Planting Garlic at the Eleventh Hour

Yep, I’m behind. As always. No new story here. It is November 15 and I am yet to plant my garlic. I have been here before. In fact, there was that year that I didn’t get garlic in at all.

As I write this, there is a total of six cloves in the ground. That’s not six full bulbs. No I mean, a mere six cloves. One, two, three, four, five, six. I put them in at lunchtime, which was about six minutes ago.

The good news is that I know from experience (i.e. the experience of being late in planting garlic just about every single year save a handful in which I was actually on time or early even) that hardneck garlic (I only plant hardneck here in the North) is a tough plants that can handle it. Yes, it is always best to plant garlic about a month or more before the ground freezes so that they have lots of time to get established. That would be the right way. And around here, we only tell people how to do things the right way while we do it all wrong experiment. In my defence, there are other bulbs such as snowdrops that are much more finicky about when they go in, and I’m not making excuses here (yes I am), but those little babies had to get in the ground first. It’s hard for me, okay! I’m pushing it to the wire here, but if I can get the garlic in speedy pronto they will be just fine. And there will be lots of beautiful, tender early cloves, delicious scapes, and plump bulbs to enjoy next year.

Speaking of which, wow was 2012 the best year for garlic or what? I’ve been growing from the same stock (planting and harvesting and replanting) for years now and I was amazed by the size and quality of the bulbs that I unearthed this past summer. Glorious, perfect, primo garlic. All of the alliums in general just loved the early spring and the hot, dry summer. It was like they had finally been given the chance to live up to their full potential. Even my elephant garlic crop, which is normally on the cusp of hardy here and not always as plump as you see it in stores, was absolutely amazing.

If you’ve procrastinated like me, I am here to tell you that there is still time. Even here in zone 5b or 6a or whatever the hell they are saying we are now. The soil is cold but it is still very workable. We haven’t even had a snowfall in Toronto yet (I bite my tongue). We can do this!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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20 thoughts on “Planting Garlic at the Eleventh Hour

  1. I planted my garlic Monday near Washington DC, and I was feeling really late! I normally have it in by the end of October, but events conspired against me.

    Good to know should the ground freeze here by Christmas I’ll still be okay.

  2. Sounds like there is still hope for me yet! Tomorrow is going to be the day ….. for real this time. No snow yet here in P.E.I. either, but it’s only a matter of time.

  3. I *just* bought two bulbs for planting yesterday. I’m sticking them in the ground today. So I’m with you in spirit and hopefully in harvest next year!

  4. We are in the process of buying a house and I’d hoped to be in by now and able to throw some garlic into the ground. Maybe the freezing will hold off here in zone 8 and let me yet. Otherwise, the garlic will have to wait till next year. :(

  5. This must be the official Garlic Post Day – you, me, and about 3 others I saw…got mine in yesterday.
    Totally agree about this year’s crop – I had heads the size of small apples.
    Hope you get the rest in soon!

  6. I have planted garlic after the ground has frozen… chipping out little holes to fit the cloves in! I wouldn’t recommend it, but it did work just fine. Covering it with a good layer of compost and straw helps.

    • I have never gone this far but it is good to know. Really proves just how tough they are! Many flowering bulbs would not survive that treatment.

  7. Great I am at the base of Sandia Mountain outside ABQ NM. Is it too lat e for garlic here? which kind? where do I get bulbs OR I just use my cloves? thx
    # 2 Is it too late to take the bulbs with leaves mt gal pal neighbor gave me 10 days ago sitting in a pale + lil’ H20 waiting for me to put in ground. We got close to 34 degrees for short time past few nights- But ground is workable still. I live at 6300 ft above sea level – higher than Denver Thx HELP

  8. Because of weird climate change, our zone was officially bumped up (or maybe it’s down). Either way, we have until December to get our garlic in. I have about 12 cloves sitting on my desk at work in a paper bag. Worst case if I don’t get them in the ground, I’ll be able to keep the vampires who visit my office at bay.

  9. So glad to read this – I was in a panic last week when I finally planted mine – glad to know they will be ok – I would loathe to have to actually buy garlic now!

  10. That’s reassured me, thanks! Had great garlic harvest this year too but rapidly eating it so need to buy some. Always optimistic I will grow enough so that I can replant my own as you do.

  11. My garlic was in the ground way early, but mostly because I never dug out about a dozen bulbs. They decided to just go ahead and sprout in October. I said “fine” and left them there.

    Our garlic came in like crazy this year. If the garage temperature and humidity hold fairly steady, we have enough to last us for 4 months – and we use it nearly every day.

    I think I might also be one of maybe three people in the world who don’t give the planting garlic a soak in alcohol or whatever it is. We just stuff it straight into the ground, and I’ve never had a problem with it.

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