Planting Garlic in the Fall: For Beginners
Garlic is an incredibly easy plant to grow. The crop is hearty, and after purchasing bulbs once, you can continue to use them. However, many people do not know that planting garlic in the fall is an excellent way to have a larger harvest. Let’s get into our beginner’s guide on planting garlic in the fall!
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Why is Planting Garlic in The Fall A Good Idea?
When garlic matures during a cold period, it grows best. Therefore, planting garlic in the fall is a great idea! Like many other bulb plants, fall planting gives the plants a little additional time during the chilly fall months to get a head start. It ensures an earlier and larger crop the following summer.
Garlic will start growing again as the soil warms up in the spring, just like other perennials in your garden. The plants are now prepared to take off because the bulbs have become well-established during the winter.
If you miss the window to plant in the fall, you can still plant garlic in the spring, but the outcome won’t be as good. Garlic planted in the spring will probably need to be harvested before the bulbs mature. These immature bulbs, often known as “green garlic”, will have a similar appearance to scallions and can be prepared similarly to onions or leeks.
When Should You Plant Garlic in The Fall?
Garlic should not be planted until late September, following the autumnal equinox. Like other Allium plants, garlic is sensitive to day length and matures during the longest summer days. Planting it in late September/early October gives your garlic the perfect window to enjoy the long summer season.
In zone 4, we plant our garlic in October. By mid-to-late November, the ground is typically frozen. This would make it impossible to plant anything.
Temperatures in September can range drastically from extremely hot to bitterly cold. So, keep an eye on the long-term forecasts if you’re planting garlic in the fall.
What Type of Garlic Should You Plant?
Garlic comes in a wide range of sorts. However, there are two basic types: hardneck and softneck. Depending on your growing conditions and tastes, you can choose either. Here’s a more detailed look:
Hardneck garlic is preferable for cold areas. It is naturally very hearty and can withstand harsh weather. Additionally, it typically packs more flavor than softneck and peels more easily.
On hardneck garlic, the cloves develop in a single row around a woody stalk in the middle. As a result, you get larger but fewer cloves than you would with softneck garlic. Hardneck garlic’s blooming stalks, or scapes, can be picked and consumed like chives.
Popular hardneck garlic varieties include:
- Spanish Roja
- Russian Red
- Chesnok Red
When kept in the proper storage conditions, softneck garlic cultivars last about 9 months longer than hardneck kinds. It’s better for moderate conditions as it’s a bit more fragile than the hardneck garlic.
While producing more cloves than hardneck kinds, softneck varietals typically have smaller cloves because they develop in multiple layers around a soft stem. Softneck garlic bulbs can be braided together for simple drying and storage due to the soft stems.
Several well-liked softneck varieties:
- Italian Softneck
- Inchelium Red
Elephant garlic, which is more closely related to leeks than actual garlic, is a member of the onion family. It is well-liked for its big bulbs and flavorful taste. Similar to garlic, it can be easily produced, harvested, and consumed.
Where Should You Buy Your Garlic?
A wide variety of garlic may be found in seed catalogs. This is my preferred method of purchasing any seeds or bulbs for my garden because I enjoy geeking out over the background and distinctive qualities of each.
Additionally, local nurseries are a great place to find seed garlic since they typically only carry cultivars that grow well in your region.
Joining neighborhood garden organizations, whether in person or online, may be quite helpful for finding seeds of many kinds for your garden. Many gardeners are happy to sell seeds for a discount or give away seeds or garlic. They are also an excellent way to determine which types have the best reputations in your region.
Look for the biggest and healthiest bulbs when choosing seed garlic locally. Planting cloves from excellent, large bulbs enhances the likelihood of sowing the same at harvest time because the garlic will carry its characteristics on to its progeny.
If you’re looking for high-quality garlic that’s easy to grow, I recommend this garlic grow bag! You can grow this garlic anywhere, and it will teach you all the basics. This is great for beginners or someone new to gardening!
Grocery Store Garlic
While experimenting with regrowing store-bought veggies can be entertaining, planting store-bought garlic is typically not a good idea.
You really don’t know if it is a variety that will grow well in your area until you buy local, organic garlic. Additionally, store-bought garlic is frequently treated with many chemicals to extend its shelf life, hindering its ability to flourish when planted.
Garlic from the grocery store can be utilized if you can’t get quality seed garlic in time to plant it in the fall, but it might not produce the best results.
