I Forgot to Plant My Garlic in October!
Planting Garlic in March
Michelle Scullard, Master Gardener
Are you a garlic lover? Yes, you can buy it at the grocery store but garlic grown in your own garden is so good. Garlic is normally grown in late fall BUT not to worry, if you act quickly, you can plant garlic in March and harvest it in July. Read this article to learn more about planting garlic in the spring or the fall.
Didn’t get around to planting garlic this past fall? You can still get a garlic harvest this summer but you have to be quick and get that garlic in the ground as early as possible in March. As soon as the ground is thawed, you can plant those garlic cloves.
Usually, garlic is planted in the fall in mid-to-late October, after the first killing frost. It is covered with straw or leaves and in the spring, emerges as one of the first green plants. Luckily, Minnesota springs are cool, so planting garlic in March still allows the garlic to go through the cold period it needs, although it is much shorter. Your garlic bulbs may be a little smaller, but you will still be able to harvest your own garlic. And there is nothing like eating fresh garlic from your own garden!
You should not plant the garlic bulbs from the grocery store as those are usually from California and do not grow well in Minnesota. You can look at seed catalogs or nurseries for garlic to plant and some may still have some seed garlic. There are two types of garlic; hardneck and softneck. Types of hardneck that grow well in Minnesota include Rocamble, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain. Softneck varieties that do well in Minnesota are Artichoke and Silverskin. They produce bulbs with more cloves and are the type of garlic you can braid.
Garlic is very easy to plant. To plant, take a bulb of seed garlic and break it into the individual cloves. Dig a small hole and place the clove pointed side up and cover with soil. You do not have to remove the papery skin that covers it. You can plant garlic close together, which allows you to plant a large crop in a small space. Plant in double rows that are six inches apart and plant the double rows 30 inches apart. You will want to plant in well-drained soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You will want to cover with three to four inches of straw or leaf mulch to add an insulation layer. You do not have to worry about uncovering them as the garlic will push through organic cover.
Controlling weeds is important as weeds can easily overwhelm the young garlic plants. Leaving the insulating straw or leaves that you used to cover them when you planted can help suppress weeds and keep in moisture. Water weekly to a depth of one inch.
Insects that can affect garlic include onion maggots, bulb mites, and aster leafhoppers. The aster leafhoppers can cause the disease aster yellow. Make sure to practice a four-year rotation to help reduce insect and disease problems and only plant firm, healthy cloves purchased from reliable sources.
Scapes are a bonus that grow at the end of the garlic stalk in early June. The hardneck garlics generally produce the scapes; rarely will the softnecks produce them. The scapes are the curved part of the stem at the top of the garlic stock. You can cut them when the green stalk starts curling. Cook them by sauteing them in oil, making pesto, or adding to dishes such as quiche. You can find recipes for scapes on the internet. There are mixed opinions on cutting the garlic scapes, however, as some people believe it affects the size of the garlic bulb. If you choose to leave the scape, a small garlic bulb grows on the end that will have small white and purple flowers.
These can be harvested to use as garlic seeds for a future growing season.
Garlic is harvested in late June to late July when the lower leaves begin to brown and about half the upper leaves are still green. You can also harvest a bulb and cut it in half to see if the cloves fill out the skins. If you are planting your garlic in March, you will likely be harvesting more toward end of July. Once you have dug up your garlic bulbs, leave about six inches to a foot of stem and knock off any soil. You then will need to allow the bulbs to cure for three to four weeks in a warm, dry, and airy place. You can place them over a screen or hang them so air flows around them. Once cured, cut the stems off and any remaining roots. You will want to store the bulbs in a cool, dry location. Garlic will keep for several months. You can eat the garlic as soon as it has cured. You can also save some to plant in the Fall after the first killing frost.
For more information: Growing Garlic, UMN Extension
Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension (1,2)