When To Plant Garlic Bulbs? (+Seasonal Guide)


Growing garlic requires very little effort. The crop might not be as fast as others, but it is easy and satisfying. Planting time is an essential part while growing garlic.

Garlic is planted in fall, 2 weeks after the first frost or 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. You can also plant in other seasons, provided the conditions are ideal for garlic. But, planting only one week before the frost is too late for garlic and may result in crop failure. 

There are many things to know about the timing of planting garlic. We will share with you the best time to plant garlic and how to plant them.

When should you plant garlic?

Garlic is planted using cloves more than seeds, which takes nearly 8-9 months.

There are various types of garlic, and all of them are categorized into two groups – Hardneck and Softneck. 

Hardneck varieties are easy to peel, grow scapes, and are better in the colder regions.

On the contrary, Softneck varieties have better storage life and are good for the regions with warm winters. 

Garlic requires cold weather for 2 months for vernalization after planting. 

Without this cold weather, garlic cloves won’t grow bulbs or have multiple cloves. 

The cloves should get a temperature range of 40-50°F for at least 6-10 weeks to get vernalized.

Once they mature, they won’t be affected by the hot temperatures. 

You might not receive this cold temperature if you belong to a warmer region.

In that case, you must store the cloves in the refrigerator for 8-12 weeks before planting to fulfill their vernalization requirements.

So keeping these things in mind, the right time to plant garlic is 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes or in the early spring when the ground is workable. 

If you are from cold regions, avoid planting garlic too early. 

On the contrary, you can plant them anytime in regions with warm winters. 

In the cold regions where frost is common, you should plant them a few weeks before the first frost so the cloves can develop roots before the ground freezes. 

The best time to plant garlic is generally in the mid-fall.

It is the exact month before the garlic cloves can develop roots before the frost and then receive the cold temperature for vernalization. 

If you have missed fall planting, you can consider early spring planting. 

Also read: How Deep And Far Apart Do You Plant Garlic?

Why should I plant garlic in the fall?

Garlic always shows better results when planted in the fall or mid-fall. 

It is because they can take advantage of the winter season by getting the cold weather required for vernalization. 

This vernalization helps them trigger their bulb growth. And, once the garlic matures before summer, it will no longer get affected by the hot summer. 

Garlic planted in the fall will reward you with bigger and healthier bulbs in the spring and summer. 

Can I plant garlic in other seasons except for fall?

The right time for planting garlic is in fall because the cloves get time to grow roots before the winter and then take advantage of the winter for vernalization. 

Now, let’s see whether we can plant them in any other seasons or not.

And if yes, then how. 

Also read: Will Garlic Survive Frost? (+Protect Garlic From Cold Weather)

What happens if I plant garlic in the spring?

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Though garlic gives the best results if planted in the fall, you can plant them in spring if you have missed fall planting. 

Softneck grows better in the spring than the Hardneck varieties.

However, you can grow them both. 

Garlic will get less time to develop if planted in the spring.

That is why you need to maintain certain growing conditions for them.

Plant garlic in the early spring when the soil is ready to work well.

The cloves will need to develop fully before the hot summer strikes. 

If you plant them late again, they will mature quickly but develop smaller bulbs, small cloves, or one single clove. 

Before planting them, store them in the refrigerator for 6-12 weeks for vernalization.

Since the winter is over now, it is the only way to give them the cold.

For planting in the spring, choose the sunniest location in your garden.

Check whether the soil is well-drained or not. If not, you can create raised beds. 

Add some compost to the soil.

Collect the biggest cloves and plant them 2-4 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. 

If your region receives hot summers, you should grow Softneck varieties.

They can tolerate heat more than the Hardneck varieties. 

You can plant green garlic in the spring and harvest it in its immature state.

After storing it for only 2-3 months, you will have fresh garlic at home. 

Also read: What Type Of Soil Is Best For Garlic? (Best Soil Mix For Garlic)


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What happens if I plant garlic in the summer?

If you belong to colder regions where the summers are cool, and winters are warm, you can plant garlic in the summers. 

If you plant garlic in the late summer, it will overwinter and continue growing in the coming spring. 

You can also plant the smaller cloves of green garlic every 3 weeks throughout the summer to get a continuous supply of garlic. 

Plant the green garlic cloves 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart.

Harvest them after 2-3 months when they reach 8-10 inches. 

If your region receives a short growing season for garlic, plant the cloves in the late summer or 4 weeks before the soil freezes. 

What happens if I plant garlic in winter?

If you are from areas where temperatures don’t drop below 40-45°F, you can plant garlic in the winters. 

The cloves will have roots, and they will sprout out and continue to grow throughout the winter. 

But before planting, vernalizing the seeds is essential for 6-8 weeks. 

In the colder zones, you should plant garlic cloves 3-4 weeks before the first frost or 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes. 

This cold is good for the cloves to trigger bulb development and won’t let garlic sprout or develop new leaves until the cold passes.

It is good because if garlic sprouts or grows new leaves, they will get hurt due to the cold weather.

You don’t have to cover the cloves if the temperature is mild.

But if your region tends to cross 13°F, do not forget to cover the cloves. 

Plant the cloves 2-4 inches deeper and cover them with straw or leaves to keep the soil warm and allow the roots to grow deeper in winter without any frost interference. 

