Planting garlic in the spring doesn’t give the largest cloves, but it still provides a great harvest. Here is the best way to plant garlic in your vegetable garden in the spring.
Typically, garlic is planted around late September or early October, but if you missed the fall planting, spring planting is possible. The issue with spring-planted garlic is that it normally doesn’t grow garlic bulbs, but rather you end up getting one single clove of garlic. The spring garlic is still edible, in fact, still great tasting.
Finding seed garlic in the spring is going to be more difficult than if you were trying to find seeds for fall-planted garlic. As a last resort, you can go to the grocery store and buy full bulbs and plant those.
Planting Garlic in the Spring
As soon the soil is workable, get that garlic in the ground. Do not wait until your average last frost date. The earlier the hardneck garlic can get in the ground, the longer it has to grow larger cloves and it also might get a change to get the chilling period that was missed throughout winter. Mother nature does this thing where it divides and forms the garlic into bulbs when it gets cold. Since spring planted garlic misses that, its a good idea to try and take advantage of any late frosts.
Plant the garlic in well-drained soil and in an area that receives 6-8 hours of full sun. Direct sunlight is important. Make sure to have fertile soil because garlic is a heavy feeder. Loosen the soil surface and if you can get your hands on some good compost, mix compost in with the soil.
Take the whole bulb and separate into individual cloves. After you separate cloves, remove the outer skins if there are any extra, but be sure to leave some covering on the bulb. Each row of garlic should be 4 inches apart.
Plant each clove, pointed end up about 2 inches deep. Cover with soil.
Put a thin layer of mulch on top, about 1-2 inches. There should not be near as much mulch like you would with fall planted garlic because this garlic will not be going through cold winters, so you don’t need to worry about keeping it protected in a chilling period. The organic mulch will help keep the garlic bed moist. Water the garden bed after planting to give the garlic a good start.
Harvesting Garlic Scapes
In mid-summer, it will be time to harvest the garlic scapes. Do not throw these as they are great in scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, or use them to make garlic scape butter. The mild garlic flavor from these is wonderful!
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Taking Care of Garlic Plants
- Garlic plants require nitrogen so make sure to fertilize them with organic fertilizer if you see leaves turning yellow.
- Water the garlic every five to seven days in late spring to early summer, when they are actively bulbing.
Harvesting Spring Planted Garlic
As soon as the green leaves on the bottom of the garlic plants start turning brown, you will want to watch them closely. Since this garlic was not planted in the fall, it needs a little longer growing season. Harvest time will be when the 3-4 lower leaves are brown.
To harvest the garlic, grab a garden fork or use your hands and lift the garlic up out of the soil.
When planting garlic in the spring, you might end up harvesting one single bulb instead of a bunch of larger bulbs. Don’t panic! That is what is known as spring garlic or green garlic. Garlic needs enough time and a cold period to grow large cloves and since your garlic didn’t get that, the bulb size didn’t get a chance to get big. If your spring planted garlic has one small bulb, it is called a round. This is still a great food harvest.
In late summer, look at buying seed garlic to get a head start for autumn-planted garlic. Since I’ve never planted soft neck varieties (I’m garden zone 4), here is a list of hard neck garlic varieties to choose from:
Porcelain, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Glazed Purple Stripe, Marble Purple Stripe, Asiatic, Turban, and Creole.
Spring garlic should be planted as soon as the soil is workable. This will usually be about 6-8 weeks before your average last frost date, but will be dependent on the weather every year.
Technically, garlic should be planted while it is still winter. If you plant it past May, you probably won’t have much success. Garlic could be planted in the spring if you just want to harvest garlic scapes.
Planting garlic in April will still give you a successful harvest. However, you won’t be harvesting the typical garlic like a fall planted garlic. April planted garlic will be much smaller and won’t have the separate cloves.