Garlic is easy to grow, and even beginners can excel once they know the right steps. An important step of planting includes the right planting depth, spacing, and location.
In general, you should plant garlic cloves 2-4 inches deeper and 4-6 inches apart. If you are planting several rows, space them 10-12 inches apart. However, this measurement may vary depending on the varieties. Also, changing the planting spot every 1-2 years will help prevent diseases.
You must know a few things while planting garlic, especially the depth, spacing, and planting spot. Please read this article till the end to know about it in detail.
Why does planting depth matter for garlic?
Garlic does best when they are planted at the right depth.
Climate can affect the garlic’s growth and development if you plant the cloves at an improper depth.
Maintaining adequate planting depth can help protect the cloves from exposure to harsh weather.
Some plant the cloves at a proper depth, whereas others plant them on top of the ground and cover them with mulch or straw.
Following a proper depth is one way of controlling the soil temperatures and preventing the harsh temperatures from reaching the cloves and the tender roots.
Planting at a proper depth will keep the cloves from making excessive above-the-ground growth, especially if you live in the colder zones.
Leaves getting exposed to the cold weather can hurt the leaves.
Does planting depth according to garlic variety matter?
There are lots of garlic types. But all of them are divided into two groups – Softneck and Hardneck.
The Hardneck varieties have seed stalks, and their necks are harder than the Softneck varieties.
Besides, this variety is hardy to the colder zones of 2-9.
The cold they get in the colder zones helps them trigger their bulb development.
On the contrary, Softneck varieties don’t grow any stalks.
Their leaves are soft and floppy, and the variety is native to the warmer zones.
Softneck tolerates more warmth than the Hardneck varieties.
Besides, they don’t require excessive cold to trigger germination.
How deep should you plant garlic?
Garlic varieties should be planted at least 2-4 inches deeper in the soil.
Depending on the variety, Hardneck varieties should be planted a little deeper so that they don’t get exposed to the harsh weather when the soil packs down.
You can plant Softneck varieties at the same depth, 2-4 inches.
If you are from areas with southern climates, you should consider shallow planting of the garlic cloves.
On the other hand, if you are in the northern climatic areas, plant the garlic cloves deep enough, so they don’t get exposed to the harsh frost.
What happens if you plant the garlic cloves too shallow?
Shallow planting means planting the cloves only 1.5-2 inches deep.
In some desert regions, the cloves are planted on the top of the ground.
Then they are covered with a thick 6-8 layer of mulch or straw.
Planting this shallow keeps the cloves and new bulbs clean.
Besides, harvesting gets easier. You don’t have to dig the plant and pull them out forcefully.
But, shallow planting is not always recommended.
The cloves might get exposed to frost if you don’t put on enough mulch or straw.
Besides, the cloves may result in too much growth over the ground.
What happens if you plant the garlic cloves too deep?
Deep planting is recommended in areas with severe cold climates.
If the cloves receive excessive frosty weather, the cloves will get hurt and won’t develop any roots or bulbs.
Even if they develop any roots, they will get torn.
For example, places like Michigan have severe cold weather.
That is why garlic cloves are planted about 6 inches deep.
If you belong to areas where the weather is cold but not severe, there is no need to plant them too deep.
3 to 4 inches in depth is enough.
Don’t plant the cloves too deep.
That will result in late sprouting and mold development.
Why does spacing matter during garlic planting?
Garlic also needs to be spaced properly while planting.
Adequate space prevents the cloves from fighting for nutrients and moisture.
Without proper space, the cloves will begin to fight for space, water, and nutrients and get exhausted.
Once the plant sprouts out of the ground, it will also begin to compete for sufficient sunlight.
As a result of this exhaustion, the plants will take more time to reach their maturity level and produce smaller bulbs.
Lack of space will make them grow in a direction from wherever they get space and won’t if there isn’t any space.
It will lead to deformed bulbs.
The lack of space will also make the bulbs bump into each other.
The roots will get entangled with each other and get compact.
This tightness will stop the roots from passing the moisture and nutrients to other parts of the plant.
Some plant them in long single rows with lots of space in between.
Some of them consider intensive spacing to get maximum garlic from minimum space.
Whatever type you choose, spacing depends on the garden size and the particular variety you own.
How far apart should you plant garlic cloves?
Generally, a space of around 6-8 inches is maintained between each clove.
But it might differ depending on the variety you grow.
Hardneck varieties have larger bulbs but fewer and larger cloves.
While growing Hardneck varieties, plant the cloves about 4-6 inches apart.
Softneck varieties produce smaller bulbs than the Hardneck varieties, but they have numerous cloves, more than the Hardneck varieties.
While planting the Softneck varieties, place them 6-8 inches apart.
Some Hardneck and Softneck varieties and their spacing
Usually, the spacing between the cloves is more or less the same for both the Hardneck and Softneck varieties.
A slight difference is due to the bulb size and clove numbers.
You need to keep at least 8-10 inches of space between the rows of both varieties.
