by Connie Oswald Stofko
One of the things I like about garlic is that planting it gives you something to do in late fall when there is nothing else to do in the garden. I have always heard that you’re supposed to plant garlic in October.
But is there any reason you can’t plant it earlier?
Since you harvest in July or August, I think it might be convenient to take cloves from your best heads of garlic and plant them right away.
Robert Pavlis of the Garden Myths website did a test and concluded that planting garlic in October has no benefits over planting in August.
Last year he planted hardneck garlic cloves on Aug. 2, Sept. 1 and Oct. 1 in his garden in Southern Ontario. He’s in Zone 5, and Western New York is in Zone 5 or the warmer Zone 6.
Pavlis found that the cloves planted in August were the first to show new growth in spring, but within a week there were green tips on all of the garlic. The cloves planted later quickly caught up to the first ones, and by harvest time, all the batches produced the same size bulb with the same average number of cloves. He didn’t see any advantage to planting late.
So why are we told to plant in October? Maybe it’s just a convenient time for farmers to plant, Pavlis conjectures, because they’re so busy earlier in the season. Planting garlic does give you something to do when there’s not much happening in the fields or in your garden.
Some people have suggested that planting earlier may give pests and diseases more time to attack the garlic, but he hasn’t seen evidence for this is. Or maybe it’s just that kind of gardening advice that gets repeated and no one knows how it started.
I do wonder if planting early would work as well in our Zone 6 areas as it did for Pavlis in Zone 5. I didn’t have time to plant in early August, but I plan to plant some by early September.
Pavlis has a couple other caveats on his test: He used one unnamed variety of hardneck garlic. Other varieties of hardneck or softneck garlic may behave differently. Different soils may give different results as well.
You can read the details of Pavlis’s test on planting garlic early here. You can subscribe to his blog for free.