Plant Garlic in the Fall

Garlic is a beloved ingredient in many culinary recipes because of the flavor and aroma that it adds to food. Due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties, garlic has also been used worldwide as a traditional medicine for fighting infection and boosting the immune system. Garlic is one of the most widely prescribed supplements both to prevent and to lessen the length and severity of the common cold and flu. An herbal tea, or tisane, made with garlic, lemon, and honey is a common home remedy during cold and flu season, especially in Spain and Latin America, where it is known as the “Spanish cure.”

Like many bulbs, one of the unique qualities of garlic is that it is often planted in the fall rather than in the spring. For best results, garlic should be planted in late September to mid-October in Southwest Missouri (see article below, Effect of Three Planting Dates on Three Types of Garlic in Southwest Missouri). Planting garlic in the fall is the preferred method for most garlic varieties, especially hardneck varieties, as the roots become established before the ground freezes and winter provides an adequate period of dormancy during which the young plants are exposed to cold temperatures (vernalization) without the tops breaking the ground. The bulbs then have a jump-start on the growing season and are usually one of the first crops to pop up in the early spring. This early root formation and slow, cool growth over a longer growing season contributes to bigger garlic heads.

Garlic needs to be planted in a sunny, fertile, well drained spot that hasn’t been used for growing other plants from the allium (onion) family. It is best to not plant garlic from a conventional grocery store because it may have been treated to prevent sprouting and the varieties available in the grocery store may not be the best for our growing conditions. When it is time to plant, break the garlic heads into pieces (called cloves) and plant the best cloves, saving the smaller ones for cooking. Note: Cloves should not be separated from the main bulb until the day of planting. The best cloves will be the larger, plump ones. Plant the cloves 3-6 inches apart and 2 inches deep with the pointed end of the clove facing upwards. A protective layer of leaves, straw or grass clippings will help insulate your newly planted garlic from the cold winter temperatures.

Although the beginning of September is bit too early to begin planting your garlic bulbs in Southwest Missouri, now is the perfect time to plan your fall garlic beds, to test and amend the soil, and to shop for varieties best suited for your location and personal tastes. The following links will get you started on your quest for the perfect garlic:


For more information on growing, harvesting, and storing garlic, check out the following articles:

American Society for Horticultural Science: Effect of Three Planting Dates on Three Types of Garlic in Southwest Missouri 

Burpee: Garlic

Missouri Beginning Farming: Growing Garlic

Old Farmer’s Almanac: Planting Garlic in the Fall

University of Missouri: Garlic: A Brief History