Planting Garlic

By Getty Stewart, Professional Home Economist

Fall is the perfect time to plant your garlic.  Planting garlic in the fall is your best bet for getting nice big garlic heads.

The exact timing is tricky.  You want your newly planted garlic to grow some roots, but you don’t want it to sprout.  Ideally, three weeks before the ground freezes is best.  For a northern prairie gardener like me, that probably means early to mid-October – although you never know for sure when working with Mother Nature.

Planting garlic is fairly straight forward – here’s what we do:

  1. We use the garlic heads that we grew during the summer, but you can buy garlic at any garden centre.  I would not, however, use the garlic you buy at the grocery store – unless you’re buying locally grown garlic.  It is best to stick to varieties that are local and are accustomed to your climate.   Can you imagine how a garlic grown in California would feel during a prairie winter!
  2. Separate the garlic heads into the separate cloves (known as “cracking the bulb”).  It’s not necessary to remove all the papery layers, but it is important not to damage the cloves, especially the bottom or “basal plate” – the part where the roots will develop from.
  3. Choose the biggest, plumpest, nicest cloves to plant.  The bigger the clove, the bigger next year’s bulb will be.  Save the small ones for dinner.
  4. Plant the cloves with the point sticking up towards the sun and the basal plate towards the soil.
  5. Plant 2 inches deep and leave about 3-4 inches between each clove.  It may seem like a lot of space, but remember, it has to have room to grow and it will be using the nutrients and water around it.
  6. Cover with soil.
  7. Cover with a mulch like straw or leaves that will add an extra layer of insulation throughout the winter.  Usually, a deep layer of snow will provide sufficient insulation, but if there isn’t enough snow cover, your garlic may not survive the extreme cold.
  8. Watch for sprouts early next spring.  You and the cut worms will be so happy to see the first sign of green
point up, 2 inches deep 3-4 inches apart
old corn stalks mark the garlic for next spring
An insulating layer of leaves

Getty Stewart is a Winnipeg-based Professional Home Economist passionate about connecting people with local fruits and veggies.  She is founder of Fruit Share, a volunteer run fruit rescuing program in Winnipeg, and blogger of VeggieDelight, a blog about gardening on the banks of the Red River.  She is also Past President of the Manitoba Association of Home Economists.