Planting Garlic in Fall 37 Comments
In late summer or early fall, most gardens are full of delicious vegetables ready for the table and winter storage. This time of year can be one of the most rewarding times for gardeners as the fruits of their labour are fully paying off. As a result, one of the last things on their mind is preparing the garden for planting garlic in the fall.
Most vegetable growers or gardeners do their garden planning during the winter or very early spring. This means that they often overlook the fact that garlic should ideally be planted in fall. In climates like Canada and the northern United States, fall planting of garlic produces strong flavoured, hardy garlic bulbs that can grow to impressive sizes. With a bit of special attention, garlic can be planted and overwintered in almost any region, including the North.
Three Important Steps:
(1) Planting Date
The best time to plant garlic in the fall will depend on your location and climate. The goal is to have the cloves develop as much root growth as possible before winter, without having the garlic emerge from the ground and ending up with green top growth. This means that the date of planting can range from mid-September to as late as the end of November depending on where you live and how long you want your cloves to grow roots before winter.
Generally speaking, it is recommended that garlic in Canada be planted around October 15th every year. This conventional wisdom, however, is a very broad recommendation and is not always ideal for every location.
In colder zone 2 & 3 regions such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and parts of BC where winter comes early, garlic planting can start as soon as September 15th and go as late as the end of October (or until the ground freezes).
In warmer regions like southern Ontario, Quebec, coastal B.C, the Maritime provinces, and much of the Northern United States, planting can range from early October until the last week of November. If garlic is planted early in the season and some green top growth occurs above the soil line going into winter, it is not the end of the world. The green leaves may die back over winter, but the cloves will re-grow new leaves in spring.
(2) Planting Depth
Generally, garlic planting depth ranges anywhere from 1" to 3" inches deep. How deep you should plant your garlic cloves will depend on a couple of factors.
The first thing to consider is the type of soil you have. On poorly drained soils like clay, or regions that generally receive very high amounts of rain, planting deeper than 1" or 2" can cause the garlic to decay over winter, in early spring or during wet periods. In sandy or very well-drained soil, planting less than 2" or 3" can lead to drought stress during hot or dry periods.
On occasion, some growers plant deeper than 3", however, this only works in very dry sandy soils. Generally, any deeper than 3" is considered excessive and will force the garlic plants to use valuable energy when emerging from the soil which can limit the size of the harvested bulbs come fall.
The second factor to consider is the climate of the area. The deeper a garlic clove is planted, the more winter protection it has. In warmer regions like the west coast where winter conditions are mild or in areas with very high snowfall, planting depth is less of a concern. In very cold climates like the prairies or locations that have a lot of freezing/thawing cycles, planting on the deeper side can help protect the cloves over the winter. At a depth of 2" garlic is usually deep enough to survive the winter. However, 1" can easily have winter kill on the more exposed areas without a thick mulch cover.
(3) Winter Protection
In the colder regions of Canada and some northern states, covering the garlic with a mulch such as straw, hay or leaves is highly recommended to protect the bulbs over winter. In milder regions like southern Ontario, mulching is not essential, however, it can still help protect the garlic from freeze/thaw cycles, as well as keep the soil warmer to allow the roots to continue growing into early winter.
Mulching should be delayed until late fall (usually November) when the weather has turned colder. This delay will help prevent the bulbs from rotting under warm and wet soil conditions. In very wet regions where the winters are mild, mulching is not generally recommended (especially on clay soils).
In spring, remove the mulch covering as soon as possible. The ground will usually still be frozen, and the removal will help warm up the soil quickly. Mulch can either be thrown into the compost pile or put back over the garlic as a summer mulch once the temperatures increase.
For more information on growing garlic, see our other blog articles or growing garlic pages.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps others learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.
If you have experience or some thoughts about planting garlic, Leave a Comment Below! We'd love to hear what you think!
John Boy Farms on December 6, 2022 13:07
Garlic does need some moisture in the fall to help initiate root growth. Most of the time the weather is cool with some rain, so watering is not necessary. However, if the soil is dry, then watering is recommended in order to help get the garlic off to a good start. Be careful not to overwater, as this can sometimes cause rotting or disease if the draining is poor.
Terri on December 6, 2022 13:01
Do you water after planting in the fall, or not?
