It’s almost time to harvest garlic; when can you plant?

garlic plants with scapes
The garlic plants on the far right were planted in August, then more batches of garlic were planted to the left over subsequent weeks. Although the garlic was planted weeks apart, they all got scapes within days of each other. This photo was taken on June 18. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You can generally harvest garlic in mid- or late-July. The foliage starts to die back, which is an indication that the garlic is ready.

Once your garlic is harvested, you’ll have an empty spot in your garden until October, the recommended time to plant garlic.

But do we have to wait until October to plant garlic? As we discussed in a previous article, maybe not.

Last year, I planted my garlic in intervals starting in August. (I can’t tell you exactly when I planted each batch because the ink washed off my plant tags.)

Tip: When writing on metal plant tags, don’t use an old marker that’s on the dry side. Invest in a new, juicy permanent marker.

I planted the earliest cloves on the right of my bed and moved to the left as I planted each subsequent batch.

I was hoping that by staggering the planting times, I might get garlic scapes developing in waves instead of having them pop out all at the same time, but that didn’t happen. The cloves that I planted first were the first to get scapes, but the other plants caught up within days.

The cloves that I planted weren’t uniform in size, so we can’t draw any conclusions about whether the planting time had any effect on the size of the plant or the size of the head of garlic. I planted my biggest cloves first; the larger cloves produce larger plants and larger heads of garlic.

From this poorly constructed experiment, it seems that you should be able to plant garlic any time between August and October, but it won’t affect the timing of the garlic scapes.

Bonus tip: The rabbits like to build their nest in my garlic patch. As they dug, they kicked out some of the biggest cloves I had planted. Aargh! To discourage the rabbits, place old chopsticks, plastic forks (tines up) and stiff plastic plant tags throughout the bed.

8 Comments on “It’s almost time to harvest garlic; when can you plant?

  1. For years I’ve used old white mini blinds cut into 8 inch pieces as plant markers. I write on them with pencil. It’s inexpensive and the pencil doesn’t wash off. One set of blinds makes enough markers to almost last a lifetime.

  2. Rick, a simple pencil? Wow! I do have a set of broken blinds, but they are dark green. I’m not sure if the pencil will show up. However, we do have some white blinds that are starting to fall apart. I will have a lifetime supply of plain white and fancy green plant markers! Thanks for sharing.

  3. gee—I thought I was the only one in the wold that used mini blinds for plant markers . I start about 300 -400 plants every year so I need several lifetimes worth of blinds every couple years . I use a outdoor marker available at most nurseries .

  4. I haven’t had success in garlic . I plant them in oct but my top greens never look inviting , puny one or two long leaves on top . This year I did cut the bulbs on top of green still not successful!i wonder what I am doing wrong?

  5. Neelam, do you start with large cloves of garlic? If you look at the photo, you’ll notice that the plants on the left are skinnier than the plants on the right. That’s because the plants on the left were started from small cloves of garlic. I have garlic in other spots of my garden that are even smaller that were started from very small cloves.

    If you have been growing garlic in previous years and haven’t cut off the white scapes before, that may be causing problems in two ways. (By the way, what you are referring to as the bulb on top of the leaves is actually the flower. The scape is the stalk of the flower. .) First, if you leave the scapes in place, the plant will divert energy from the bulb (in the ground) to the flower. You won’t get a big head of garlic. Second, if you let the flower go to seed, you’ll find new garlic plants in the spring, but the plants will be very small. It will take several years for the plant that started from a seed to produce a big head of garlic.

    If you want to harvest and cook with the scapes, let the small plants grow because the skinny scapes are tasty. Big scapes can be tough.

    If you want to harvest the head of garlic, start with big cloves.

    I hope that helps!

  6. If you plant the “seeds” from the flower, should you leave them in the ground all year, or follow the same procedure of digging up and replanting. I planted some around a shrub that the rabbits were nibbling thinking that would keep them away but from what you say here that would not work.

  7. Linda, I tried planting garlic around my yard to keep rabbits away, but it didn’t work. Maybe it will work for you. You can plant the seeds (called bulblets or bulbils) from the garlic and just leave the plants in the ground year after year. You can harvest the scapes every year, so even if the plant doesn’t repel rabbits and it takes a long time to get a head of garlic, you have the garlic scapes to cook with. Good luck!

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