Did you miss your chance to sow garlic last fall? Worry not. The beauty of garlic is that you can plant it in the spring for a mid-summer harvest.
However, it is important to understand that garlic that is planted in the spring has a shorter period to grow. As a result, your garlic bulbs will be smaller than fall-planted garlic. But other than having a smaller yield, planting garlic in the spring allows you to savor the mild but garlicky flavor of green garlic.
What is Green Garlic?
Green garlic, also called spring garlic or baby garlic, is garlic grown in the spring. Unlike regular garlic, baby garlic is more slender in appearance with a milder garlic flavor. Generally, this garlic resembles a slightly overgrown green onion (Allium cepa), small leek with tender white bulbils.
Although green garlic resembles spring onions, it is still immature garlic. Green garlic has a small bulb but with no clove separation, just like spring onion. It also has a milder but somewhat sweeter flavor than that of mature garlic.
You can grow green garlic from garlic cloves or garlic seeds from farmers’ markets. Note, however, that spring is also the time of year when plants are in their most vulnerable state.
During this period, the weather can turn from high strokes of heat followed by hail storms and punishing freezes damaging the entire plant. As such, tender fresh growth is susceptible to damage by the wild swings in weather between March and April.
Why is Most Garlic Grown in the Fall?
Fall planting of garlic is generally recommended for larger bulbs. As soon as you’ve planted your garlic in the fall, it begins to grow roots. Garlic plants need 4 to 8 weeks of cold weather, about 40 degrees F. to divide into cloves, which form a garlic head.
So once winter arrives, the garlic plant goes dormant. Garlic uses this period of frigid temperatures to stimulate the seed to divide and form one big head of garlic with multiple cloves. This process is known as vernalization.
Once spring arrives, your fall-planted garlic resumes growth. Garlic seeds start to bulb when they receive about 14 hours of sunlight. This allows the plant to yield more foliage, which triggers the growth of larger heads of garlic.
What Are the Benefits of Planting Garlic in the Spring?
Even though your spring-grown garlic may not yield cloves, there are many benefits to planting garlic in the spring. They include:
To Grow Green Garlic Shoots
Spring planted garlic yields straw-shaped vegetables, popularly known as green garlic shoots. These shoots sprout immediately after planting. You can harvest the light green parts of green garlic shoots to use just like you would garlic chives.
There are many recipes that call for these shoots. These green stalks have a mild but lingering garlic flavor that is great grilled or roasted in olive oil, braised, or poached.
To enjoy this delicacy for longer, wrap it in a damp paper towel, put it in a plastic bag, and store it in the refrigerator. You can also put it in a tall glass with the roots submerged in water and refrigerate.
Green Garlic Bulbs
The flavor of young garlic bulbs is mellower than that of mature garlic plants. Its mild flavor means that green garlic bulbs and the entire vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked. You can find green garlic in your local grocery store or at farmer’s markets.
For hardneck garlic varieties grown in the spring, expect to harvest scapes or flower stalks. These garlic scapes are tender with a mild garlic flavor. You can prep green garlic scapes and store them in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Spring-planted garlic that is left to mature yields small but delicious heads of garlic. Even though your garlic may fail to divide into cloves, the bulbs will still have that true garlic flavor.
To enjoy your spring garlic bulbs, simply wash the bulb and cut off the roots plus any dry leaves. Next, mince the garlic bulb to top a baked potato or chop it up to add to raw salads. Store green garlic bulbs in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
How to Plant Spring Garlic in Beds
You need to sow garlic seeds directly into the garden bed for spring garlic. However, unlike fall planting, where the goal is usually to plant the fattest and hardiest cloves to grow gigantic garlic bulbs, you can plant small cloves for spring-planted garlic if your goal is to harvest green garlic. Spring garlic seeds can also be planted closer together as compared to garlic planted in the fall.
For a good harvest, avoid planting your garlic in an area where you had planted other alliums – green onions, scallions, chives, and leeks – in recent years. This way, you will avert common allium diseases. Here are the steps involved in planting spring garlic in beds:
Step 1: Choose an Ideal Planting Spot
A good area for planting garlic should be one that is protected from the winds and receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. The area should also contain well-draining sandy or loamy soil. Garlic plants require well-drained soil to prevent mold infestation or rotting of the bulbs.
Using raised beds is highly recommended as it helps prevent soddy soil during periods of rain in the spring. Raised beds also help to keep the ground warm.
