Too Late To Plant Garlic?

I was recently asked if it was too late to plant garlic. I was secretly hoping it wasn’t, because I ran out of time to plant my own!

Is it too late in December to plant my garlic? Photo: Mathieu Hodgson.

Garlic Tradition

Traditionally, in Canada, garlic is planted from mid-August to mid-October, or 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes. In Europe and the southern United States, it can be planted in October or November, but it can also be planted during the winter or early spring. It needs a cold period for growth to start, so don’t wait too long. This is the same planting season as autumn bulbs. However, bulbs can be planted well into winter, under snow and ice, if you have the will to do so. So why can’t we do the same with garlic?

A hand plants a clove of garlic in the ground.
Garlic can be planted in the winter but it’s far from ideal. Photo: Jacopo Werther.

Why Fall?

Well, you can do it, but it’s far from ideal. When you plant garlic a few weeks before the ground freezes, its roots start to grow. Since it has already started to develop by the time spring arrives, it doesn’t start from scratch and will have time to mature during the summer. This isn’t the case with planting in winter or spring. It’s really a problem for short-season gardeners.

Now that it’s too late, what are you going to do with the bulbs you didn’t plant? Well, plant them anyway in the winter or spring because they only keep for 6 months and can’t wait until the next fall. They won’t, however, produce the bulbs you are used to and that can be replanted the following fall to perpetuate your crop year after year. Still, it’s better than nothing!

Garlic leaves in a basket.
Garlic leaves can be eaten. Photo: Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail.

Better Late Than Never!

Fortunately, even if your garlic doesn’t produce bulbs, its delicious leaves can still be enjoyed, much like a green onion. However, harvesting the leaves will kill your garlic. Garlic planted in the winter or spring can also be left in the garden all summer and fall without being touched. It stays buried for the next winter, so you can harvest the garlic bulbs during the second summer. Better late than never!

Mathieu manages the and websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

5 comments on “Too Late To Plant Garlic?

  1. Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World, is just a few miles from here. In home gardens, we can plant garlic whenever we want to. It adjusts accordingly. it is not uncommon to just bury unused garlic and let it grow wild for more than a year before digging it at the correct season. Of course, there are better times for planting, such as right about now.

  2. You can cheat a little too by planting the bulbs in pots, keeping them in a frost free garage, shed or even your basement for a few weeks. Once the roots have started to form the pots can be moved out into a cold frame, buried into soil or a mulch pile or left in a cold garage. Once Spring arrives and the soil can be worked pop the cloves out of their pots and let them grow. You will get nice heads of garlic that summer.

  3. The ast day to plant Garlic in 2022 is always 12/31/2022.

  4. Matthieu, Here in Hamilton, Ontario we plant our garlic around the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and have done so for years, successfully. For us August is too early plus the bulbs usually aren’t sold here until September.
    Thanks for keeping your Dads blog going. It’s the first thing I read each morning. Do hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Joyce

  5. Are there other vegetables that should not be planted alongside garlic in the spring or summer?

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