When to plant garlic – for superior homegrown flavor

Get in the know about when to plant garlic to enjoy its tasty bulbs throughout the year

planting garlic
(Image credit: RHS)

Wondering when to plant garlic to benefit from a taste that outshines that of shop-bought bulbs? Eaten fresh in summer, homegrown garlic tastes milder and sweeter, and stored well, it provides cloves to add incredible flavor to cooking throughout the year. 

What’s more growing garlic is easy whether in the vegetable garden or in containers, and there is a range of types to try: including softneck and hardneck varieties and elephant garlic. 

This is all the information you need on when to plant garlic to grow your own delicious bulbs. It is also worth learning how to store garlic the right way to ensure that your bulbs stay fresher for longer.

When to plant garlic

The answer to when to plant garlic is that it should be added to your calendar of when to plant vegetables for the period of early to mid fall, before the weather gets too cold. 

When is the best time to plant garlic?

Fall is the optimum time to plant garlic; then you can harvest garlic in summer.

‘Separate bulbs into cloves and plant at 4in (10cm) when the soil is still warm in the fall,’ says gardener and author Charles Dowding, who teaches no-dig edibles gardening in Somerset, UK. ‘Fall is best, so that roots can develop strongly before and even during winter. This will power new growth in the spring, when garlic grows for less than half a season before it matures in early summer.’ 

In colder regions (including the upper US states), plant garlic as soon as you can when the seasons change. But in milder temperate regions, mid-fall is fine. 

‘In colder climates such as Scotland you can plant garlic in September,’ says Charles, ‘but here (in south-west England) we normally pop in the cloves during October, for example after clearing beans or tomatoes or courgettes.’

Some people try to plant in spring as part of the big spring edibles plant, but the result won’t be as good. ‘If you plant garlic in the spring, it will still grow but the cloves may not differentiate and the overall size will be smaller,’ advises Charles. ‘Best to plant before the end of the year.’

When to plant elephant garlic

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) isn’t true garlic. It’s more closely related to leeks, and it’s a great vegetable to try growing.

‘Planting time is very similar to ordinary garlic,’ says Charles. ‘It is best planted before the end of the year and for most of us October works very well.’ 

It is not as pungent as regular garlic, so it can be eaten like a normal vegetable; it goes well with fish, and it’s delicious roasted. 

Can garlic be planted in spring?

Garlic can be planted in spring, but this isn’t the optimum time to plant most varieties, which need a cold period for good development of the bulbs. However, if you do want to plant in spring, there are cultivars suitable for planting at that time of year.

What is the best month to plant garlic?

The best month to plant garlic for many is October, although late September is a possibility in northern regions, and the task could be left until November in the south. When to harvest garlic? If planted in fall, this can be done in the summer months.

Lucy Searle
Global Editor in Chief

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.