlic.
For more info on growing garlic in your garden you can check out these other great Stoney Acres Posts: