How To Plant Garlic In Michigan [ Full Guide ]

Garlic is a versatile and easy-to-grow crop that can thrive in a variety of climates, including Michigan. Planting garlic in Michigan can yield a bountiful harvest, provided the right techniques and timing are employed. This comprehensive guide will outline the step-by-step process of planting garlic in Michigan, covering aspects like planning, choosing the right variety, timing, soil preparation, and more.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Garlic In Michigan

To plant garlic in Michigan, follow these steps:

  1. Plan and prepare for garlic planting
  2. Choose the right garlic variety for Michigan
  3. Determine the optimal timing for garlic planting
  4. Prepare the soil by amending it with organic matter and ensuring proper drainage
  5. Plant individual garlic cloves with the pointed end up, 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart, in rows spaced 12 inches apart
  6. Mulch the planting area to insulate the cloves over winter and prevent frost heave
  7. Water the garlic consistently, especially during dry periods
  8. Harvest the garlic when the lower leaves turn yellow, then dry and cure the bulbs

Planning And Preparing For Garlic Planting

Before diving into the actual process of planting garlic, it’s essential to plan and prepare adequately. This involves considering factors such as the garlic variety, timing, soil preparation, and the layout of the planting area.

Firstly, assess the available space for planting garlic. Select a location that receives full sun for at least six hours a day and has well-draining soil. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging, as excess moisture can lead to rot and other diseases.

Once the planting area is identified, it’s crucial to prepare the soil. Test the soil to check its pH levels and amend it as needed to achieve a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, which is optimal for garlic growth. Incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure can improve soil structure and fertility, providing a conducive environment for garlic to thrive.

Choosing The Right Garlic Variety For Michigan

Michigan’s diverse climate, with its cold winters and variable growing conditions, necessitates the selection of garlic varieties that are well-suited to the region. Hardneck and softneck garlic are the two main types, each with several cultivars that exhibit different flavors, storage capabilities, and adaptability to specific climates.

For Michigan’s climate, hardneck garlic varieties are often preferred due to their ability to withstand colder conditions. Some popular hardneck varieties suitable for Michigan include Music, Chesnok Red, and German Extra Hardy. These varieties have demonstrated robust growth and successful adaptation to Michigan’s climate, making them reliable choices for local garlic cultivation.

When sourcing garlic cloves for planting, prioritize obtaining high-quality, disease-free bulbs from reputable seed suppliers or local farmers. Using certified disease-free garlic cloves can significantly reduce the risk of introducing pathogens or pests into your garden.

Timing: When To Plant Garlic In Michigan

The timing of garlic planting in Michigan is critical for the successful establishment of the crop. Fall planting is the recommended approach, typically occurring between late September and early November. By planting in the fall, garlic cloves have ample time to develop strong root systems before winter sets in, leading to healthier and more robust plants in the following growing season.

To pinpoint the optimal planting time, consider the average first frost date in your specific region of Michigan. Planting garlic about four to six weeks before the first expected frost allows the cloves to establish roots while avoiding top growth before winter dormancy. This timing helps insulate the cloves from severe winter temperatures, setting the stage for vigorous growth in the spring.

Preparing The Soil For Garlic Planting

A well-prepared soil environment is vital for the successful cultivation of garlic in Michigan. Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing the soil for planting:

  1. Clear the Planting Area: Remove any existing vegetation, rocks, or debris from the designated garlic planting area.

  2. Soil Testing: Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level and nutrient content of the soil. Amend the soil based on the soil test results to ensure it meets the optimal pH range and has sufficient nutrients for garlic growth.

  3. Incorporate Organic Matter: Work organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil. This enhances soil structure, promotes moisture retention, and improves overall soil fertility.

  4. Address Drainage: Ensure that the planting site has proper drainage to prevent waterlogging, which could lead to garlic rot. If the soil has drainage issues, consider implementing raised beds or adding organic materials to enhance drainage.

  5. Weed Management: Eliminate any weeds in the planting area before proceeding with garlic planting. This reduces competition for resources and minimizes the likelihood of weed invasion during the garlic’s growth period.

By diligently preparing the soil, growers create an optimal environment for garlic, laying the groundwork for healthy plant development and a successful harvest.

Planting garlic in Michigan involves strategic planning, variety selection, precise timing, and diligent soil preparation. By incorporating the guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide, Michigan gardeners can set the stage for a robust garlic crop. Choosing the right garlic variety suited to Michigan’s climate, adhering to the recommended fall planting timeline, and creating a well-amended and well-drained soil environment are key components of successful garlic cultivation. With proper care and attention, planting garlic in Michigan can yield a flavorful and abundant harvest, enriching the garden and the culinary experiences of those who savor the aromatic bulbs.

