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When Garlic Sprouts in the Fall

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Sometimes garlic starts to sprout in the fall. Source: willholmes, Flickr

Question: I planted 68 garlic cloves in late September and they’re starting to sprout barely a month later. Will they still produce good cloves next year?

Rene Barabe

Answer: Normally, garlic grows sight unseen under the ground during fall and winter, but it’s not dormant. It really does grow during the off season, producing a good root system and the beginnings of next season’s sprouts, but it does so underground. It’s only in spring that the first leaves pierce the soil. At least, that’s usually the case in cold climates.

In mild climates with cool winters (garlic needs at least 40 days of cool temperatures, otherwise it won’t form good cloves), garlic often begins to sprout about 4 to 6 weeks after it’s planted. The leaves remain visible, but short, during the winter, then they really start to grow in earnest in spring, when temperatures warm up and days become longer.

A Mild Fall Leads to Early Sprouting

In your case, it’s the abnormally warm fall that has encouraged your garlic to start to sprout much earlier than it usually would in your area. In other words, your garlic thinks it’s growing in California rather than in North America’s cold Northeast!

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Garlic in snow: a perfectly normal occurence. Source: stayandroam.blog

But hardneck garlic, the type grown in cold regions, is well adapted to irregular winter weather. The leaves that have already sprouted will simply stop growing when truly cold weather hits and will stay dormant until spring finally does arrive, then will continue their growth. This won’t reduce the harvest to come.

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Shredded leaves make a good and inexpensive mulch. Source: pxhere.com

Still, it would be wise to cover the leaves with a good mulch to protect them from the extreme cold that could burn their tips … but then, a good winter mulch is always recommended for garlic, no matter what happens in the autumn.

Take advantage of the tree leaves currently falling in their millions and shred them (that way, they won’t blow away), then cover the garlic leaves completely. Chopped leaves are an excellent mulch and they’re free too!blog-snow-garlic

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

7 comments on “When Garlic Sprouts in the Fall

  1. My garlic which I planted in October this year (2021) came roaring up by early Nov. It’s been warm this fall, but certainly not hot. First time I’ve seen that happen here in PA.

  2. Thank you for this advice. I thought I’d lost my crop of about 130 garlic because of an extremely warm October. I will get out and give it more mulch to protect them.

    • Me too.. and really thank you for a bit of peace of mind on my first autumn sprout of garlic.

  3. Dawn Raudibaugh

    I am a beginner. I have garlic sprouting and is clumped together somewhat. Should I redistribute them and spread them out then cover with leaves? I am in central NY State/

    • I’m not sure why they would be clumped together (did you plant entire garlic bulbs? You should have planted the individual cloves.) At any rate, don’t disturb this plant just before the cold. Also do any moving or dividing when it is dormant (late summer or early fall).

  4. Barry Langille

    My garlic always sprouts in the fall without fail. I’m in Nova Scotia, zone 5a, and it’s never a problem

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