Planting Depth Matters With Garlic

Like many flowering bulbs, (garlic just happens to be an edible flowering bulb), garlic does best when planted at the right depth. Your climate makes a difference, as you want to protect garlic from severe weather. However, some people plant on top of the ground and cover the cloves with mulch or straw.


Best Time to Plant

Your climate is the major factor in timing your garlic planting. In warm climates, garlic must be fall-planted – the weather gets warm too quickly in spring. In cold climates, it’s just better to plant in fall. First, it gives the garlic a long dormant period to make good root growth. Second, the garden may still be buried under snow or the soil too wet to plant in early spring.

Good Garlic Varieties

Both hardneck and softneck varieties produce good garlic. Some people feel that hardnecks have a more complex flavor, and they do have bigger cloves. However, softneck makes for longer storage. Here are some possible choices:

  • Carpathian – spicy Polish hardneck.
  • Chesnok Red – multiple taste test winner.
  • Georgian Crystal – very mild; sometimes eaten raw.
  • Siskiyou Purple – good choice for hot climates.

Why Depth Matters With Garlic

How deep you plant your garlic makes a difference because planting depth is one way to moderate soil temperatures. Planting more deeply helps to keep the clove from making too much top growth, especially with fall planting when leaves may be exposed to very cold weather. Generally speaking, those in southern climates plant more shallowly and those in northern climates plant more deeply.

Hardneck vs. Softneck – Does Depth Matter?

You have two choices in planting garlic – hardneck and softneck. The first sends up a seed stalk, while the second has soft, floppy leaves. Hardneck cloves are larger, and may need to be planted a little deeper to keep the clove from being exposed as the soil packs down. However, in most cases, this is only a matter of half an inch or so.

Shallow Planting

Shallow planting depths for garlic range from one and a half to two inches. In desert climates, the gardener may simply set the clove on top of the ground. The cloves are then covered with six to eight inches of clean straw. Planting in this manner ensures the cloves will be clean and makes it very easy to harvest.

Deep Planting

In cold climates, the cloves need protection from severe weather. In places like Michigan, for example, garlic is often planted six inches deep. It may also be covered with organic mulch. In areas that are cold but don’t have really severe winters, garlic is often planted about three to four inches deep. Don’t plant too deep – it can encourage mold.