Step 2: Clean Up and Bed Preparation
As stated above, spring garlic does exceptionally well when planted in fertile, well-drained soil. In this case, a raised bed works very well. The clean-up and bed preparation tasks are pretty straightforward, especially in beds free of permanent plantings such as annual flower gardens or vegetable patches.
Start by removing any established winter weeds whose roots have now gone deep. These weeds include chickweeds, ground ivy, bittercress, and henbit. You will rarely need any herbicides to kill these weeds as they will lift quite easily between your fingers in the rich, moist soil. Also, they will surrender to a weeding knife or long-handled hoe.
Step 3: Fluff Up the Soil
Since you are planting in the spring, the soil will most likely be compacted with rain and snow and will require fluffing up. Wait for the soil to thaw properly. To test whether the soil is ready:
- Take a handful of soil into your palm and form it into a ball.
- Next, tap the ball of soil with your finger.
- If it breaks apart easily, it is ready to plant.
- If the ball of soil holds firm, give it a little more time to dry out.
The easiest way to fluff up your soil is with a three-pronged cultivator. you can also opt to turn the bed with a garden fork, which gets deeper.
Step 4: Fertilize the Soil Beds
After fluffing up the soil, ensure your planting soil is nutrient-rich. Soil fertility is critical because spring-grown garlic plants need to grow fast to make up for the time they lost in the fall. Apply a nitrogen-rich, organic, or regular fertilizer to your beds for spring planting.
You can also improve the health of your soil using homemade compost or commercial soil amendments. We highly recommend using homemade composted leaf mold or well-rotted manure, which are reliable free of weed seeds.
Water the bed generously. Give the soil time to settle before sowing your seeds.
Step 5: Sow Your Seed
Sow your seeds in a straight row so you can easily spot the gate-crashing weed seedlings for rapid removal. After sowing, remove any growing weeds with a weeding knife or a long-handle hoe. Just make sure to get them out before they go to seed. Weed seeds easily germinate any time the soil is disturbed. Next, remove all the dead kale stalks, carrots, and other lingering detritus of last season.
How to Plant Spring Garlic in Permanent Plant Beds
The bed cleanup and preparation require a more delicate touch in a permanent plant bed. When removing weeds, take care not to damage the emerging growth of bulbs and perennials. Hand-pulling is a good option, or use a small, sharp knife to get into tight spots.
Remove any accumulated leaf litter from the planting area. Cut back any dead stalks remaining from the previous year’s grasses and perennials. Be careful not to cut any growing shoots. This patch will benefit greatly from some cultivation and top dressing of leaf mold and organic.
Step 1: Plot Out Planting Holes
Since spring-planted garlic yields small bulbs, you can plant the garlic seeds slightly closer together. Ensure the planting holes are spaced about 2-4 inches apart. The holes should be 2 inches deep.
Step 2: Prepare Your Seed
Break apart the bulb into separate cloves. Choose healthy-looking cloves for spring planting. Then, you can use the remaining cloves for cooking.
Step 3: Plant Your Garlic Cloves
Place your cloves into the planting holes with the flat side facing down. Cover the cloves firmly with soil—water well.
Step 4: Do Some Mulching
After planting, lay down a protective layer of mulch. Cover the newly planted garlic bed with a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch. You can use organic mulch such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, or straw. The mulch should be at least 4 inches thick in cold winter regions. A light application of mulch is recommended in milder climates to control the growth of winter weeds.
Mulch will protect garlic roots from being heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing. It also helps keep the weeds down and conserve moisture when the temperatures start to rise.
How to Plant Spring Garlic in Containers
Garlic planted in the spring can also be planted in pots, containers, or planters.
Choose the Right Planting Pot
When choosing the right sized container, take into consideration the amount of spring garlic you’d like to grow. the larger the pot, the larger the soil volume and the more the garlic plants it can hold. Also, due to the larger soil volume, you will not have to worry about watering your plants as much as you would a smaller pot. Depthwise, the container should be at the very least 8 inches deep. Also, make sure your chosen container has sufficient drainage holes.
Choose the Right Potting Mix
When growing spring garlic in containers, make sure your growing medium is 3/4 high-quality potting mix and 1/4 organic compost.
Fertilize Your Potting Mix
Add fertilizers such as fish emulsion or liquid kelp seaweed.