Suzanne C on June 21, 2022 13:34
Hello; I’m from Kapuskasing, Ontario, this is my 2nd attempt at garlic, I planted garlic in an 8’X4’ raised bed last September I could see some shoots starting to come through in Oct and then mulch for the winter. I’m wondering we are now May the 28th and I don’t see anything yet, I guess something happened along the way, or could it be normal? 🤞
Thanks for any info
Franc on December 19, 2021 14:48
I have prepared my garden soil heavily with horse manure and shredded leaves. Plant 600 hard neck garlic every Nov in southern Minnesota zone 4b. Since the soil is rich and loose I bury the bulbs 6 inches deep. I plant bulbs 10-12" apart in 3 rows 12" apart, leaving a larger row for walking. Bulbs planted to shallow will not give plant support in the summer wind and tip over. Normally a small garlic shoot appears before snow fall and I cover with mulch about 6". About April I remove most of the mulched leaves from the top of the soil and allow the ground to warm up. I gently fertilize twice in the spring and summer growing season with a 10-10-10 garden fertilizer. Water weekly depending on the rain. Harvest in the middle of July. Never had a crop fail and always get huge bulbs.
Catriona Smith on April 21, 2021 23:02
This is my 3rd year growing garlic, (Toronto, Ontario), with great success. However I uncovered the garlic yesterday, (I covered it in leaves over the winter), to find some of the new garlic shoots are yellow, some however came through the leaves by themselves and they’re green. I’m wondering if I left uncovering it too long and do I have a problem. Now I’ve pulled away the leaves, will opening it up to the air/sun rectify this problem, the garlic is planted in full sun. I have 7 different varieities, about 50 bulbs in total. Hoping you can help and I’m also hoping it’s not a fungal issue!
John Boy Farms on December 29, 2020 00:44
I’ve never heard of anyone tarping their garlic over winter to keep the excess rain off, however, it might work. It would probably be best if you could keep it off the ground (kind of like a tent with open ends) in order to allow airflow. Raised beds also help a lot with all the excess water.
When planting cloves, we measure from the tip of the clove. Most growers plant between 1 and 2 inches when measuring this way.
Katy Helliwell on December 29, 2020 00:44
In coastal BC would you ever consider tarping your garlic bed to avoid long stretches of winter rain? I have a raised bed (1 foot high) and am worried that the well composted soil is always wet. It is the end of December now and the green stalks are up after planting Nov2. Hopefully this is a sign that the bulbs are not rotting. Also I feel silly asking but have to – is the planting depth of ^2 inches from the base or the tip of the clove? (Have assumed from the tip). Thanks so much
John Boy Farms on November 12, 2020 14:22
If your garlic has come up in fall already, it is probably best to cover it with a thick layer of mulch to help protect it through the winter.
Priyani on November 12, 2020 14:22
I am from Toronto ,I planted garlic in late October ,they are growing now ,what should I do ?
John Boy Farms on October 30, 2020 13:17
How many cloves a bulb forms, has to do with growing conditions in early spring. The garlic plants start to differentiate (form the different cloves) as soon as the ground thaws and the garlic starts to grow in spring. This differentiation happens over a few weeks and is usually finished in May when the plants only have 3 or 4 leaves.
If there is some sort of stress (such as drought conditions) or an extreme cold event during this period, the differentiation process can be halted and you end up with single cloved rounds or bulbs with only 2 or 3 cloves. The effect can be non-uniform and differ throughout the growing area. Every variety is also affected differently. On our farm, we have mostly only seen this happen in Porcelain, Creole and Asiatic varieties.
This year there were a lot of growers (including ourselves) that had a few spring nights where the temperature dropped to about -15C when the plants had 2 to 3 leaves. Although the plants appeared ok, it ended up halting the differentiation and causing the same issue for all of us and we ended up with low clove numbers.
The edges of raised beds would definitely get more cold exposure than the center, so your theory is very possible.
The single rounds and 2 to 3 clove bulbs are great planting stock because they are so large. There is no risk of increasing the chance of it happening again by replanting them.