Tips For Fertilizing And Amending Soil In Michigan

Garlic is a versatile and flavorful crop that can be easily grown in Michigan’s climate. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, planting garlic in your Michigan garden can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Before planting garlic, it is essential to prepare the soil properly to provide the best growing conditions for your crop. In Michigan, where the soil can be heavy and clay-like, amending it with organic matter and ensuring adequate drainage is crucial. Here are some tips for fertilizing and amending the soil in Michigan:

  1. Soil Testing: It is recommended to get a soil test done before planting garlic. This will help determine the pH level, nutrient content, and any deficiencies in the soil. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for information on soil testing kits or services.

  2. Adding Organic Matter: Adding organic matter to the soil helps improve its structure, drainage, and nutrient-holding capacity. Incorporate well-rotted compost, aged manure, or leaf mold into the soil before planting garlic. Aim to add at least 2-4 inches of organic matter and work it into the top 6-8 inches of soil.

  3. Adjusting pH Levels: Garlic prefers a slightly acidic soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. If the soil pH is too high, you can lower it by adding agricultural sulfur or acidic fertilizers. Conversely, if the soil is too acidic, you can raise the pH by adding lime.

  4. Balancing Nutrients: Garlic requires a well-balanced supply of nutrients to thrive. Based on the results of your soil test, you may need to adjust the nutrient levels in the soil. A general rule of thumb is to add a slow-release, organic fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) before planting.

  5. Improving Drainage: Heavy clay soils in Michigan can become compacted and prone to poor drainage. To improve the drainage, consider adding coarse sand or perlite to the soil. Raised beds or planting garlic on mounds can also help prevent waterlogging.

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Planting Methods For Garlic In Michigan

Garlic can be planted in Michigan during the fall season, typically between late September and early November. There are two primary planting methods to choose from: cloves and bulbils. Here’s how to plant garlic using each method:

Planting Cloves

  1. Selecting Garlic Bulbs: Choose high-quality garlic bulbs for planting. You can purchase bulbs from a local nursery or choose varieties that have been successfully grown in Michigan. Hardneck varieties tend to be better suited for colder climates.

  2. Preparing the Cloves: Prior to planting, carefully separate the garlic bulb into individual cloves. Leave the protective papery skin intact on each clove.

  3. Choosing the Planting Location: Garlic requires a sunny location with well-draining soil. Choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

  4. Planting Depth and Spacing: Dig a trench or individual holes in the soil, approximately 2-3 inches deep. Space the cloves about 4-6 inches apart, ensuring the pointed end is facing upwards.

  5. Planting the Cloves: Place each garlic clove with the pointed end facing up into the trench or hole. Cover the cloves with soil and gently firm it around them. Ensure that the cloves are at least 1-2 inches below the soil surface.

  6. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the planted cloves. This will help conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and protect the garlic bulbs during the winter months.

Planting Bulbils

  1. Selecting Bulbils: Bulbils are small, round reproductive structures that form on the flower stalk of hardneck garlic varieties. These can be used to grow garlic, but they take more time to reach maturity compared to cloves. Select mature and healthy bulbils for planting.

  2. Preparing the Bulbils: Separate the bulbils from the flower stalk, ensuring you keep the papery covering intact. Remove the smaller bulbils, as they are less likely to produce robust plants.

  3. Preparing the Planting Area: Prepare the soil by following the same steps as mentioned in the previous section.

  4. Planting Depth and Spacing: Dig small holes in the soil, approximately 1-2 inches deep. Space the bulbils about 4-6 inches apart.

  5. Planting the Bulbils: Place each bulbil in the hole, ensuring the pointed end is facing upwards. Cover the bulbils with soil and gently firm it around them.

  6. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the planted bulbils to protect them during the winter months.

Caring For Garlic Plants Through The Seasons

Once your garlic plants are established, it is important to provide them with the necessary care throughout the growing season. Here are some essential practices for caring for garlic plants in Michigan:


Garlic requires consistent moisture, especially during the early stages of growth. Watering should be done deeply, providing enough moisture to penetrate the root zone. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated. In Michigan, where rainfall can be variable, you may need to supplement with irrigation during dry periods.


Garlic plants benefit from additional fertilization during their growth. Apply a balanced fertilizer high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium once in early spring and again in early summer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the application rates. Avoid excessive nitrogen application in late summer, as this can delay bulb formation.


Maintain a layer of organic mulch around the garlic plants to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature. Straw or shredded leaves are commonly used as mulch material. Ensure that the mulch is not too thick, as this can promote rotting of the bulbs.

Controlling Weeds

Weeds compete with garlic plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Regularly remove weeds from the garlic bed to prevent them from overpowering the plants. Be cautious not to disturb the shallow root system of the garlic plants while weeding.