It belongs to the Softneck variety and is famous for cooking.
The bulb size is medium and contains many big and small cloves.
Plant the Italian Late garlic cloves about 4-6 inches apart.
It is a well-known Hardneck variety that prepares for harvest in the early summer.
The cloves produce larger bulbs with five large cloves.
The bulbs are 2-3 inches in diameter.
Plant the cloves 6 inches apart.
Another Softneck variety, Western Rose, has a long shelf life.
The bulbs are larger than most of the Softneck varieties.
Keep about 4-6 inches of space between the cloves while planting.
Chesnok Red is a Harneck variety used by most people in cooking because it maintains its shape despite getting roasted or baked.
Besides, it gives a mild flavor to your dish.
They produce bigger bulbs than many other famous Hardneck varieties with big 9-10 cloves per bulb.
Plant them 4-6 inches apart in the soil.
Elephant garlic is bigger than the Hardneck and Softneck varieties, but they are not considered true garlic.
They are single and don’t have any other variety.
The bulbs are nearly the size of a golf ball and weigh about one pound.
They vary depending on weather and soil conditions.
It would be best to plant their cloves at least 8-10 inches apart.
This space will give garlic enough space to grow bulbs without deformation, reduced size, or root entanglement.
Spacing garlic with tools
Sometimes gardeners, especially beginners, don’t understand the measurement of spacing.
In such a case, you can use certain tools to make a well-uniformed space.
You can use a rolling dibbler to create the garlic spacing between the cloves and rows.
It is ideal for big spaces rather than small spaces.
If you want to use a spacing tool, first know about your variety and the space required to find a suitable tool with good spacing guides.
If you plant garlic on a garden bed, make sure to have a space of at least 32-72 square inches of space to plant garlic, depending on your variety.
Can I plant garlic in the same spot every year?
You can plant garlic in the same spot next year.
However, it is better not to plant them in the same place more than twice a row, especially if pests and fungal diseases infest garlic.
It is better to plant garlic in the same spot for only two years.
After that, rotate your crop and change the location.
If your plant ever faced issues like Rust or White rot, you cannot plant the garlic cloves in the place the next year.
Rotate your garlic to prevent diseases and infestations over 3-4 years.
Even if you have treated the disease, you should still not plant them.
The pathogens of these diseases can stay alive without water for about 10-20 years.
So, suppose you plant healthy cloves in the area where your previous garlic was infected.
In that case, the good ones you planted will get infected despite being good and healthy.
When and how to plant garlic?
The best time to plant garlic is 4-6 weeks before the ground begins to freeze in your region.
In general, fall is the best time.
After fall, winter arrives.
The garlic needs the cold winter temperature to trigger bulb growth and germination.
Below are the simple steps of planting lots of garlic:
Prepare the ground
Find a location with adequate sunlight, well-drained soil, and pH levels within 6-7.
You can also use raised beds if you have clayey soil.
Break the soil and add 2-3 inches of organic matter over the soil.
Make shallow furrows 6 inches apart in the soil.
Select your varieties
Select variety according to your region.
Choose Hardneck if your region gets frosty weather.
If your region is warmer or has a mild cold, choose a Softneck variety.
Though Hardneck is bigger than Softneck, the latter produces many cloves and lasts longer than the Hardneck varieties.
Plant your clove at the right depth with proper space
Plant the cloves in the furrow 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart.
It may differ depending on the variety.
Put the pointy end upwards and the flat end into the soil.
After one month, when the temperature starts dropping, add mulch to the soil to protect them from the coming winter.
Feed the garlic plants
When spring arrives, feed the plants with liquid kelp and fish emulsion twice – when the plant starts to grow and again one month later.
There are other ways to feed them. See the fertilizer article to know in detail.
Choose time for harvest.
When half of the plant leaves have turned yellow or brown and dry, it is time for harvest.
Garlic gets almost ready for harvest in late spring or early summer.
Pick up the bulbs.
Don’t remove the leaves now, as the bulbs will still take nutrients and energy from the green leaves.
Cure, clean, and store
Once you pick them up, cure them by letting them dry.
Then, clean them by cutting the stalks 12 inches above the bulbs and some roots.
Rub the outer skin and use a gentle brush to remove the soil.
Keep the bulbs in a dark and dry place with a cool temperature, average humidity, and proper airflow.
Garlic plants are easy to grow, provided you know the right steps. Planting depth and spacing have a great impact on garlic’s healthy development. Generally, it would be best to plant the cloves 2-4 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart.
Plant the cloves a little deeper to protect from cold if you are from colder regions. If you are from warmer or desert regions, plant them less deep or over the ground and cover them with mulch or straw.
Don’t plant the garlic cloves more than 1-2 times in the same place. If your garlic got infested by pests or diseases, you must change the place in the second year.
The best time to plant garlic is in the fall. Follow the steps properly to get a successful harvest and healthy bulbs.
Reference: The Pennsylvania State University, Garlic Production for the Gardener, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ohio State University Extension.