Deb on October 30, 2020 13:17
Hi there, question for you. I purchased your book and have thoroughly enjoyed all the helpful information however a solution to my problem wasn’t addressed. My fall planted garlic this year was slightly disappointing. Approximately half didnt form into bulbs but rather one big clove the size of a golf ball. I did plant last fall in a raised bed covered with mulch and it seemed that the occurrence of the single cloves was more prominent on the perimeter of the bed. Some people said it was inconsistent watering but I tend to disagree due to the fact other cloves grew into beautiful big heads. Thoughts? Was it too cold on the perimeter for the clove to bud? At what stage does the clove bud, in the fall when it is growing roots or the spring? Thanks!
Barb on October 30, 2020 13:19
According to the Ontario zone guide, I am in a 5b zone, between Orangeville and Arthur. How deep should I plant my garlic?
John Boy Farms on October 8, 2020 19:05
Generally, you don’t have to water much in the fall, although you do want some moisture in the ground. It really depends on what your conditions are and soil type. The cloves will send down roots if there is any moisture at all. In fact, cloves kept in storage will send out roots if the humidity is high enough, so it doesn’t take much.
Bottom line, if the bottoms of the cloves are sitting in some moisture you probably don’t need to water. If they are sitting in loose, dry soil, then probably best to water. If you’re uncertain, water a bit as it won’t hurt. We usually get a rain or two in fall so have fairly good soil moisture at lower depths. This means we rarely water in fall, but would do so if there are drought conditions.
John Boy Farms on October 8, 2020 18:08
Although some growers like to soak their garlic cloves in different types of solution (eg, diluted compost tea) before planting, it’s not necessary for growing a healthy crop. Planting healthy bulbs in fertile soil is usually the best approac.
Laura English on October 8, 2020 19:07
Hi there, excellent information! I am wanting to try planting garlic again this fall after a total failure of what I planted last year. Should the planted cloves be watered at all after planting? I live outside of Winnipeg near Birds Hill Park, many thanks!
Robert on October 8, 2020 18:02
What is this I hear about soaking the seed In water ,the night before planting. Yes or nay
Suma on August 7, 2020 02:11
Hi, I want to grow garlic in Fall in Utah zone 7A. Is there any companion plant u suggest to be grown along with garlic.
John Boy Farms on July 31, 2020 13:54
The challenge with planting in above-ground containers (especially in MB) is that the winter is so cold. When cloves are planted in the ground, heat from lower depths keeps the soil from dropping lower than about -5C under the snow. If you plant above-ground, then you’ll need to try and keep the soil inside the trough insulated as best you as you can.
Greg on July 31, 2020 13:53
Hello, I live in Winnipeg, MB and plan to plant garlic in a 100 gallon stock watering trough. I am wondering what additional precautions to take for overwintering?
Dee on July 7, 2020 14:50
Hi I live in Alberta and was wondering if you could grow garlic over winter in say the 20 gal growing bags? And if you can what type would be best
phil cormier on December 31, 2019 00:04
Hi i’m in Iroquois falls Northern Ontario and I plant garlic the 2nd or 3rd week in October in clayish soil 4 in deep with good results looks like the wetter the soil is at planting in the fall the bigger the garlic it freezes over the 1st or 2nd week of nov
Frank on December 6, 2019 18:30
I planted my garlic in late October and it is starting to come up. I put straw over the bed. I live in the northeast.
darby on November 10, 2019 07:13
This is my first year gardening, and I’d like to try my hand at garlic. I live in Zone 7a, and have raised beds. Given I’m further south, should I forgo the mulch, and how far below the soil should I plant my cloves? Thank you!
John Boy Farms on October 13, 2019 16:02
Trish, yes raised beds are great for growing garlic, especially in places with poor soil. The only thing to consider is the risk of winter kill in places with cold winters. Zone 4 definitely has some cold winter temperatures and can cause problems if precautions are not taken. Covering the garlic with mulch and keeping the beds to a maximum height of 6 to 8 inches usually allows enough ground warmth to keep the garlic cloves healthy all winter. You can grow them in higher beds, however, the risk of winter kill increases. This means you may need to use thicker mulch cover and possibly even insulate the sides of the beds.
Trish Nesbitt on October 13, 2019 14:52
Hi , we have been growing garlic very successfully in Southern Ontario for a number of years. We have now moved to south of Algonquin Park have built a raised garden as the soil here is not all that good. Zone 4a. Any suggestions or advice using a raised bed. Depth of bed 18" .
