Planting Garlic in the Fall

How and When to Plant Garlic

January 29, 2019
Garlic Bulbs


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Garlic is incredibly useful in the kitchen and surprisingly easy to grow in the garden. Learn how and when to plant garlic so that you can maximize your harvest!

When to Plant garlic

Fall is traditionally the best time to plant garlic in many regions. A good rule of thumb is to not plant garlic until after the autumnal equinox. Just like onions and other plants in the Allium family, garlic is sensitive to daylength and matures during the longest days of summer. Fall planting gives it a jumpstart on the growing season and it will be one of the first things to come up in the garden next spring.

Garlic bulbs

How to plant garlic

Garlic is extremely easy to grow, but good soil preparation is necessary if you want to produce the best and biggest bulbs. They need deeply cultivated, well-drained, rich soil with a pH of 6.4-6.8. Add 2-3 inches of compost and well-rotted manure to the bed before planting.

Use quality seed garlic and plant several different varieties just in case one does poorly. Separate the cloves no more than 48 hours before planting to keep them from drying out. The largest cloves will produce the biggest bulbs. Plant individual cloves, peels intact, pointy end up, 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart.

Mulch 5-8 inches deep with seedless straw. It will pack down over the winter to about 2 inches by spring and help to keep the weeds down during the growing season. Your garlic will form roots but little or no top growth before the ground freezes solid.

Garlic emerging in the spring.

Early next spring, you garlic will be ready to grow, sending up tiny green shoots as soon as the ground thaws.

Caring for Garlic Plants

Feed the plants every other week with a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer from the time shoots emerge in early spring until approximately June 1. Water is critical during the bulb forming stage in early summer, so try for an inch a week, including rainfall.

If you are growing hard neck garlic—the best type for the northeast—around the time of the summer solstice, your garlic will send up a seed stalk called a scape. This should be cut off to encourage the plants to put all their energy into bulb formation.

Garlic scapes.

These stalks curl into a loop and are delicious. Chop them and add to salad, stir fry, soup, scrambled eggs, or any dish you want to enhance with a little garlic flavor. Buzzed in the blender with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese, they make especially good pesto.

Leave one or two flower stalks standing to help you decide when to harvest your garlic. About four weeks prior to harvest, the outer wrappers on the garlic bulbs start to dry, so stop watering in July. Too much water at that stage can stain the wrapper or even cause mold.

Garlic Pests and Diseases

Not too many pests bother garlic, but don’t plant it where you have had trouble with wireworms or nematodes. Disease is more of an issue in poorly drained soils. See our Pest & Diseases Pages for more information.

How and When to Harvest Garlic

Harvest your garlic around the end of July or early August, when the lower third to half of the leaves have turned brown and wilted, but the upper leaves are still green.

It can be tricky deciding exactly when to harvest, which is where the flower stalks can come in handy. If the leaves are starting to turn brown and the scapes uncurl and stand up straight, it is time to harvest.

Storing Garlic

Hang bunches of newly harvested garlic to dry in a cool, well ventilated, shady spot for 3-4 weeks to cure. After the leaves, roots, and outer wrappers are completely dry, brush off any loose soil, trim the roots to 1/4 inch, and cut the tops back to an inch or two above the bulb before storing. Under optimum conditions of near freezing temps and 65-70% humidity, hard neck garlic will keep for five months and soft neck for eight months.

Labeled garlic ready for storage—or use!

Save your biggest cloves to replant for next year. Old timers say that garlic “learns” because it adapts to your growing conditions and improves each year. Grab life by the bulbs and plant some garlic this fall!

Learn more about garlic on our Garlic Growing Guide page.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

2019 Garden Guide

Reader Comments

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Where do I buy garlic to plant?

buying garlic to plant

Im in Arkansas in zone 8A
I need to know where to buy garlic to plant and what type for my area

Garlic is AMAZING

I tried growing garlic last year and only got one bulb.. I believe it was the wrong time to plant and my soil was not hand tilled finely enough. Gonna give it another go this fall because it's my FAVORITE seasoning/addition to any recipe.


With store-bought garlic, I've found that storing it in the fridge makes it try to sprout, and the green part isn't good to eat. You recommend storing garlic at near-freezing temperatures. Please clarify; thank you.

When storing garlic, just

When storing garlic, just think cold dry dark. Humidity can build up in the refrigerator making it too moist an environment. Ethylene gas given off by the other fruits and vegetables in the fridge will also encourage your garlic to sprout. We have had good luck storing our fully cured hardneck garlic in an unheated pantry and a cold closet. Both fall close to freezing in the dead of winter and we have had some varieties of garlic, especially ‘Chesnock Red’, last without sprouting until we are ready to harvest the new crop. Your store-bought garlic could be a variety that sprouts more easily. If it was previously stored at close to freezing temps and then brought into a warmer area -  like the store or your fridge - in 2 -4 weeks it will break dormancy and start to sprout.

Dry storage

We hang garlic in potatoes sacks 10# size in the basement, also we grind them in our ninja very coarse and store in pint jars one at a time in the fridge. When the jar is empty we refill. We use garlic every day so spoilage has never been a problem

sprouting garlic

Sprouting garlic is Very Good to eat!!! just like other sprouts ....


