Most gardeners recommend planting garlic in mid-October, which works well for most climates. However, when to start growing garlic in different zones? What’s the best planting time to ensure a healthy bumper harvest each time?
Planting time is crucial when growing garlic. It takes a long growing period, over eight months, to reach maturity and give the largest bulbs. Although spring plantings stay in the ground for a shorter period and still gives bulbs for harvest, they’re smaller in size.
What Is The Best Time To Start Growing Garlic?
Garlic needs a long growing season with at least six weeks of dormancy during the start of growth, with exposure to cold temperatures to produce the largest bulbs. In colder regions, like and Northern US, garlic is best planted in the fall.
Plant garlic in late summer or autumn, about 6 weeks before the first expected frost. This allows some time for the cloves to develop roots before the onset of winters and then enjoy a dormancy period before resuming growth once the winters are over.
With garlic, planting earlier is always the wiser choice since it gives the plant time to develop a healthy root system before it goes dormant. The fall planting gets a good head start with already developed roots, so the plant can grow quickly as soon as the soil warms up in the coming spring. With a complete eight months in the soil, garlic’s fall plantings will produce the biggest bulbs possible. They’re harvested in midsummers.
Will Spring Planting Work?
Most vegetables are planted in spring. Most gardeners start planning the year’s vegetables in spring, so it’s easy to miss garlic’s ideal growing time. So if you skip the fall planting, can you still catch up in spring? How well will garlic do if planted in spring like the other vegetables?
Spring plantings are set about six weeks before the expected date of the last frost. They only stay about 120 to 150 days in the ground before reaching harvest in summers. While you will still harvest mature bulbs, and in a shorter time, they’ll not be as big as those planted before the winters.
Some Tips To Pull Off A Spring Planting
- Choose Softneck Varieties
Softneck garlic varieties generally work better for spring plantings since they can do without a period of cold exposure.
- Plant Early
If you’re planting in spring, plant as early as possible. Garlic is exceptionally cold-hardy and can tolerate temperatures below freezing. Even if cold temperatures are forecasted in the coming days, you can plant them. Planting them towards the end of spring will cause the bulbs to mature quickly, without getting a chance to develop in size.
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Plant garlic in spring as soon as the soil is workable, at least 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost. In warmer climates, like the southern US, this means that the best time to plant is no later than March. However, in the northern US and Canada, you can plant by early May.
- Vernalization For Hardneck Garlic
It is also possible to grow hardneck garlic in spring, but it will require an extra step to ensure the best growth. It needs a couple of weeks of cold exposure, with temperatures between 27°F and 32°F. Vernalization is the cooling of the seed to accelerate growth and is either achieved through prolonged exposure to winters or an artificial equivalent. Hardneck varieties require about 6 to 12 weeks of vernalization before planting to speed up sprouting and bulbing.
If you’ve missed the winters already or the climate in your region doesn’t get cold enough, placing garlic in the refrigerator before planting is a great option. Store it for at least 2 to 3 weeks, but they’ll benefit from an even longer period in the fridge (2 months ideally).
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Is Winter Planting A Good Idea?
You know now that fall planting is the best option since it gives the vernalization during the initial growth stages that garlic requires. If you’ve skipped autumn (usually around October for most regions), should you wait until springtime to plant the cloves, or is winter planting a better option? As a general rule, keep spring planting as your last resort.
Garlic is very tolerant of cold. As long as the soil is workable, you can plant them. So an early December planting will also produce a good crop. Probably not as good as those planted in autumn, but definitely better than spring plantings.
In cold-winter regions, set the cloves 2 to 4 inches below the soil surface to prevent them from cold damage. If garlic is to stay in the soil for the winters, which is the ideal scenario, mulch them with a 6-inch layer of straw or hay before the first frost.
Now that you know when to start growing garlic, remember to plant them in the fall. Give them plenty of time to develop under the soil and give them optimal care throughout the growing season to enjoy big, juicy homegrown bulbs.