Should I plant garlic now?

wulfletons(Zone 7a)October 6, 2013

My garlic and shallots from Southern Seed have arrived. I have never grown either. I was prepared to plant today, but then read on one website (maybe mother earth news) that I should wait until about two weeks before our first frost to plant. I'm in far NE Cleveland county in zone 7 b. I've heard them predict a warmer than average October. Highs this week look to be around 80 with lows in the low to mid 60s. Should I wait another week before I plant?
Thanks for any insights! Krista

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I don't know your area. But being it is 7b I would say it wouldn't hurt to wait. With that being said here in 6b many of the sources say our planting time frame is October 15th-November 1st. I have planted everywhere from late Sept till early spring. As the grower who was my garlic mentor always says " Dec 31st is the last day to plant this year. And Jan 1st is the first day to plant. I planted from Oct 20th untill Mid Nov. last fall. I did plant a few bulbs in late winter and early spring. I had a freeze last night that got almost half of my garden. I plan to start planting any day. I was waiting to remove some plants but will probably do so today and start planting the first garlic bed. I stll have to remove the okra and beans from the other bed. So I will probably plant from now until November. If you plant now and get a lot of fall growth just mulch them a little deeper with straw or something similar. If you don't have any mulch to cover them with then I might wait a few weeks. Personally here some of my largest bulbs from the same variety were planted in November. Whether it was the bed they were in, when I planted them or a combination I don't know. If you are ready to plant and have mulch you can use I would say drop some in. Jay

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I don't think it really matters much when you plant it because it will grow and produce just fine. Garlic fits into my favorite category of plants for Oklahoma. It is a category I call "it won't die and you can't kill it".

The OSU-recommended dates for planting garlic are September 1 - October 15, and obviously OSU is the ultimate authority in our state with regards to agriculture. However, if you plant your garlic later than the OSU-recommended planting dates, the world will not end.

In the real world here in Oklahoma in our gardens where we have to deal with wild swings in both soil moisture and temperatures fairly regularly, you can plant garlic pretty much any time between now and the end of the year and it likely will grow and produce just fine. You probably could plant it in January or February and it would produce just fine, although the later you plant, the less time the garlic has to grow and mature in 2014, so a very late planting might give you a smaller harvest.

The late, great Darrell Merrell was known as The Garlic Man long before he became known as The TomatoMan. He grew hundreds of varieties of garlic here in Oklahoma in his lifetime. One year he decided to experiment with the timing of his plantings to see how much of a relationship existed between planting time in the fall and the yield of the garlic plants the following summer. He planted one-third of his garlic in September, one-third in October and one-third in November. What he discovered was that all the garlic started regrowing in spring at the same time and that the yield was consistently equal, no matter which month he had planted the garlic. In my mind, there was no one who knew more about growing garlic in Oklahoma than he did, so based on his experimentation with planting dates, I just plant it whenever I get around to doing so in the fall and I don't worry about it. The garlic will grow and produce just fine.

There are some things to consider. One of those is how wet your soil is right now at planting depth. You don't want to plant into soil that is incredibly wet, but soil that is moist without being really waterlogged is fine. The danger of planting into really wet soil that drains slowly and stays waterlogged for weeks on end is that the garlic could rot before it sprouts. That normally is only an issue in soil with a very high clay content that drains poorly and stays wet forever. I have soil like that, so I plant my garlic in beds raised a few inches above grade level and into clay that has been very well-amended with annual additions of organic matter like compost and pine bark fines (and pine bark chunks) and I don't have much trouble with garlic staying too wet to sprout and grow. If you have well-drained sandy soil or sandy loam or even highly-improved clay loam that drains well, you don't have to worry about waterlogged soil that stays too wet, except perhaps if your area was to have its wettest year ever and the soil stayed waterlogged for months on end.

You also have to consider the effect that recent rainfall, warm days and cool nights will have on weeds. Lots of cool-season weeds will sprout between now and the first hard freeze, even though we generally don't notice them much until they've grow considerably larger a few months down the road. There are different factors that cause weed seeds to sprout, and soil temperature is one of those factors. Once the soil and air temperatures reach the right range for any given type of weed seed, as long as there is some moisture available, the cool-season weeds will start sprouting. Even with a hard freeze, the newly sprouted cool-season weeds won't necessarily die, but generally just remain very low to the ground. So, the earlier you plant in the fall, the more weeding you may have to do. It is important to keep your garlic area well-weeded even before your garlic sprouts so that the weeds won't be competing with the garlic for moisture and nutrients. So, if you have a relatively new garden where there likely were decades of weed seeds buried in the soil that are now waiting to sprout, you might want to turn over the ground now with a rototiller, cultivator or garden trowel, wait a week or two for weeds to sprout, pull the weeds, wait another few days for more weeds to sprout, and then pull them, and then plant your garlic.A little weeding upfront should mean less weeding later on. At some point we will get cold enough that the cool-season weed seeds in the ground won't sprout and grow. At my house here in far south-central OK, that usually doesn't happen until December though. If you are growing in raised beds with imported soil-less mix, there's likely less of an issue with weed seed in your beds if they are relatively new.

Another factor to consider is that sometimes we have a warm autumn and even a warm winter, the garlic sprouts and grows for a while, and then the garlic greens get frozen back hard when more seasonable cold temperatures return. Sometimes that does happen, but I've never felt like being frozen back hard has had a big impact on the garlic yield the following spring. Obviously, though, garlic that is planted a bit later in fall is less likely to have a lot of green growth in the fall that gets frozen back.

