The Best Time to plant Garlic Cloves – Tips You Need to Know

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Garlic is not just a kitchen superstar; it’s also a fantastic addition to your home garden. But timing is everything when planting garlic to ensure a plump harvest. In this blog post, we’ll spill the beans (or cloves?) on the perfect timing for planting garlic. If you’re wondering when is the best time to plant garlic in your garden, you’ve come to the right place.

To know when to plant garlic at the right time, we need to figure a few things out – first, we have to decide on the type of garlic we want to grow, then our climate, and finally our storage needs. Once we have those figured out, we can determine the best planting time.

Planting garlic in the vegetable garden. Autumn gardening.
Table of Contents

    Choosing the Right Garlic Type

    One of the first decisions you must make is choosing the right type of garlic. There are two main types to consider: hardneck and softneck varieties. Let’s explore these options in more detail.

    Hardneck Varieties: Bursting with Flavor

    Hardneck varieties of garlic are known for their rich flavor and unique characteristics. These types of garlic produce a central stem called a scape, which can be harvested and used in cooking. The scapes add a delicious garlicky taste to dishes like stir-fries, pesto, or grilled as a side dish.

    One advantage of hardneck garlic is its ability to withstand cold winters better than the softneck garlic varieties. If you live in an area with harsh winters, hardneck garlic might be your best bet.

    Softneck Varieties: Mild Flavor and Versatility

    Softneck varieties have a milder taste than hardneck varieties but offer their own advantages. These types of garlic have flexible stems that make them ideal for braiding. Braided softneck garlic looks beautiful and allows easy storage and hanging in your kitchen or pantry.

    If you prefer a more subtle soft garlic flavor in your dishes or enjoy using a fresh garlic bulb as an everyday ingredient, softneck varieties may be your favorite choice.

    Softneck garic braided and rested on a rustic wooden table.

    Consider Your Climate, Taste Preferences, and Storage Needs

    When selecting the correct type of garlic for planting, it’s essential to consider factors such as climate, taste preferences, and storage needs. Here are some points to keep in mind:

    • Climate: If you live in a region with cold winters or fluctuating temperatures throughout the year, hardneck varieties are typically more resilient.
    • Taste Preferences: Hardnecks offer robust flavors that can elevate your culinary creations, while softnecks provide a milder taste.
    • Storage Needs: Softnecks are known for their longer storage life, making them a practical choice if you want garlic to last throughout the year.

    Considering these factors, you can choose the garlic variety that best suits your preferences and needs.

    Garlic cloves separated from the heads before planting in the ground.
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    Garlic Planting Timing by USDA Garden Zones

    To ensure the successful growth of your garlic plants, it’s crucial to sow cloves at the right time. The optimal planting time for garlic varies depending on your USDA garden zone. Let’s look at the recommended timing for planting garlic in different zones.

    Colder Regions (USDA Zones 1 to 6)

    If you reside in a colder region, such as zones 1 to 6, the best time to plant garlic is in the fall before the ground hard freezes. Planting in the fall allows enough time for proper root development before winter. Planting garlic in the fall gives it a head start and increases its chances of thriving when spring arrives.

    Planting garlic in colder regions during fall has several benefits:

    • Established Roots: By planting early, the garlic cloves have ample time to develop robust root systems before winter.
    • Cold Stratification: Cold temperatures during winter provide a period of cold stratification that helps break dormancy and stimulate growth once spring arrives.
    • Bigger Bulbs: Garlic planted in the fall tends to produce larger bulbs due to the extended growing season.

    You can plant garlic in the spring; however, the plants often form single bulbs and grow much smaller bulbs than the fall-planted cloves.

    Two markers with twine mark a line for planting seed garlic in the fall. The image is used to help illustrate the best time to plant garlic.

    Milder Climates (USDA Zones 7 to 10)

    In milder climates like zones 7 to 10, you have more flexibility with your garlic planting schedule. You can choose between late fall or early spring for successful growth. Both options work well, so consider factors like weather conditions and availability of planting materials when deciding which timeframe suits you best.

    Here are some considerations for the best time to plant garlic in warm climates and milder climates:

    • Late Fall Planting: Planting garlic in late fall allows it to establish roots before going dormant during winter. This method mimics the natural cycle of wild garlic varieties in these regions.
    • Early Spring Planting: If you missed the window for fall planting or prefer a fresh start with new cloves, early spring is an excellent alternative. Ensure the garden soil is workable and not too wet before planting.
    Concept of garlic autumn planting with agricultural meter to measure the moisture and pH content of the soil in a field.

