Spring is Not the Season for Planting Garlic

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Plant garlic in the fall.

Although garden centers often offer garlic cloves (Allium sativum) for planting in the spring, it’s not the right season for planting them. Garlic needs to be treated like a tulip and planted in the fall, at least one month before the first expected hard frost.

Why then offer garlic for spring planting? Sadly, this is to take advantage of the inexperience of novice gardeners who don’t know this isn’t the right season for garlic planting. After all, you plant every other vegetable in spring, even garlic’s closest relative, the onion: it may well seem reasonable that you would plant garlic in the spring too, but that’s not the case.

Better garden centers will warn you at the checkout that it’s best to plant garlic in the fall. So if you insist on planting it in the spring, it becomes your responsibility, not theirs.

Too late?

It’s too late and you have already planted your garlic this spring?

This won’t give you cloves of an interesting size, much less garlic that can be stored. On the other hand, you can still harvest and consume the leaves (delicious!), in fact, whenever you feel like it (there is no particular season for harvesting garlic leaves). However, if you harvest your garlic’s leaves, that will be the end of it: the weakened bulb won’t grow back.

Or let the plants grow all summer and simply don’t harvest them the first fall. Instead, leave them in the ground all winter, then harvest your garlic in the autumn of following year. 15 or 16 months to grow one crop? That’s the price you pay for sowing garlic at the wrong season!

Here are more details on how to grow garlic.

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