Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Last chance to plant garlic

Garlic cloves laid into trenches in the soil. Individual cloves are spaced about 6 inches apart.
Plant your garlic now for a summer 2022 harvest

Early fall is the time to plant garlic. If you haven’t done so already, plant as soon as possible to get a good garlic crop for next summer. 

Why do we plant garlic in the fall?

Garlic is a slow-growing crop, and planting in the fall allows it substantially more time to mature. In an ideal situation, garlic would be planted early enough in the fall that it has time to develop a root system and begin to form a shoot, but not so early that the shoot emerges above the soil. If it grows too fast in the fall, it’s more prone to frost damage.

This sweet spot for planting is typically within two weeks of the first frost. After planting, we can help to prevent damage from the cold by giving our recently planted garlic a warm blanket of straw. When spring comes around, garlic starts to emerge from the soil in March or April, giving it a head start on the summer growing season. 

While this year has been warmer than average and many parts of the state still haven’t seen a hard frost, stick to the regular planting schedule. If you wait too long to plant, the roots will not have time to develop before winter. You can check your average first frost date here.

For Northern Minnesota, the ideal time to plant garlic was late September, and for Southern Minnesota, it’s right about now. You can still plant if you’re in Northern Minnesota, just make sure to give your garlic a thick layer of straw for insulation. 

Not your average grocery store garlic

While you could theoretically plant garlic from the grocery store in your garden, keep in mind that the garlic from the store is adapted to wherever it came from. If you buy garlic from China or California at the grocery store, it will not necessarily do well in Minnesota’s climate, and might not taste great. 

For an overview of Minnesota garlic varieties, check out Growing garlic in home gardens.

  • Hardneck varieties tend not to store as long, but they produce scapes, which many gardeners enjoy harvesting in the early summer.
  • Softneck varieties do not produce scapes, but they tend to have slightly higher yields, and they have a longer shelf life.

Look for garlic at your local farmers market or garden store. You can also purchase garlic in seed catalogs, but it might not arrive in time since we’re reaching the final days to plant this fall. 

Tips for success

  • Garlic does best in well-drained soil with high organic matter. If you have soil with low organic matter, or soil that is either sandy or heavy clay, add finished compost before planting to amend your soil. 
  • Plant cloves 6 inches apart.
    • If you’re growing in beds, plant two rows per 30-inch bed.
    • If you’re growing in larger raised beds or in the ground, leave about 1.5 feet between each row.
    • Planting closer together will result in more, but smaller heads.
    • Planting further apart will result in fewer, but larger heads. 
  • Plant your cloves pointed side up, cover with soil, and then top the soil with a thick layer of mulch until spring. This keeps the cloves protected during the winter. 
  • Make sure to water your garlic for a couple of weeks after planting to encourage it to form roots and a shoot. 
  • Look at your most recent soil test before planting. If it says you need phosphorus or potassium, go ahead and add it at the time of planting. If you have enough phosphorus and potassium but need nitrogen, just add a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer now (about 1/4 to 1/3 of your total N) and wait until spring to add the rest. 

Read more about growing garlic in home gardens.

Author: Natalie Hoidal, Extension educator, local foods and vegetable production

Page survey

© 2023 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.