I have a dedicated garlic and multiplying onion bed. My onions do great. My garlic for three years now have never multiplied. They are always spindly. Have amended the soil with plenty of compost, and 21-0-0. What could be going on?

I would recommend planting

I would recommend planting the garlic in a new place. Somewhere no member of the allium family has grown in the past 3-4 years at least. By planting in the same bed year after year you deplete the soil of minerals and micronutrients the garlic needs to grow well. Also ditch the 21-0-0 fertilizer and go for one that is more balanced. Garlic needs potash and potassium just as much, if not more, than it needs nitrogen.

Garlic disappeared on me

Last October I planted garlic in two grow bags. Before the winter set in, they had all sprouted. After substantial freezes, the stalks withered and disappeared and I assumed that was normal. I kept waiting for them to grow again once the weather turned warm again, but nothing. In late April I dug under the soil to check on them and they had disappeared or dissolved. I have no idea what happened. There had never been any signs of disturbance. The winter had a few weeks of temperatures colder than normal (by Tennessee standards) and February was the third wettest on record (though there was never even any standing water in the grow bags). Does anyone know what happened?

Garlic seed curl

I have been planting my garlic for years saving the large ones for replanting. Two years ago i got 80% no seed came up in the stocks . So last year what i planted only about 15%-20% came the rest did not. is there a correlation between the two incidents or just a bad year?

Planted Fall garlic too soon

The warm Fall weather has jump started my garlic. I planted Columbus day weekend and I am already seeing garlic growth through soil . Are they doomed?

This long warm fall has made

This long warm fall has made the garlic put on more top growth than usual. Cold weather will be here soon enough and put an end to that top growth. Make sure your plants are well mulched and they should survive the winter just fine and start growing again next spring with little damage. 

Garlic disappeared

I planted my garlic this spring. It came up gold and then my chickens kept scratching in the straw and broke the tops while they were still green. I have tried to dig them up but they are gone. Did my chickens eat them?

Your poor garlic had a few

Your poor garlic had a few strikes against it. Spring planted garlic doesn’t have the strong root system that fall planted garlic has. It was not able to regenerate enough healthy top growth to withstand the assault by your chickens. They might have broken what roots it did have by scratching it up. I don’t know if they ate it or not but it seems to have given up on trying to grow. Try planting some this fall and keep the chickens out in the spring, at least until it has made some strong top growth.

planting garlic

Great article! I was looking for information on planting Garlic and you answered all my questions.


Some of our garlic has only 1 or 2 very large cloves. They sometimes are 1large round clove of garlic. What causes this to happen? If we plant these huge cloves, will they grow more heads like them or will they grow normal heads with 6-10 cloves per head?

Could it be elephant garlic?

Could it be elephant garlic? That grows into one solid head. Did you plant in the spring or fall? Sometimes spring planted garlic doesn’t have time to develop a good root system before the lengthening days signal time to head up and it fails to make individual cloves. Did it make any flower stalks (scapes)? Often cloves of hardneck garlic that don’t form scapes will make one solid head. The upside to one solid head is that you don’t have to do a lot of peeling and they are reported to keep better that standard multi-clove heads. You can replant it or try a new variety.


Thank you for your answer. However, I am still confused. The garlic isn't elephant garlic. It is a hard neck garlic that we save from year to year but not elephant garlic. We always plant a lot of garlic. We always plant it in October. Last fall,2016, we planted 4000 cloves. There were only about 25-30 cloves that grew into one large head. Still don't know why. I also asked if these one clove heads would grow into a head with 6-10 cloves like a normal head. Do you have any idea if they will grow normally? Thank you.

What little research I could

What little research I could find states that the solid head, when replanted, should form a multiclove head next year. I have never encountered this problem so I have no personal experience to back up that claim. If the majority of your garlic formed multiclove bulbs it doesn’t seem like it could be a genetic defect or a specific environmental cause. Plant a few and report back to us!

solid head garlic

I have harvested garlic in the past and always have a few solid heads. But , after curing and hanging for several weeks , they are normal with cloves just like the rest . I think some just develop slower , but in the end they were fine !


Can I plant garlic bought from the grocery store? I cannot seem to find any bulbs in any plant shops?

garlic from the grocery store

garlic from the grocery store is often sprayed with an anti-grow.. ive done it, but thats because they were already growing in my fridge :)
Try your local farmers market.

Elephant Ear

I love elephant ear garlic! My grandfather used to grow nothing but that!! Such big garlic!!!


This is my first year planting garlic. Some of it is doing well, some not so much. A few of the leaves on each plant have yellow tips, so I pulled a couple to check the bulbs and noticed tiny clear/white worms amongst the roots. Any thoughts on what these are and how to prevent them? We started the growing season with a pretty wet spring... Perhaps I should have removed my mulch to let the soil dry up some? Thanks!