Michael landry on July 25, 2019 19:08
Planted garlic in fall and still no flowers mid July. Living northern New Brunswik
Cindy Aspden on June 12, 2019 10:56
2017 was my 1st year growing garlic. I knew my newly inherited garden is awful for weeks, so I mulch the garlic in my raised beds with lots of leaves. July 2018, I harvested 22 lbs of amazing, big garlic and so many scapes!! Fall 2018, I didn’t get around to doing the mulching and being in the Okanagan, didn’t think I’d have a problem. We had an amazingly mild winter (like old times) and in January my garlic was looking amazing!! I was sooo excited! Then February brought an unusual and long -10C cold spell and I lost almost all of my 200 cloves and the remaining ones just didn’t show growth. So after all the small tops fell over the beginning of June, despite watering, I dug it today. I harvested around 30-40 small bulbs (thumb size at best!). So I can attest to the need for mulch. At least that’s what I think was the cause for my bad year. I sure would appreciate feedback though as I am still a beginner and learning.
John on January 27, 2019 14:19
If you’re looking for good quality seed garlic, all our of our varieties are cold hardy and good for Zones 2 or higher. Everything is grown in southern Manitoba which has a very similar climate to central Alberta. We start taking pre-orders in May and the garlic becomes available starting in August for fall planting (GarlicSeed.ca).
As for your existing garlic, it’s hard to say exactly how each variety will do without knowing exactly what type of garlic you are growing (garlic names are notorious for being inconsistent). My guess is that they would do very well planting in the fall and end up growing much larger. The Russian Red hardneck for sure and the Ukranian Softneck probably.
In Alberta, it can be a bit tricky to overwinter garlic in the ground because of the occasional warm spells that can melt all the snow cover. If you plant in the fall, I would make sure that there is a very thick cover of straw protecting the garlic for the winter. Also, there is no rush to dig up your spring planted garlic. The bulbs can be replanted well into October or even November, as long as the ground hasn’t frozen yet.
John on January 27, 2019 13:20
Marti, there aren’t too many critters that like to eat garlic, however, the odd one occasionally will taste a few here and there. We’ve had deer and woodchucks eat some plants in the past, but they do not usually find the garlic to be very appealing. Chances are that they won’t eat much more, however, you may want to fence the garlic off.
Laura Kos on January 27, 2019 13:07
I am researching starting a commercial garlic business in central Alberta. I have summer planted Russian Red and soft variety Ukranian garlic for years with good success. and always replant my original garlic. Can I summer plant my garlic, pull it earlier than usual to dry, then replant the same garlic for Fall planting? It is stored in a cold room in my garage and keeps well over the winter. I also have Elephant garlic that was given to me that should have been planted this past fall but we got frost here early and I wasn’t able to get it in the ground. Also, because we are a cold climate, where do you recommend that I purchase my commercial farm starter package of garlic as I need the other recommended varieties that grow well in Central Alberta?
Marti on January 27, 2019 13:07
Hello, I am growing a few dozen garlic plants in my own garden here in BC, and have done for 3 years now. But when I went out to admire them today one was pulled out and several had the tops chewed off. Would you know what this might be and what I can do about it?
Thanks in advance,
John on October 29, 2018 23:35
Northern Ohio is pretty similar to southern Ontario. Planting is usually best around the third week of October and covering with mulch is a good idea. Nice long growing seasons so make sure the fertility is high so that you get BIG bulbs.
Beverly Johnston on October 29, 2018 23:21
Any suggestions for planting in Northern Ohio?
Murray Donovan on October 26, 2018 01:27
Thank you John Boy! Just finished planting 5 lbs of fat bulbs.
John on October 10, 2018 11:22
Hardneck garlic does really well in Alberta. Hardy and lots of flavour!
Jack dumais on July 13, 2018 23:26
What s garlic is the best for growing in alberta
Ella on February 22, 2018 21:08
Any vegetables got straight from the garden to cook, tastes colorful and this in itself is a prime inspiration to grow our own vegetables. Peas unquestionably have a harmonious association with the nitrogen settling microorganisms and along these lines, they are high in protein content. To add to it they are extremely delectable too.