Planting Garlic in the Fall

Planting Garlic for Beginners

Planting Garlic in 5 Steps

1 - Find the Right Garlic

If you plan it right, you'll be looking for organic seed garlic from US farmers. Many times when food products come from overseas they can be tainted with chemicals to meet FDA requirements. Additionally, you will have the option of purchasing the hard or soft neck varieties, but check your zone to see if one or both will survive your winter. Ideally, you would only need to purchase the seed garlic once, as long as you set aside some garlic each year from your harvest to replant the following year.

2 - Time it Right

Try to calculate the first frost date for your area. Ideally, you want to plant your seed garlic approximately 30 days before the last frost date to give it time to get a little stronger before winter. Just to clarify, the "first frost date" really refers to the date when the average temperature is consistently below freezing (32°F) for your specific region.

3 - Choose Your Spot Wisely

Keep in mind, garlic is harvested in July, so pick a sunny spot that you won't need to use until then. If you're planning to companion crop, garlic grows well with vegetables like kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, and cauliflower. However, be mindful of your spacing, soil amendments and mulching.

4 - Plant the Garlic Properly

Break the garlic bulb into its individual cloves and plant the flat side down at about an inch or two deep. It'll be easier to plant them in rows, but as long as they are 6-8 inches away from each other, that should be ok. If you accidentally plant them pointed end down, don't worry, they'll still grow, but it will just take longer.

5 - Amend the Soil & Mulch

Use compost to boost the growth and health of your harvest. They have a very long growing season, so try to keep them well fed. This is highly encouraged if you plan to cover your garlic with mulch. Many gardeners add a layer to keep maintain moisture and prevent major temperature fluctuations. It's important to note, Do Not Mix Mulch Into Soil! The mulch could actually draw nutrients away from the garlic if mixed into the soil.

Update on My Garlic

Last year, I made the mistake of mixing the mulch into the soil, so I got small sized garlic bulbs during harvest. As a result, I had to get more seed garlic and use a different grow bed since the mulch would probably not have broken down in a single season. I decided to do an experiment and use 2 bulbs of organic garlic I purchased from the supermarket. Hopefully, my garlic can stabilize before the first frost as the weather has just started dropping to almost 50°F on some days. After Halloween, I plan to head out to some of the local stores to see if there are any deals on organic straw. If not, I'll just get some organic wood mulch and layer it on top.