Growing Garlic Over Winter: How To Get A Bumper Harvest?

Exploding with flavor and strong aromas, garlic isn’t just a kitchen favorite but also a popular ingredient of many home remedies. It grows easily in most climates, doesn’t require a lot of care, and takes very little space in your garden. You can even grow it in containers if a garden isn’t available. Not only is growing garlic over winter possible it will actually give better results. Read on to find out more.

Can You Overwinter Garlic?

growing garlic over winter

Unlike most other vegetable crops that grow in spring, the best time to plant garlic is in the fall. They take plenty of months to mature in the soil before reaching harvest in the mid of the following summers.

You can overwinter garlic in almost all climates, including the northern zones. Garlic is very cold hardy and, in fact, benefits from prolonged exposure to cold weather during the first few months of growth. Planting them in the fall and overwintering garlic produces intensely flavored bulbs, bigger than those planted in the spring.

If you’re planning on adding garlic to your vegetable garden this season, here’s a complete guide to growing garlic over the winters for the biggest, juiciest bulbs ever. 

When To Plant Garlic

The best time to plant garlic is in autumn, so the cloves can have a few weeks to develop roots before the winters’ onset. The cold weather stops their growth. After a dormancy period over the winters, the garlic plants resume growth as soon as the soil starts warming up in spring.

In colder regions, such as zones 2 and 3, where winter comes early, garlic can be planted as early as mid-September. In warmer climates, you can plant between early October until the end of November. 

Choosing And Preparing The Site 

Choose a sunny spot to set the cloves in the ground. Garlic prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. Till the top 6 inches of soil, removing any stones or debris that come in your path. Amend the garden soil with several inches of well-aged manure or compost, together with 5-10-10 fertilizer before planting. If you have poorly-drained, heavy, clayey soil in your yard, planting in raised beds or containers is a better option. 

How To Plant Garlic

Generally, gardeners don’t advise growing garlic from store-brought cloves since the variety may not suit your climate. Get cloves from a local nursery or a seed company. Separate the cloves, leaving the papery husk in place, and choose the largest and healthiest ones to plant.

Place the cloves in the soil, 2 to 4 inches apart with a 10 to 14 inch spacing between individual rows. Plant the cloves 1 to 2 inches deep in the soil if you live in a mild-winter region. If you get harsh winters in your region, planting it deeper, to a depth between 2 to 4 inches, can protect it from frost damage.

Remember to set the cloves with the pointy end facing upwards and the wider, root end facing down.

Garlic Care

While garlic is very cold-hardy, and will easily survive over the winters in most climates, here are some tips to ensure it’s well protected over the winters and resumes optimal growth the following spring:

  • Keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater garlic, especially during winters. It may even rot if it’s sitting in damp soil. Water it deeply once a week, if there hasn’t been any rain. 
  • In colder zones, such as Canada and the northern US, gardeners heavily mulch their garlic crop with straw or hay to protect the bulbs over the winter season. In southern regions, mulching is optional, but it’s still recommended since it offers a warmer soil for the garlic roots to continue developing through the early winters. 
  • Remove the mulch right after the last frost of the spring. In most climates, the ground will still be frozen around this time, and removing the mulch will warm it up faster with the surrounding temperature.
  • Garlic plants will remain dormant over the winters, and new shoots will appear in spring. Nip off any flower shoots that appear since they’re going to lower the bulb size.
  • Sidedress the plants with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in early spring. Organic options include chicken manure and blood meal. 
  • Reduce watering as the ground heats up in summers since the bulbs need a hot, dry period to get ready for harvest.

Protect From Pests And Diseases

Pests aren’t usually a problem with garlic since their strong, pungent smell makes them a natural pest repellent. Aphids can sometimes bother your crop. They feed on garlic leaves and flower buds but can easily be catered. Hose them off or apply a pesticide. An application of neem oil also works well against aphids.

Watch out for white rot, especially during winters. It’s a fungus that can attack your garlic crop during the cold season. It’s a destructive disease since it’s hard to treat and spreads quickly. Choosing good quality cloves to plant from a reliable source, rotating the crop, and cleaning the bed after harvest can prevent the problem.

Growing Garlic Over Winter?

Growing garlic over winter may take plenty of patience, but it will surely pay off with the strongly flavored, giant bulbs to harvest in summers. Dry the bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place to enjoy them for several months, until the next crop is ready for harvest in summers!

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