When and How to Plant Garlic Cloves

When to Plant:

I have been looking forward to this day for a month now. When February rolls around it is time for me to find my garlic source and plan where I’m planting it this year. I like to plant between the middle of February to the beginning of March. I live in zone 6a. Here is a map to figure out what zone you live in. It will help determine when you will be planting. UTAH   United States

Last year I just went to Walmart and grabbed whatever they had. Our garlic crop wasn’t the best 🙁 , but I can’t actually blame it on the generic garlic cloves. That is a story in it’s self involving two separate incidents with super helpful family members.

First story:

Each year we divide the garden between all of us, the boys and I, so we have certain things we are in charge of for the season. Last year the garlic was Luke’s charge. He was 12 and had been involved in the garden every year of his life, so I gave him the responsibility of planting the garlic on his own. It should have been fine. I should have supervised. 🙂

He planted the garlic but he got it too shallow. Many of the bulbs heaved up out of the ground with the frosts. That left a smaller crop of garlic but then helpful family member number two enters the scene!

Story 2:

My husband decided to be super wonderful and weed a garden bed for me. He went for the garlic bed. Some tomato plants had sprung up on their own from seeds that fell the year before. We were going to weed them out and grow our tomatoes elsewhere, allowing the remaining garlic to keep growing. Brian saw those awesome tomatoes growing and weeded all of the grassy looking ‘weeds’ out of the bed. That grass happened to be the garlic that had survived the shallow planting! Ha ha ha!

This year I took the planting of the garlic on for myself. I picked up good organic garlic from the health food store. I then waited for the weekend and some decent weather.

Get the bed ready

To get the bed ready I tilled up the soil with my electric Mantis tiller that I love. I got it for my birthday the summer of 2011 and have had zero trouble with it since. My dad owns one too. It is the second he has owned since I was a kid growing up in Wyoming. These tillers are small but they pack a whollop:) I have even tilled sod with it.

I have a post HERE about how I get my beds ready if I am starting from scratch.

My 4 year old niece was hanging out with me and she wanted to help. She was actually quite a good helper. She got her hands dirty and it was fun to hear her chatter away as we worked.

Once the soil was good and tilled I should have added in some pre-plant fertilizer as outlined HERE, but I didn’t have it ready and I didn’t want to delay my planting any more. Spring is coming quickly and I knew if I didn’t get going it wouldn’t get done…. I know, shortcuts. They will bite you in the end. If my garlic doesn’t turn out as good as I hoped please remind me of my hastiness!

Level the bed

Next I got out the level and as straight of a board as I could find (my dad helped me out with some new lumber of his). I used this to get the soil good and level. If you don’t do this straight off the bat your bed will be slanted all season and your water will pool at one end. I have done this enough times to know 🙂 Not leveling the bed gives you good garlic at one end of your bed and puny dried up garlic at the other end!

Tyler joined us for a little bit. It turns out he just wanted a ride somewhere so he thought he’d help first and then ask! Smart boy!

Depth and width

Once leveled, I poke holes in the soil with the end of my shovel. I go about 4 to 6 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. I think I got these a little further apart than that. It is better to err on the side of too far apart rather than too close together. For plant health they need air circulating and plenty of water and nutrients in the soil.

It’s important to make sure the root end is down and the pointy end is up. I showed my niece and she did a perfect job.

BTW, I like to garden with my gloves off so I can feel the soil. This is not super friendly for pretty nails, so I wear them short!

Finishing up

With the garlic all in the holes, I filled them with soil and my niece patted them after me. We made a good team! Our rows aren’t super straight but they will do.

I bought about 10 bulbs and we got 4 rows of 29. I say ‘about’ 10 bulbs because yesterday my 14 year old was feeling like he was getting sick, so to keep healthy he took some garlic. He didn’t know this was planting garlic 🙂

Now all I’ve got to do is wait for the spring rains to wake the garlic up and get it growing. It is such a miracle and I never tire of seeing the green poking through the soil!

Follow up

This is garlic from the year before last.

When the ground starts to dry up you will want to watch the moisture in your soil. When it starts to get dry on the top after the spring rains and it is warm enough that the ground is not freezing at night, you will want to water.

pvc watering system

I use a pvc system we built and in the heat of the summer I water about 30 seconds to 1 minute a day with it. If the soil is moist on top I don’t water that day.

Any comments or questions? Let me know below!

Happy Planting!



Here is an update on the garlic. It has been a few weeks since I planted and look at how awesome they are looking! I love growing food! 








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Author: Elisa Wadsworth

Mom, Wife, Whole Foods nut, Gardener, and Music Lover