    Checking Your Garden Zone’s Recommended Dates

    To determine the best time to plant garlic in your garden, consult USDA’s recommended dates based on local climate and frost conditions.

    Here’s how you can find the recommended planting dates for your USDA garden zone:

    1. Visit the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map website.
    2. Enter your zip code or select your state from the dropdown menu.
    3. Locate your specific garden zone on the map.
    4. Note down the recommended planting dates for garlic based on your zone.

    Following these recommended dates increases the likelihood of successful garlic cultivation in your area. Remember that these guidelines serve as a general reference, but local weather patterns vary, so always observe conditions in your specific location.

    Planting garlic in the vegetable garden. Autumn gardening. The image is used to help illustrate the best time to plant garlic.

    Garlic Planting Tips

    If you’re eager to start your garlic garden, using store-bought garlic is a convenient and accessible option. Follow these steps to plant your garlic:

    1. Select Firm Bulbs: When choosing garlic bulbs for planting, it’s essential to select firm bulbs from reputable sources. Look for bulbs that are plump and free from any signs of damage or disease. This ensures that you start with healthy cloves with a higher chance of successful growth.
    2. Separate Individual Cloves: Before planting, separate the individual cloves from the bulb. Gently twist and pull them apart, being careful not to damage the cloves in the process. This step helps maintain the viability of each clove, ensuring optimal growth once planted.
    3. Pointed End Up: When planting garlic cloves, correctly position them. Each garlic clove should be planted with its pointed end facing up. This orientation allows the sprout to emerge more easily from the soil as it grows. Planting them upside down may hinder their ability to break through the surface.
    4. Determine Depth and Spacing: Planting garlic cloves at an appropriate depth and spacing is crucial for proper growth and development. Aim for a planting depth of about 2 inches (5 cm). This depth provides enough soil coverage without burying the cloves too profoundly.

    To ensure adequate airflow and room for expansion, space each clove 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) apart within rows 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm) apart. This spacing allows each plant enough space to grow without overcrowding.

    A clove of garlic seeds lies in a row in the soil before planting.  The image is used to help illustrate the best time to plant garlic.

    Helpful Links and Resources for Sourcing Garlic

    Congratulations! You’ve learned all the essential steps to plant garlic in your garden. Now, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge into action and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Remember, gardening is a journey; there’s always more to learn. So don’t be afraid to experiment, ask questions, and seek additional resources to expand your garlic-growing skills.

    To continue your garlic-growing adventure, here are some helpful links and resources that can provide you with further guidance and inspiration:

    Learn More About Garlic:

    Garlic Sourcing:

    You can find garlic in almost any garden center in fall and spring, but if you want to find particular types and culinary wonders, check out the sources below.

    Gurneys has a unique assortment, and Burpee has an enormous assortment conveniently sorted by climate. I also added Johnny’s, as they ship to Canada (on most items), and we have lots of experience ordering from them over the years and highly recommend them.

    Remember, successful gardening requires patience and perseverance. Keep nurturing your plants with care, monitor their progress, and soon enough, you’ll enjoy the delightful taste of homegrown garlic in your favorite recipes. Happy planting!

    Garlic on a wooden vintage background. Seedlings for planting garlic.  The image is used to help illustrate the best time to plant garlic.
    Image signature that says " thanks for stopping by!  Laura"

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can I plant store-bought garlic?

    Yes! Store-bought garlic can be planted if not treated with growth inhibitors or chemicals. Look for organic or locally sourced options for best results.

    How do I know when my garlic is ready to harvest?

    Garlic is usually ready to harvest when the leaves start turning yellow or brown. You can gently dig around one bulb to check if it has formed cloves inside.

    Can I grow garlic indoors?

    Yes, you can grow garlic indoors using containers or pots. Ensure they receive adequate sunlight or use artificial grow lights for optimum growth.

    What pests should I watch out for when growing garlic?

    Common pests that can affect the garlic harvest include aphids, onion thrips, and nematodes. Implementing proper pest management techniques like crop rotation and using organic insecticides can help control these pests.

    How should I store harvested garlic?

    After harvesting, allow the garlic bulbs to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated area for a few weeks. Once thoroughly dried, trim the roots and store them in a cool, dark place with good airflow to prevent sprouting or rotting.

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