I think the best way to figure out what works for you with your soil, your weather conditions, your moisture levels, etc. is merely to experiment and see what works for you over a period of several years. If you are not good at remembering planting dates and yield results in your head, you can keep written records in a notebook or garden journal, or online. Even in different parts of my garden, based on the elevation of the garden, the soil improvement done in a specific area, etc., I can get different results from plants at the uphill portion of my sloping garden from the results I get from plants at the downhill portion of my garden. So, don't be afraid to experiment and see what works for you. Just don't expect to get the same results every year. Because our weather here can be highly variable, some years you'll get better results than others, and that's just how it goes in the gardening world.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 12:32PM
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Being lazy gardeners, we have always replanted our garlic--both elephant and regular--in the bed it comes out of the same day we dig it in July. We do that because we know that garlic that is left in the ground--say in a long abandoned house place--grows without ever being lifted and replanted. Sometimes it sprouts and grows in the fall and freezes back hard, but as Dawn says, that doesn't seem to hurt next year's crop. (So far this year we haven't seen anything in the garlic bed, which makes me a bit nervous as we've had plenty of rain since we planted it.) I'm going to dig into it soon and if something has happened to it, there's still plenty of time to replant. In fact, I ordered some new garlic which is on its way right now and I will plant it the day it arrives. We're in z6b.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 2:13PM
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Krista; Thanks for bringing this topic. I needed the responses.

Dawn -

I planted garlic.. a few weeks ago. I placed a control in a pot of loose potting soil.

I'm noticing the clay to "somewhat" hinder the garlic growth when eye-balled with the control. The control is nice dark healthy green leaves and the bulbs are growing quicker.

We've received a portion or all of the rainfall, recently. The ground is very wet with my amended clay. Those in ground are growing greens slowly and the "green" is not a rich dark healthy green like the control.

(Note: I sent in for soil testing. Will get that back in about 10 days.)

The roots are deep, right? You mention "tilling". So it's okay to sort of lift and scratch at the soil to let air in? If I find any that are too wet, what do you advise?

Thank you for the details on the weeding. I'm going to be more aggressive.

Really, how wide does the weed-free zone really need to be?

I planted them in a way that a small portion of the bulb is showing and/or placed the bulb just beneath the soil.

Luckily, I have timothy hay to use as a mulch. How deep do I need to place this mulch?

I have some humus from an old wood compost. Would it help to put that on top or in the soil around them?

Perhaps it'll be better to leave them alone lol

We are unusually wet this year.

Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm glad to know I don't need to fret too much over garlic and that I can plant some more. I really don't have enough planted.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:48PM
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i just came back in from weeding, like you suggested. I also widened the rows to ensure there is at least 5" from the edge of the grass and the garlic. I have them staggered in the beds.

The soil looks fine. Everywhere under the mulch, it looks great where worms and insects have been. In those areas where the tough Bermuda resisted prior attempts, they came up with ease.

I got a whiff of garlic and went all Emeril Lagasse "Oh yeah. Babe!"

I added mulch to reach 4" in height. I could see the weed seedlings under the thinner sections.

And I found the roots. Only once was needed for that. lol

I was correct with depth planting. The bulbs sank in, it's typical of my clay under rain.

Someone gave me this garlic. Any suggestions for a good-tasting garlic bulbs to buy?

Because of my kids, I need milder taste. Uses will be home-made powdered garlic and preserving some, if possible.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:41PM
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    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:08PM
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wulfletons(Zone 7a)

Thanks everyone! This is very helpful. I'm stressing about the garlic and shallots, since these are two crops that I know my husband is really hoping will be successful. I decided to wait until next week to plant it, and just spent today pulling out worm ridden tomatillo plants.
Jay, I think I have plenty of mulch...I have compost, wood chips, and leaf mulch that is several years old. I assume these will be fine to use?
Dawn, these will be going in our well drained raised beds. I'm glad you mentioned the soil moisture...I was under the impression that garlic needed a ton of moisture, and so I was planning on waterlogging the bed after I planted. I will have a less heavy watering hand. I am TERRIBLE at keeping records about what I plant and where and when I plant it. Improving my note keeping is going to be my gardening new years resolution!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:10PM
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I wonder if you really can plant grocery store garlic? I mean you read on the internet you can, but I have not known anyone who has...has anyone?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 7:41PM
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Some of mine are from the store. My daughter insisted when she saw them sprouting on the counter. They're growing. *shrugs lol

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 1:36AM
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Before I knew much about garlic I planted it in the late winter and planted cloves from bulbs bought at the grocery store. It always did well. I still plant some elephant cloves or another big clove if I see one from the grocery store. Elephant isn't a true garlic. Used to be most of the garlic at the stores were a soft neck. I have been seeing more hardneck types over the last 2-3 years. For years I grew all my potatoes from grocery store spuds that sprouted. So yes you can and I would expect good results if the conditions are correct. In my opinion garlic and asparagus are the two easiest to grow crops I raise. Jay

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 6:50AM
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wulfletons(Zone 7a)

Do any of you soak your garlic before you plant it? One website recommended doing that to prevent rot, but I'm not very excited about adding extra steps.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:08AM
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wulfleton, you know, just before getting ready to plant I read about soaking them in peroxide and something else... that I forgot already (darn it).

I soaked only half. I noticed the soaked half sprouted a great deal from soaking when compared to the non-soaked.

They're all growing well, but I cannot tell any difference in the planting growth.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 2:59PM
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I never soak. I would only soak if I was planting some cloves from a source where there has been some disease issues. I try to either plant cloves that I saved from my own garden or from a few trusted sources I either buy/trade with.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 8:05PM
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