When do you plant your garlic? Do you plant at that time out of habit only or is it habit with a good reason behind it?
Past 3 Years
I usually plant garlic on October 20. This can be a good date or a bad date depending on the weather and other variables.
- Three years ago, I had about 6 to 8 inches of tender top growth before winter. The winter was what we had come to think of as a “normal” cold and although the tops took some freeze damage and turned brown, I still had a nice harvest.
- Two years ago the winter was brutal. (Not what we in Virginia have been use to.) I lost all the garlic top growth to the severe cold. It’s said that when garlic is frozen back to the ground (even two times), it can still regrow and be fine although the yield might be lower. Mine did not regrow and I lost all but a few bulbs.
- Last year after planting on October 20 garlic obtained top growth of about 6 inches before the freeze set in. Again the winter was brutal. Although the garlic’s leaves turned brown from the cold, I still had a decent harvest. I may possibly have had larger bulbs had the top growth not been damaged.
Changing My Planting Date
This year I decided to make the most of my time and effort by planting my garlic a bit later: sometime the first week in November. The time in your area might be different since the idea is to plant soon enough to get good root growth before your ground freezes, but not a lot (if any) top growth.
Roots will continue to grow as long as the soil is not frozen. Tops grow when temperatures are above 40ºF.
Need a More Specific Guideline to Determine Your Planting Date?
You might want to use the guideline mentioned in Pam Dawling’s book Sustainable Market Farming:
Plant when the soil temperature taken at 9AM at 4 inches deep is 50º F.
She also notes that Texas A&M says to plant when it’s less than 85ºF at 2 inches deep.
Want to Know if Your Garlic Has Put Down Roots Before the Freeze?
My friend and reader, Jack in New Jersey, (who grows a LOT of garlic) wanted to know.
In the early winter of this year he told me via email what he did to find out:
“I purposely planted my Garlic a few weeks late again, trying to avoid too much fall growth. I was quite satisfied after carefully digging down to inspect a few cloves, the huge anchor roots have pulled the cloves down another 2+” deeper and although they haven’t sprouted thru the soil, they’re ready to. I suspect the next few warm days we get should put them (cause them to grow) into the mulch zone. In 2012, they grew 6″ before going dormant and I had a bit of frost damage to the tips.”
If you’re growing a lot of varieties it would be interesting to check each variety and see if there is a difference in root growth.
Have you chosen a planting date that will give you the best chance for a bigger and better harvest? You still have time to think it over.
Growing Garlic – Is Yours Large Enough For You?
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