Can You Plant Garlic in the Spring? Planting Guide


Is spring a good time to plant garlic? The short answer is yes! While planting garlic in the spring will produce a more beautiful harvest than planting it in the fall, which is when you’ll get the best results, is still a good idea.

The majority of gardeners sow garlic in the fall. There are two reasons for this: 1) Planting garlic in the fall gives the cloves time to establish roots before winter; and 2) Garlic needs a cold period to stimulate bulb development. The plants can then emerge from the ground and begin to put on new growth as soon as the weather warms up in the spring. That said, if you missed the fall planting window, it is still possible to plant and enjoy a good harvest from spring-planted garlic. Learn everything you need to know about planting garlic in the spring by continuing to read.

Types of Garlic

There are two main types of garlic to grow: hardneck and softneck. Garlic comes in hundreds of different varieties. Jessica writes about them in this detailed article, but here are the basic differences:

Hardneck garlic: As hard neck garlic is very cold tolerant, I grow it in my northern garden. Early in the summer, gardeners typically cut off the scapes that the plants produce in an effort to encourage the growth of large bulbs. The scapes can be eaten, and we enjoy making pesto with the abundance of scapes we have. The main stem of hardneck garlic bulbs is surrounded by a single row of cloves. While producing fewer cloves per bulb than softneck varieties, hardneck garlic typically produces much larger cloves.

Softneck garlic: Since most varieties aren’t as cold-hardy as hardneck garlics, softneck garlic is frequently grown in warmer climates. For easy storage, softneck garlic can be braided and lacks a rigid central stalk. Additionally, they produce more cloves per bulb, ranging in size from small to large. Softneck bulbs are renowned for having a long lifespan in storage; when kept properly, they can last for six to nine months.

Can I Plant Garlic in the Spring?

Garlic can be planted in the spring, yes. You can cultivate it to produce bulbs or a crop of green garlic. Scallions are the garlic equivalent of green garlic, also known as spring garlic. The plants grow into thin stalks that have tiny bulbs and leaves that are bright green. The tenderest leaves, stalks, and bulbs are best for salads, sautés, pastas, and other dishes that benefit from a garlicky kick. The entire plant can be consumed. You can make pesto from the tougher leaves or flavor cooking oil with the leaves before using it. Early in the spring is the best time to plant green garlic by burying the cloves in the ground and spacing them two to three inches apart. When the plants are between twelve and eighteen inches tall, begin harvesting.

But garlic bulbs are the primary reason gardeners grow it. And planting garlic in the spring at the earliest opportunity and then creating the best growing conditions are the keys to producing healthy, large bulbs. The important thing to remember is that your spring-planted garlic bulbs will probably be a little bit smaller than those planted in the autumn. I’ll go over all that below. You haven’t done anything wrong, but garlic planted in the fall has an earlier start to the growing season. The harvest season shifts when garlic is planted in the spring as opposed to the fall. Depending on your region, the digging season for fall-planted garlic can range from early to midsummer. Garlic planted in the spring needs a few extra weeks to catch up, and it is harvested in the middle to end of the summer.

Spring-planted Garlic Needs a Cold Treatment

Hardneck garlic needs to divide and form bulbs during a cold period known as vernalization. Mother Nature takes care of vernalization over the winter when garlic is planted in the fall. Garlic sown in the spring, however, might not be exposed to cold temperatures long enough for this process to take place. If vernalization doesn’t take place, cloves frequently form rounds rather than bulbs. Instead of a bulb with numerous cloves, a round is a plant with a single, sizable clove of garlic. Even though the harvest is less overall, garlic rounds are still edible. In order for rounds to develop into bulbs the following year, they can also be planted again. The good news is that vernalizing garlic before planting it in the spring will encourage bulb development.

How to Vernalize Garlic

Hardneck garlic seed needs to be exposed to a cold period prior to planting in order to vernalize. There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Planting stock should be stored in the refrigerator for four to eight weeks. Place the cloves in a zip-top plastic bag. Make ventilation holes in the baggie before adding the garlic. You could also leave the bag’s top slightly ajar. Make sure there isn’t a buildup of moisture or mold on the garlic by checking it every week. Plant the cloves immediately if you notice sprouting or the development of roots.
  2. Sow seeds as soon as you can. Get outside and plant your garlic if there is a thaw in the very early spring or late winter. The garlic cloves may be vernalized for you by Mother Nature during this planting window.

Before planting, soft neck garlic should spend two to three weeks vernalizing in the refrigerator. Alternatively, plant the cloves in the garden as early as possible.

