Plant Garlic in the Fall

Learn why planting garlic in the fall will help insulate the crop from the onslaught of summer heat and ensure this spring will bring a bountiful harvest.

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    I didn't originally set out to plant garlic in the fall. It was a mistake; this is the original mistake.
  • The first intentional fall planting of garlic in November didn't look like much—just a plot of ground covered with mulch and lined with rocks.
  • By the first of April, the new growth really began to take off.
  • By May 1, the patch was thriving.
  • By mid June the garlic was ready to harvest.

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I never did have any luck trying to raise garlic. Never, that is, until I accidentally stumbled onto the "Ultimate Garlic-Growing Secret": Treat 'em like daffodils. Plant garlic in the fall! That way, the plants can start sproutin' very early the following spring (exactly the way that crocuses and daffodils do), grow rapidly during the still-cool days which follow, and "set" their bulbs long before the hot days of summer that can be so wiltingly hard on "regular" spring-planted garlic.

Yeah, I know. Most of the gardening books tell you to plant garlic in the spring and to space the bulbs three inches from each other in rows laid out 12 inches apart. I also know what always happened to my crop when I followed that advice:

The garlic would grow fine during the remaining days of spring, but then the inevitable hot, dry New Mexico summers that my vegetable patch has to contend with would hit the plants like a blast furnace. By the time fall rolled around, all I'd have to show for my efforts would be a few shriveled bulbs that measured about half the size of the "store-bought" kind. And, as you know, being outdone by the local supermarket riles the heart of any gardener!

And so I proceeded through life, riled year after year by one stunted crop of garlic after another. And then one fall I accidentally missed a bulb as I was digging up what little garlic had managed to make it through the summer. And that single, solitary bulb just sat out there in the garden through the following winter like a smug little time bomb, waiting for a new growing season. Little was I to know the fortunate consequences of that accident.

It wasn't until the following spring, about the time the daffodils started sprouting, that I noticed a small, suspicious clump of green shoots out in the middle of the vegetable patch. "What the dickens are you doing here?" I asked. Naturally enough, the clump didn't answer—but I swear it had a sly smile on its little green face.

My first impulse, of course, was to rip out the offending sprouts, since they quite obviously were going to do nothing but get in the way of my other gardening operations. Then curiosity got the best of me (I knew the foliage was garlic, but I didn't know how well it would grow), and I ended up working around it.

9/25/2017 6:55:56 AM

In 2016 I asked a garlic vendor at a clam chowdah festival In bethel me. how he got his garlic to grow to the size of tennis balls or larger. Plant in early Oct., 8" deep and 8" apart in all directions. bought some of his garlic and did same-12 cloves. Ended up with 11 plants. Not the size of his, but quite nice. This year I will fertilize, mulch etc. before I plant. I have to get out in the garden soon because we are at the end of Sept. Planting 30. Good luck.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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