Hardneck garlic varieties produce a central flower stalk called a scape. It is recommended to remove the scape, which emerges in early summer, to redirect the plant’s energy towards bulb development. Use scissors or pruners to cut off the scape once it curls or reaches about 10-12 inches in height. The scapes are edible and can be used in cooking.

Mulching To Protect From Extreme Temperatures

In Michigan, garlic plants can be vulnerable to extreme temperature fluctuations during winter. Adding an additional layer of mulch, such as straw or chopped leaves, to the garlic bed in late fall can provide insulation and protect the plants from frost heaving.

Controlling Pests And Diseases In Michigan Garlic Gardens

Just like any other crop, garlic can be susceptible to pests and diseases. However, practicing good garden hygiene and taking preventive measures can help keep your garlic plants healthy. Here are some common pests and diseases that can affect garlic in Michigan and how to control them:

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  1. Garlic Root Maggot: The larvae of these pests can damage the roots of garlic plants. Prevent infestations by using floating row covers to physically exclude the adult flies from laying eggs. Crop rotation and proper sanitation, such as removing plant debris after harvest, can also help reduce their populations.

  2. Nematodes: Nematodes are microscopic worms that can disrupt the growth and development of garlic plants. Rotate crops regularly and avoid planting garlic in the same area for consecutive years. Solarizing the soil, which involves covering it with clear plastic to harness solar heat, can help reduce nematode populations.

  3. Thrips and Onion Maggots: These pests can cause damage to garlic leaves and bulbs. Monitor your plants regularly and use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control infestations. Introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, which feed on these pests.


  1. White Rot: White rot is a fungal disease that can affect garlic plants, causing wilting and rotting of leaves and bulbs. Prevention is key, as there is no effective treatment for white rot. Practice crop rotation, avoid planting garlic in infected areas, and discard infected plants to minimize its spread.

  2. Fusarium Basal Rot: This disease is caused by a fungus and can lead to yellowing, rotting, and stunted growth of garlic plants. Remove and destroy affected plants to prevent the spread of the disease. Ensure good soil drainage and avoid overwatering, as the fungus thrives in wet conditions.

  3. Garlic Rust: Garlic rust is a fungal disease characterized by orange-brown pustules on the leaves. To manage rust, plant disease-resistant garlic varieties, promote good air circulation by spacing plants adequately, and remove and destroy infected leaves.

Harvesting Garlic In Michigan

Garlic is typically ready to be harvested in Michigan in mid to late summer, depending on the variety. Here’s how to harvest garlic:

  1. Observing Leaf Color and Drying: As the garlic bulbs mature, the lower leaves will start to turn yellow and dry out. Monitor the plants and wait for approximately 50% of the leaves to have yellowed and dried.

  2. Timing Harvest: Timing is crucial when harvesting garlic. Harvest too early, and the bulbs may be underdeveloped. Harvest too late, and the bulbs may have started to split or rot. Aim to harvest when only a few green leaves remain, and the rest have dried.

  3. Loosening the Soil: Before harvesting, gently loosen the soil around the garlic bulbs with a garden fork or shovel, being careful not to damage the bulbs.

  4. Lifting Garlic Bulbs: Use a garden fork or shovel to lift the garlic bulbs out of the ground. Be cautious not to bruise or injure the bulbs during this process.

  5. Curing Garlic: After harvesting, allow the garlic bulbs to dry and cure in a warm, well-ventilated location for approximately 2-3 weeks. Hang them in bundles or spread them out in a single layer on a mesh rack or screen.

  6. Trimming and Storing: Once the garlic bulbs are fully cured, trim off the roots and excess foliage. Store the garlic bulbs in a cool, dry, and dark place with good air circulation. Properly cured garlic can typically be stored for up to six to eight months.

Planting garlic in Michigan can be a rewarding endeavor, providing you with a bountiful harvest of flavorful cloves. By following the tips for fertilizing and amending soil, choosing the appropriate planting method, providing care throughout the seasons, and taking necessary measures to control pests and diseases, you can enjoy a successful garlic growing experience. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to plant garlic in your Michigan garden!

Storage And Preservation Of Garlic In Michigan

Garlic is not only a flavorful ingredient in many dishes but also a valuable crop for farmers and gardeners in Michigan. Known for its pungent aroma and numerous health benefits, garlic is a versatile plant that can be grown in a variety of climates.

Before delving into the process of planting garlic, it is essential to understand how to store and preserve it. Proper storage ensures that you have healthy, viable cloves to plant when the time comes.

1. Curing Garlic

After harvesting garlic, it needs to be "cured" in order to dry out the bulbs and increase their shelf life. Hang the garlic in a warm, well-ventilated area for about two weeks. This allows the outer layers of skin to become papery and the inner cloves to fully mature. Optimal conditions for curing garlic are a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level around 60%.

