Is It Too Late to Plant Garlic?

Garlic is best planted in the fall, but there are ways to reap a harvest with a later planting.

Garlic Bulbs Braided for Drying and Storage

Garlic Bulbs Braided for Drying and Storage

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

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Question:

I’ve read that garlic is supposed to be planted in the fall, but I forgot. Can I still plant in the spring or am I too late?

Answer:

I am so excited that you made this mistake because it could lead to a new appreciation of garlic that you may not have had before now! Yes, it is true that you would have reaped a harvest of big, plump garlic bulbs this summer had you planted cloves at least 6 weeks before the ground froze last fall. I’ve missed that timeline for one reason or another over the years, but was still able to get a bulb harvest as long as the cloves were planted very early in the spring, as soon as the ground was thawed enough to dig. Unfortunately, because spring is well under way, cloves that are planted now are unlikely to make it to a mature stage. They will probably stay fairly small and won’t be mature enough to be planted out for a future harvest.

But that’s okay; good even! There is so much more to garlic than its bulbs, and if you get your cloves into the soil ASAP – whether into deep pots or in the ground – there will be lots of tasty garlicky delicacies to enjoy through the rest of the season.

For starters, there’s the soft and delicate green shoots that begin to appear shortly after planting. Snip some off and use them as a fresh garnish in the same way that you’d use chives and spring onions.

Allow the plants to develop further and you should see tougher, more developed leaves appear in late spring or early summer. Pull some of these plants up entirely and enjoy the mellow and sweet “green garlic” cloves. I like these roasted and used as a spread; others eat them raw.

Next up are the weird and alien-looking garlic scapes that appear in summer. These are actually the plant’s flower buds. Cut them off shortly after they appear, before the stems toughen up. They’re my favorite part of all and are delicious roughly cut into large pieces and fried in butter or olive oil with a pinch of salt. Pulse them up in a food processor with olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese and you’ll have an amazing pesto to serve on toast or pasta.

Allow the remaining plants to grow until the stems start to yellow and die back. Gently dig up the whole bulb and see what comes up. Immature bulbs aren’t worth planting again, but they sure are tasty roasted in the oven and spread onto a thick slab of warm bread with a pinch of rosemary or thyme.

Garden authority Gayla Trail is the creator of YouGrowGirl.com.

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