When to Plant Garlic in the Spring

Do you desire large garlic bulbs? When the ground is ready, plant the cloves in your garden. Although it may seem too early to plant a crop outside, keep in mind that garlic needs a chilling period and is cold-hardy. I’ve in the past planted additional cloves in my garden during a thaw in February or March. This gives the garlic four to six weeks, or even longer!) of cold which should be enough to initiate bulb formation.

A Step-by-step Guide to Planting

Garlic is simple to grow! It requires little maintenance and encounters few pests and diseases. Even the deer that wander my property don’t often bother my garlic patches. Here’s how to plant garlic in the spring:

1 – Find the best location for growing garlic. This is particularly crucial for garlic planted in the spring because you want the plants to grow as quickly as possible once the weather warms. In a garden with at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day, garlic thrives. Raised beds, I’ve discovered, produce healthier plants and bigger bulbs when I grow garlic.

2 – Prep the soil. A nitrogen-rich soil is what garlic prefers. Prior to planting, I incorporate aged manure or compost as well as an organic granular fertilizer. If you know you’ll be planting green or bulb garlic in the spring, try to prepare the site in the fall. When you have a planting window due to weather, you’ll appreciate the time savings.

3 – Plant the cloves. The cloves should be planted six inches apart and two to three inches deep. To maximize growing space, I arrange my plants in a grid pattern in my raised beds.

4 – Mulch the bed.Put two to three inches of straw or chopped-up leaves on top of the bed after the cloves have been planted.

5 – Water deeply. Give the garlic bed a thorough watering to make sure the newly planted cloves have all the moisture they require to begin developing roots.

When to Harvest Spring-planted Garlic

When the lower half of the plant’s leaves have turned brown, garlic is ready to be dug. As was mentioned earlier, spring-planted garlic needs a few extra weeks in the garden to grow to its full size. Keep an eye on the leaves, and when the bottom three or four have dried out and turned brown, gently lift the bulbs from the ground with a garden fork.

Tips to Successfully Plant Garlic in the Spring


1. Start as Early as Feasibly Possible

The key to getting a good crop from garlic planted in the spring, in my experience, is to get it in the ground as soon as it can be worked. Garlic that is sown in the spring rather than the previous fall frequently develops a single large clove instead of a cluster of bulbs. These have a scallion or green onion appearance and taste fine, but they are not what you expect when you plant garlic.

Rather than very early in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, this is more likely to occur when planting garlic around the last date of the frost, for example. Here in Zone 4, when I planted garlic cloves in March or early It reached a very respectable size in April, despite being less substantial than usual. It has grown to properly form cloves.

Don’t give up if you’re reading this in May and still want to plant garlic. The garlic is still eatable and delicious even though it will probably only grow into a single bulb without any cloves. According to everything I’ve read, you can even plant it in the fall for the following year and have it develop into properly clothed garlic bulbs.

2. Carefully Choose a Planting Site

If your garlic will have a shorter growing season than usual due to being planted in the spring, it’s more crucial than ever to select a prime location. Choose a location with well-drained soil that gets full sun – at least 6-8 hours daily.

Additionally, it’s generally a good idea to use a garden bed that hasn’t recently been planted with alliums like onions, garlic, or other bulbs. If you must choose between the two, in my opinion, you should always give the location’s quality the upper hand.

3. Use the Best Seed Garlic You Have Available

Great garlic starts with great garlic bulbs. While it may be tempting to cook the most beautiful garlic bulbs you have on hand and plant any scrawny leftovers, it’s actually worth it to sacrifice the biggest, best, and most attractive cloves for planting.

If you’re buying “seed garlic” in the spring, it’s often much harder to find, and more picked over than in the fall. Just make sure to find the best seed garlic you can. There is always the grocery store if you cannot find any. I’m aware that numerous posts have been written about how useless it is to plant grocery-store garlic, but in reality, I’ve grown some absolutely beautiful, luscious garlic from grocery-store cloves that I used sparingly. Don’t skip growing garlic just because you can’t get your hands on good “seed garlic.” Put your best effort into planting some garlic.

4. Prepare the Soil Well

The soil must be loose and well-worked because garlic is a heavy feeder. Spend some time deeply preparing the soil. Before planting, add several inches of high-quality compost and thoroughly mix it in. The extra work put in at this stage will really pay off.

5. Plant the Garlic Cloves With Optimal Spacing

Assuming that garlic planted in the spring won’t grow as big as garlic planted in the fall, it can be tempting to cram it in. But in my opinion, that might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Giving spring-planted garlic the same amount of room as I do fall-planted garlic has worked well for me.

Traditional spacing typically dictates planting cloves 4-6″ apart, in rows 1′ apart. My favorite spacing, which has always given me exceptional garlic, is planting the cloves 8″ apart, in staggered rows that are also 8″ apart. This method effectively gives each plant plenty of room while packing as many garlic cloves as possible into a sizable raised bed.