In areas like Michigan, the cloves are planted 6 inches deeper because they receive severe cold.

It is better to plant the cloves in the fall or before the ground freezes in such areas. 

When can I plant garlic in areas with different climates?

Planting garlic in colder climates has higher success rates than planting in warmer climates.

However, it depends on the variety.

For example, Hardneck varieties do best in colder climates because they require cold temperatures for vernalization.

Besides, they can tolerate the cold more than Softneck varieties. 

On the contrary, the Softneck varieties are better for warmer climates because they can tolerate the warmth of the summer more than the Hardneck varieties. 

Gourmet and heirloom species are also good for warmer climates. 

Below I have shared five different climates and the right time to plant garlic according to the climate.

Dry climate

Areas with dry climates are dry enough because the moisture evaporates from the air faster than in other climates.

Besides, these areas receive rare rainfall. 

So, for planting garlic in such areas, you need to maintain consistently moist soil by proper watering, especially when under the full sun. 

These climates have hot summers and warm winters.

Early winter is the best time to plant garlic in regions with such climates. 

Ensure the seeds or cloves are not exposed to temperatures above 77°F.

Otherwise, plants may develop, but bulbs won’t. 

Temperate climate

Temperate areas experience warm and humid summers with thunderstorms but mild winters. 

The best time to plant the garlic cloves is during the shortest day of the year and harvest them during the longest day. 

Generally, the shortest day would be in the middle of December, i.e., during the early winter.

Continental climate

Such areas receive very cold winters and warm summers. 

In winters, the temperature can fall nearly around -22°F. 

Garlic requires about 32-50°F for bulb development and vernalization. 

So, the best time to plant garlic in regions with such climates is in the early fall, 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes.

Polar climates

The areas with polar climates are intensely cold.

The temperature doesn’t even rise in summers higher than 50°F.

The best place to grow garlic in areas with such climates is in the greenhouse. 

There is no best time for this climate.

If summers have such temperatures, winters will have much lower temperatures which can be bad for the garlic cloves. 

Besides, the cloves with tender roots won’t be able to grow much well.

So, growing them in greenhouses and controlling their growing conditions is the best way to grow garlic in polar climate areas. 

General guidelines for planting garlic according to zones and months

  • Zones 0-3 (if there is no permafrost): Plant garlic from early to late September.
  • Zone 3-5: Plant garlic from late September to early October.
  • Zones 5-7: Plant the cloves from mid to late October.
  • Zones 7-9: Plant garlic from late October to November.
  • Zones 9-10: Plant the cloves from late October to December. Select garlic that needs less cold vernalization to develop bulbs, for example, Softneck varieties.

Is it too late or too early to plant garlic?

The correct time is mid-fall. 

If you plant garlic only 1-2 weeks before the first frost, it will be too late to plant garlic. 

The garlic cloves will not receive enough time to develop their roots properly.

If frost arrives before the roots can develop well, the tender roots will get affected too much by the frost. 

The soil might get displaced and tear the tender roots.

It will affect the growth and result in stunted growth, no bulbs, or no multiple cloves. 

Even if the roots aren’t affected much, there won’t be enough root growth. 

With such a small amount of roots, the plant will have a lower survival rate. 

Similarly, it would be best not to plant the garlic cloves too early.

The cloves will have a lot of time to develop roots and sprout. 

When they develop tops, and suddenly winter arrives, the heads will get hurt by the cold winters.

Such a condition can dehydrate the cloves and even kill them. 

However, you can avoid this by adding a thick layer of mulch and covering the heads to help them overwinter. 

But this may not have progressive results if your region is too cold as the polar climates, so don’t plant them too early. 

How many bulbs of garlic should I plant?

Each garlic bulb is formed from one single clove.

An entire developed bulb contains at least 8-10 cloves. 

So, if you plant 10 cloves, you will get 10 bulbs, each containing 8-10 cloves.

In general, you can plant around 15-20 cloves per person.

It means that you will require 2-3 bulbs for planting. 

You can plant more cloves if you have enough space in your garden.

For example, you can plant around 45 cloves if your garden measures 22 square feet.

Sometimes, people plant one whole bulb.

In such a case, the cloves don’t require division, and new bulbs will grow in clusters. 

Growing in clusters will lead to deformed or small bulbs. 

However, planting whole bulbs is done when you want to grow garlic as a perennial.

You will get lots of bulbs each year without planting the cloves again. 

If you wish to save the bulbs from your harvested garlic for planting, select the bigger bulbs and cloves.

It will help you get bigger bulbs. 

A big-sized clove or bulb can help you get high-quality bulbs in the coming year. 

While keeping the cloves or bulbs aside for planting, you must add a few more bulbs so that you don’t run out of cloves to plant in the coming growing season.

Final thoughts

Garlic can be grown in any season, provided the weather remains according to garlic needs. Garlic should generally be planted 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes and 2-3 weeks before the first frost. The timing is generally mid-fall. 

By planting in such timings, garlic cloves can get the cold during winter, which is required for vernalization. You can also plant garlic in other seasons. Still, some guidelines must be followed, which are already shared in the article. Don’t plant them too early or too late.


Reference: The Pennsylvania State UniversityGarlic Production for the GardenerUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstOhio State University Extension.

Richa

Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

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