I think you might have onion

I think you might have onion root maggots. They can overwinter in soil where any plant in the allium family has grown before so rotating your garden crops is one way to prevent infestation. The adult is a small gray fly that is attracted to rotting plant material so if any of your garlic bulbs were rotting due to a cold wet start this spring that might be where they started. There can be 3 or more generations of this pest per year in your garden but the worst damage is usually found in the spring. Not much you can do now except pull out the affected plants. Make sure to harvest all the garlic and any other alliums this fall and to plant next year’s garlic well away from any spot that has had alliums growing in it for the past 3-4 years.


I planted garlic above ground in a table bed in the fall and today i went to see how its doing and there are nothing left of them ? All are gone? What could have happened?

If you live in a cold climate

If you live in a cold climate and the table bed allows frigid air to freeze the bed solidly from all sides I would guess that the bulbs froze and rotted away. I’m surprised because they are a hardy crop. Maybe the bulbs you planted were diseased.

After planting this fall, do

After planting this fall, do I water them before or after mulching?

Unless your soil is really

Unless your soil is really dry or you live in an area that has been experiencing drought, you shouldn’t need to water after planting. If you think watering is necessary it can be done at any time, either before or after mulching but especially before the ground freezes.


I live in southwestern Oklahoma around here in altus OK the dirt is hard and rocky so I was going to make beds to grow garlic this is my first time right now it still gets uper 80's here in day time 50 and 60 at night , do you have any tips for me how to start and what I need to do and when? To grow garlic and what other plants veggies or fruit can I grow in the fall ,cold weather will be here soon the weekend of Halloween that when it start really cooling off here , real cold.

Get that garlic planted asap!

Get that garlic planted asap! As for fall crops, they should also have been planted by now. If you can find transplants of cole crops you could try planting them with the stipulation that when the temps get below freezing you are going to need to protect the plants with row covers or grow them in a cold frame. It is late to be starting veg from seed but you could try spinach, a leaf lettuce bred for winter growing, mache, or radishes. Again, when the weather gets really cold they will need protection. I know it is hard to think about planting a fall garden when the temperatures are still in the 80s or above but many of the plants need to be started then, whether direct seeded into the garden or started in the house to transplant later. Check out the Almanac’s All Season Gardening Calendar for planting dates for your area.

container garden

Can I plant these in a container?

growing garlic in containers

Yes, it’s possible to grow garlic in containers that are sized at least 8 inches diameter and provide the same depth so the roots have enough room. Just add compost, and plant 1 inch deep (4 inches apart) and don’t plant too close to the edges of the container.

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic
Could you tell me whether the same planting, growing, harvesting and storing advice applies to Elephant Garlic as applies to regular garlic. Also, can the cold temperature and humidity advice (to achieve a long saving time) that you provide for garlic be applied to Elephant Garlic, and can those cold temperature and humidity conditions be achieved by keeping the Elephant Garlic (or regular garlic) in a refrigerator? Thank you for your help.

Elephant garlic (Allium

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is a leek, not a garlic.  It’s ready to harvest when about 30% of the foliage is starting to yellow. In many regions, this point comes in mid-May or June. If harvest is delayed past that point, the bulbs begin to split open, revealing the individual cloves.

Growing Garlic

I grew my own garlic this year and want to replant for next year. Do i split open each group that comes apart and plant one piece in each hole or do I plant the entire thing?

That is the wonderful thing

That is the wonderful thing about garlic. You plant just one section or clove and you get a whole head of cloves in return. Separate the cloves right before planting to keep them from drying out. Plant the largest ones and eat the rest!


I have learned several new things about garlic. This is my first time growing it. I had problems with something digging some bulbs up and when I replanted some came up real close together. I hope they will not be too deformed!

Even if they aren’t perfect

Even if they aren’t perfect looking they will taste great and be worth the effort!

Garlic planting

I planted my garlic in the fall. We had a warm fall and the garlic started to sprout. The stems were about 4 inches tall. When it got cold the sprouts turned brown. Will this garlic still grow?

When to plant is always a

When to plant is always a conundrum, especially with the climate changing. Traditionally we have always planted garlic on Columbus Day here in NH but now I wait until November because our falls have been so warm and the garlic does sprout prematurely. Your plants might have suffered a small setback but they should regrow this spring just fine.

I'm in southern Ontario and

I'm in southern Ontario and have had garlic grow 4 inches in the fall before freeze up without any problem. Good luck!


I have been growing garlic for about 3/4 years and I am happy with what I get, but I would like to get bigger cloves, so how do you know want kind of garlic you get when you buy it from a farmer that growes it every year,& I get my veg from him & how do you know what is hard neck & does it matter, please advise me ,.Ann

Hi Ann, Sorry I did not see

Hi Ann, Sorry I did not see your questions sooner! If your garlic farmer doesn’t know the name of the varieties he is selling, you could try buying some named varieties from a catalog or online. We started out with named varieties and work very hard to keep them separate and well marked so we can market them accurately.  Replanting the largest cloves each year will give you the biggest heads of garlic in the fall though sometimes, if they are really large, they will form a double with 2 small heads. Hard necks have a stiff center stalk while softnecks are braidable. Which to grow depends on your climate. The hardnecks are hardier and do best in colder climates while the softnecks do great in warmer areas. They say that garlic learns meaning it adapts to your growing conditions and over time the heads will get larger.


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