Planting Garlic In Spring February 28, 2016 14:50 1 Comment

Many gardeners do their garden planning during the winter or very early spring. This includes looking through all the seed catalogs and deciding what they will be planting in spring. Sometimes, this includes wanting to plant garlic in spring (see our Spring Garlic Seed) even though it is not generally the best time of year. In colder climates like Canada, this can be a bit of a problem and requires a bit of special attention.

Planting Garlic In Spring

In Canada, most garlic is planted in the fall as the plants require a natural dormant period that includes cold temperatures. When you plant in the fall, the garlic starts growing roots until the temperatures freeze and then waits until spring to continue growing. This allows the garlic plants to get a head start on root growth and then explode out of the ground once temperatures warm up in spring. That's why garlic is often one of the first crops growing in spring.

That being said, garlic can still be planted in spring if someone is determined. It can be hard to find garlic seed to plant in spring, however you can sometimes find "spring garlic seed" for sale at garden centres or greenhouses. This garlic is almost always a softneck garlic and does not need as much (or any) cold exposure as hardneck garlic.

The key to planting garlic in spring is to plant as early as possible. That means planting the garlic cloves as soon as the soil is workable and long before you would consider planting any other garden crops. Even if the forecasted temperatures are for very cold weather, the garlic cloves  should still be planted as they are very cold hardy. 

Garlic is sensitive to day length changes and not having enough days with increasing day length can affect the size of the bulbs or even the formation of cloves within the bulbs. That is why planting garlic too late in spring will often just form rounds which are single clove bulbs. These rounds are perfectly good to eat and can be replanted in fall. They will usually form good sized bulbs with multiple cloves the next summer.

Another technique that some growers can use is to put the garlic in a very cold refrigerator for a few weeks. The ideal temperature is 0 to -3 degrees when trying to vernalize or "trick" the garlic into thinking it went through winter. Although -3 degrees is ideal, the refrigerator temperatures can also work. 

The spring planted garlic will almost always be smaller than fall planted garlic and will sometimes not form cloves. This however should not dissuade a dedicated gardener who really wants to plant garlic in spring, as it can still be very rewarding and perfectly good garlic can be harvested.