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Preparation for Planting Garlic in the Fall

Fall is just around the corner and it is time to start thinking about planting garlic. Planting large garlic cloves will produce larger bulbs but another consideration should be the soil. Preparing the soil properly is also key to a successful garlic crop the following summer. Watch our video on Selecting and Planting Garlic for more information on planting and growing garlic.

Crop Rotation

Practicing smart crop rotation should be followed. Make sure you are not planting garlic (also onions, shallots or leeks) in the same area every year. Also when you plant garlic, you should not plant it next to an area where you are planning to plant beans or peas. Garlic and other alliums seem to stunt the growth of these vegetables.

The Soil

The best soil for growing garlic is sandy loam that is well-drained. If you your soil is clay and tends to have drainage problems, you can plant in raised rows, raised beds (at least 12 inches deep) or even large pots. It is best to get your soil amended with compost and fertilizer before planting.

Preparation Add Organic Matter to the Soil - This can be done naturally by using summer cover crops. You can grow a summer cover crop that gets worked back into the soil weeks before the garlic is planted. Some great summer soil building mixes are the Peaceful Valley Summer Soil Builder Mix, which is a mix of buckwheat and cowpeas. This requires more pre-planning since it will take about 6-7 weeks for maturation and then a few more weeks for it to break down in the soil.

Buckwheat is a great plant for quick growth (finished in only 30-45 days) and will actually pull insoluble phosphorus out of the soil which will be released into a plant-available form when it breaks down. If you don't want to grow a cover crop or don't have time, work in quality compost or composted manure to increase the organic matter.

Fertilizing When planting garlic in the fall, avoid giving it a high nitrogen fertilizer. The idea is to get the roots established before the plant gets hit by cold temperatures of winter. It is not ideal to have a significant amount of above ground growth before spring, unless you live in an area with milder winters. If this happens, the top growth can be damaged by severe winter temperatures.

Since plants need a good supply of phosphorus for root development, you can work in fertilizers like bone meal, soft rock phosphate or the Dr. Earth Bud and Bloom Booster that has higher levels of phosphorus and potassium. Come spring when the plants are starting to put out leaves, top dress with fertilizer with a higher amount of nitrogen, like the Bio-Fish All Purpose or the Phyta-Grow Leafy Green Special Fertilizer.

Mulching

Mulching is especially important if the garlic is planted where harsh winters are normal. Cover with a thick layer of straw to protect the garlic throughout the winter. About 4-6" in very cold regions. In milder climates a thinner layer is just fine. In the summer the mulch will help conserve water, cut down on weed growth and will help even out fluctuations in soil temperature.

Get your soil ready for planting your fall garlic and grow a great crop of plump garlic bulbs!

Resources

Growing Garlic in Minnesota Plant Garlic in the Fall

7 comments

  • Debra, maybe you have too much nitrogen in the soil or extreme temperatures. Does your plant produce flowers? If the temps are too high the flowers can be dropped by the plant.

    Suzanne
  • I have beautiful pole bean vines and NO BEANS! What could have happened?

    Debra Oneal
  • Miss Maggie, checked your average temps in the winter and you don’t get very cold in Austin. I would advise growing softneck garlic, unless you give the hardneck garlic a cold treatment in the refrigerator.

    Suzanne
  • I tried garlic this past year and had some success, not enough. I am in the Central Texas area just south of Austin. I like the red garlic and a few varieties. What can i grow well here? Thank you. thecottagesatboldheartfarms.com

    Miss Maggie The Cottages at Boldheart Farms
  • Hey Suzanne – I live in Anaheim Calif. and have harvested great crops of the hardneck Russian Red. I usually keep the heads of garlic in a paper sack in the vegetable bin in my refrigerator for a month before planting in November.

    Charles Warren
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