How To Plant Garlic in The Fall
Step 1: Choose a Location
Planting garlic in the fall is all about location. Choose a location in your yard where your garlic bed will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Garlic plants thrive in full sun and will not grow as well in shady conditions.
You must rotate the growing bed if you’ve planted garlic or a similar crop. Crops in the same family should be rotated yearly to prevent illnesses, insect accumulation, and nutrient deficits.
As a member of the allium (onion) family, garlic can be safely rotated with anything except other alliums, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, etc.), brassicas (broccoli, kale, etc.), and other brassicas.
Step 2: Prep the Soil
Garlic is incredibly simple to cultivate, but the soil must be properly prepared for the greatest and biggest bulbs. They require rich soil that has been deeply worked and has a pH between 6.4-6.8. Before planting, cover the soil with 2-3 inches of compost and well-rotted manure.
If you’re going to plant garlic in one of your existing garden beds, work 1-2 inches of compost into the soil. If you’ve recently done a fall cleanup, you can (and should) use some of the leaves you’ve probably collected.
Make sure to start with a rich mixture of premium soil and compost if you create a new garden bed or raised bed. For most crops—not just garlic—heavy soil needs more compost.
Need to check the PH of the soil? This 3 in one tool will check PH level, moisture, and light. It will seriously up your garden game!
Step 3: Prep The Cloves
You are now ready to plant your cloves after preparing your soil. When garlic is harvested, each individual clove in a bulb will grow into a plant with its own bulb of cloves.
To remove the cloves from your seed garlic bulb, gently split it apart. Leave as much of the cloves’ skin on as you can when you do this. This will shield them from bugs and decay.
Any extremely little, soft, or rotten cloves should be set aside. Only the largest and healthiest cloves should be planted.
Before planting, some gardeners soak garlic cloves in a solution of water and baking soda to ward off pests and fungi. This is optional and something you may experiment with as you learn more about producing garlic.
Step 4: Plant The Cloves
Dig 2-3 inch-deep trenches for rows of garlic cloves, or place each clove in its own hole. Cloves and rows should be planted at a distance of 6 inches apart, depending on your configuration.
When planting garlic cloves, it is crucial to remember that the pointy end should be up because that is where the leaves will develop. From the flat end, roots will grow.
Place the cloves, then carefully cover them with dirt by patting them down.
Step 5: Mulch the New Plants
After placing the cloves, cover the growing area with several inches of mulch to help prevent weed growth and winterize the bulbs.
Mulch condenses as it breaks down, so don’t be afraid to apply plenty of it.
You can utilize leaves and grass clippings that have not recently been treated with broadleaf herbicides in addition to straw, which is a fantastic mulch alternative.
How to Care For Your Garlic Plants
From the time shoots appear in the early spring until about June 1, feed the plants with a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer every other week. Water is essential throughout the early summer bulb-forming stage. Aim for an inch of new growth every week, including rainfall.
Around the summer solstice, hardneck garlic, the ideal variety for the northeast, will send up a seed stalk known as a scape. This should be stopped to urge the plants to focus all of their energy on bulb formation.
These delectable stalks loop like a spiral. Chop them up and incorporate them into salads, stir-fries, soups, scrambled eggs, and other dishes you wish to flavor with a little garlic. They create a tasty pesto when blended with parmesan cheese and olive oil.
To assist you in determining when to harvest your garlic, leave one or two flower stalks standing. Stop watering the garlic bulbs in July because the outer wrappers begin to dry about four weeks before harvest. At that point, too much water could taint the wrapper or possibly result in mold.
Harvest your garlic towards the end of July or August, when the upper leaves are still green, but the lowest third to half of the leaves have turned brown and wilted.
The flower stems might help make precise harvesting decisions because it can be challenging. It is time to harvest if the leaves begin to turn brown and the scapes are straightening out.
Storing and Curing Garlic
For 3–4 weeks, hang bunches of freshly harvested garlic to dry in a cool, well-ventilated, shaded location. Brush off any loose soil, trim the roots to 1/4 inch, and clip the tops back to an inch or two above the bulb before storing when the leaves, roots, and outer wrappers have dried fully. Hard neck garlic will last for five months, and soft neck garlic for eight months under ideal temperatures close to freezing and a humidity level of 65-70%.
You can use garlic for a million different things. For example, it’s a great insect deterrent. I make a garlic mosquito repellent that you can make as well.
Continue To Grow Garlic
To transplant for the next year, save your largest cloves. Old-timers claim that because garlic adapts to your growing conditions and gets better yearly, it “learns.” Plant some garlic this fall and grab life by the bulbs!