To plant the garlic, you must first separate each bulb into individual cloves. A separate plant will grow from each clove.

Plant each clove, fat end down, to a depth such that there’s about 1.5″ of dirt covering the tip of each clove.

6. Caring for Garlic Once It’s Planted

Several inches of mulch would now be piled over the garlic bulbs if you had planted it in the fall to help it stay warm during the winter. To allow the garlic to grow unhindered through the mulch in the spring, you would remove all but an inch or two of mulch.

You should avoid adding a thick layer of mulch when planting garlic in the early spring, but if you do have any, apply a thin, even layer of mulch, such as straw. As a result, the bed will start off strong by retaining moisture and having a mildly moderated temperature.

Make sure the garlic receives adequate watering as it grows. It doesn’t like to stay soggy, and you want the garlic bed to be in a well-drained area, but it’s crucial to avoid letting the garlic bed get too dry between waterings. You’ll want to maintain the best conditions possible, especially since spring-planted garlic has a shorter growing period.

Avoid the temptation to use fertilizer to accelerate growth during the summer. The soil should have everything the garlic needs to thrive if you’ve worked a good thick layer of compost into it before planting.

You might want to give your garlic a boost every two weeks with a natural fertilizer (I like this one) if you skipped this step and planted it in soil that is deficient in nutrients.) Once the plants are about 8″ high, you’ll want to stop applying any fertilizer so that they stop pouring energy into growing lush foliage, and start diverting that energy into bulbing up underground.

7. Remove Scapes as They Appear

You’ll begin to notice those lovely curly scapes emerging from each garlic plant in the middle of the summer. When they begin to circle completely, cut or break them off. By doing this, you can prevent the plants’ energy from shifting from the formation of cloves to the production of seeds. When the scapes are removed, the garlic bulbs will grow larger and be delicious! Consider adding them to a stir fry or making garlic scape pesto.

8. Harvesting Spring-grown Garlic

Around the end of July or the beginning of August, in the middle of the summer, garlic is typically ready for harvest. You’ll know you’re getting close when the lower leaves start to turn yellow. The bottom three leaves on the majority of plants should turn brown before you harvest your garlic, as a general rule of thumb.

You won’t get bigger garlic by leaving the harvesting process too long. It won’t store as well because the cloves will start to separate from the central stalk and become loose. According to this growing manual from the University of Maine, you have about two weeks after the bottom three leaves turn brown to harvest your garlic.

After harvest, cure your garlic for 3–4 weeks by cutting the tops off an inch or two above the bulb and storing them in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area to dry. Garlic should be kept dry, dark, and cool. (You shouldn’t keep it in the refrigerator because it will sprout when it is cold and humid.)

Where to Buy Garlic for Spring Planting

It’s simple to find garlic seeds (which are simply bulbs or cloves meant for planting) in the fall. If you’re looking for specific varieties, it can be a little more difficult to locate in the spring. It can be purchased at a nearby garden center or ordered online. In the spring, a lot of nurseries introduce different kinds of softneck garlic. Most are more reliable bulb producers from spring planting and require less vernalization than hardneck varieties. In order to give the cloves of spring garlic a cold treatment, buy it as early as possible, regardless of where you get it.

How to Use Spring Garlic

spring garlic

Fresh, mild, sweet, and almost nutty in taste, spring garlic is. While spring garlic is frequently used in Asian cooking, it can also be used in place of leeks, scallions, or chives in recipes as a milder alternative. One stalk of spring garlic is roughly equivalent to one clove. Additionally, you can eat raw spring garlic raw on top of salads.

“You may not get as pungent of a garlic flavor,” Snyder said. “The flavor will be somewhat more pronounced. The green components are also palatable and appealing.”

Along with scrambled eggs, Fuller suggests sautéing them. Snyder uses hers for pickling due to timing issues, or she adds them to mashed potatoes for a smidge of garlic flavor. A tasty, simple, and entertaining cooking experiment, spring garlic is a great addition to your garden.

In the meantime, you can use garlic that you planted in the spring to harvest in the late summer just like any other garlic.

Conclusion: Happy growing!

You can totally plant garlic in spring and if you want to grow big bulbs from spring-planted garlic just follow these tips:

  • Start as early as feasibly possible
  • Carefully choose a planting site
  • Use the best seed garlic you have available
  • Remove scapes as they appear
  • Harvesting spring-grown garlic

I sincerely hope they are helpful. Those are my top recommendations for planting garlic in the spring and still getting a respectable harvest. Happy growing!