Sow the cloves 2-3 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart.
Choose an Ideal Position for Your Pots
Put the pot on a patio or deck where it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Water your plants regularly. Also, make sure to fertilize the plants every 2-3 weeks, preferably with an organic fertilizer.
Nursing Spring-planted Garlic Crops
Garlic is generally a low-maintenance plant. However, you will need to put in some extra TLC for spring-planted garlic if you want to grow large bulbs. Here is what to do
Feed Your Garlic Crops Regularly
Garlic plants are heavy feeders. These plants do extremely well when planted in rich organic soil. To increase the nutrients in your soil, feed it with compost and fertilizers rich in nitrogen, such as alfalfa meal or fish fertilizer. This promotes healthy foliage growth. Healthy foliage growth is critical to growing large bulbs. Use liquid organic fertilizer on your soil every 2-3 weeks to ensure a consistent feed.
When the leaves start to grow, it is important to feed the garlic plant to encourage good growth. Gently work a teaspoon or two of blood meal -a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that breaks down slowly- into the soil near each garlic plant.
Provide Consistent Moisture
Ensuring your garlic crops have consistent moisture throughout the growing season is essential. this is critical since even a week of inadequate moisture content can lead to stunted bulb growth, leading to a poor harvest. For maximum production, ensure your plants receive at least an inch of rain each week for loamy soil and two inches of moisture each week for sandy soils. Avoid watering your garlic plants overhead to avert fungal disease, especially during rainy spring weather.
Do not let grassy or broad-leaved weeds compete with your garlic plants for nutrients and moisture. Instead, pull out weeds as they appear.
Cut off Stalks
In late spring, hardneck garlic varieties produce flower stalks that have small bulbils. Once the scapes loop around twice, cut them off using hand pruners or garden snips. Cutting off these stalks helps divert the plants’ energy into the garlic bulb itself. Use the scapes to make pesto, stir-fries, or even as a garlic substitute in your recipes.
In the month of June, the garlic plants stop producing new leaves and begin to form bulbs. At this time, you should remove any remaining mulch and stop watering.
When Should You Harvest Garlic Planted in the Spring?
Once your garlic plant develops shoots, you can start harvesting it while still green. Green garlic shoots can be enjoyed in salads, pestos, pizza toppings, or stir-fries. In about eight weeks after sowing garlic, your spring garlic will be ready to harvest when the greet tops are long and tender.
You will know when to harvest your spring-grown garlic when most of the dark green leaves have turned brown. Note, however, that with spring-planted garlic, you will need to give it a few more weeks in the garden to bulk up. Start harvesting when the bottom 3 to 4 leaves have dried up or turned brown. Be careful not to bruise your bulbs.
People Also Ask
Is It Ok to Plant Garlic in the Spring?
Certainly, you can plant garlic in the spring. For best results, plant the cloves 2-3 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. Select a suitable spot for your containers where they can get 6 hours of direct sunlight, and keep your plants well-watered. Use an organic fertilizer to feed them every 2-3 weeks.
What is the Best Way to Plant Garlic in the Spring?
For garlic planting in the spring, it is important to use the appropriate soil. Garlic thrives in well-drained and fertile soil, having a pH range of 6.0 – 7.2. You can prep your soil by adding organic compost and a complete fertilizer like alfalfa meal or fish fertilizer to increase nitrogen.
To grow your garlic successfully, plant the cloves in a sunny area, making sure they are 2-3 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. Water them regularly and use organic liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to get the best growth and yield. Don’t forget to remove any weeds that might compete with the garlic plants for nutrients and moisture.
What is the Best Month to Plant Garlic?
It’s best to plant garlic in the fall, specifically between October and November. This timing will give the garlic enough time to grow before the cold weather arrives and will enable it to take advantage of winter rains.
For a successful spring planting, it’s recommended to plant garlic cloves as early as possible. Late February or early March is an ideal time when the ground is soft enough to work with. Plant the cloves 2-3 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart and regularly water them. Keep an eye out for weeds and apply organic liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Follow these steps for a successful garlic harvest.
How Late in the Spring Can I Plant Garlic?
For optimal growth, it is recommended to plant garlic in February or March when the soil is soft enough to work with. Although late spring planting can still be done in May, it may not give the garlic enough time to mature before harvesting. Additionally, late-planted garlic may be more vulnerable to fungal diseases due to warm and wet spring weather.