2. Storing Garlic

Once the garlic has been properly cured, it can be stored in a cool, dark place. The ideal storage temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 60-70%. Basements, cellars, or even refrigerators can be suitable storage locations. Ensure that the garlic cloves are kept dry and well-ventilated to prevent sprouting or rotting.

3. Preserving Garlic

In addition to storing whole garlic bulbs, there are various preservation methods that can be used to extend the shelf life of garlic in Michigan. These methods include freezing, pickling, and dehydrating. Freezing allows you to store peeled or minced garlic cloves for an extended period. Pickling garlic not only preserves it but also creates a tangy, flavorful ingredient for various dishes. Dehydrated garlic can be turned into powder or flakes, which can be used as seasonings or spice blends.

Utilizing Garlic Scapes In Michigan Recipes

Garlic scapes are the curly, vibrant green stems that emerge from garlic plants. They appear in late spring or early summer and are often overlooked. However, they are a delicious and versatile part of the garlic plant that shouldn’t go to waste.

1. Harvesting Garlic Scapes

To harvest garlic scapes, wait until they have fully elongated and formed one or two curls. Cut the scape just above the leaves, around 1-2 inches from the bulb. Harvesting scapes not only improves the development of the garlic bulbs but also gives you a culinary delight to enjoy.

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2. Using Garlic Scapes in Recipes

Garlic scapes can be used in a variety of recipes to add a mild garlic flavor and a unique twist. Here are a few ideas to utilize garlic scapes in Michigan recipes:

  • Pesto: Garlic scape pesto is a flavorful alternative to traditional basil pesto. Blend chopped garlic scapes, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper until smooth. Use it as a spread, pasta sauce, or salad dressing.

  • Stir-Fries and Sautees: Garlic scapes can be a crunchy and vibrant addition to stir-fries and sautéed dishes. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and stir-fry them with other vegetables or proteins like tofu or chicken.

  • Soups and Stews: Add garlic scapes to your favorite homemade soups and stews for an extra layer of flavor. They can be chopped and added along with other vegetables for a delicious and aromatic twist.

  • Grilled: Garlic scapes can be grilled to perfection and served as a tasty side dish or added to salads. Brush them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook them on a hot grill until tender and slightly charred.

Crop Rotation And Succession Planting For Year-Round Garlic

In order to have a continuous supply of fresh garlic throughout the year, it is essential to implement crop rotation and succession planting techniques. These practices contribute to soil health, prevent diseases, and maximize garlic production.

1. Crop Rotation

Crop rotation involves planting different crops in different areas of your garden each year. This helps prevent the buildup of pests and diseases that target specific plants. When it comes to garlic, it is best to rotate it every two to three years. This ensures that any pests or diseases that may have affected the previous crop are not present when you plant garlic again.

In Michigan, consider rotating garlic with crops such as tomatoes, corn, beans, or lettuce. By rotating your garlic planting area, you can maintain the health of both the soil and the garlic plants.

2. Succession Planting

Succession planting involves planting multiple batches of garlic throughout the year to ensure a continuous harvest. This is particularly important in Michigan, where the climate allows for both spring and fall planting.

In the spring, plant garlic cloves that have been properly stored and preserved. This will result in a harvest in late summer or early fall. In the fall, plant fresh cloves for a harvest the following summer. By staggering your plantings, you can enjoy a steady supply of fresh garlic.

Resources For Michigan Garlic Growers

Being a garlic grower in Michigan means having access to a range of resources that can assist in your garlic-growing journey. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced grower, these resources provide valuable information, tips, and support.

1. Michigan State University Extension

The Michigan State University Extension offers a wealth of information on various agricultural topics, including garlic production. They provide guides, articles, workshops, and access to experts who can answer specific questions related to growing garlic in Michigan. Their website is an invaluable resource for both small-scale and commercial garlic growers.

2. Local Gardening Clubs and Associations

Joining local gardening clubs and associations can provide you with opportunities to network with other garlic growers in your area. These groups often organize workshops, events, and seed exchanges, which allow you to learn from experienced growers and share your own knowledge. The Michigan Master Gardener Program is a notable organization where you can find a community of enthusiastic gardeners.

3. Seed Suppliers and Garlic Festivals

Finding reliable seed suppliers is crucial for obtaining high-quality garlic varieties suited to Michigan’s climate. Some reputable seed suppliers in Michigan include Filaree Garlic Farm and Northern Michigan Garlic. Attending garlic festivals, such as the Michigan Garlic Festival in August, can also be a great way to connect with fellow garlic enthusiasts and learn more about garlic farming in the state.

4. Online Forums and Social Media Groups

Online forums and social media groups dedicated to garlic growing provide platforms to connect with growers from around the world. Websites like GardenWeb and platforms like Facebook groups offer spaces where you can ask questions, share experiences, and learn from a diverse community of garlic growers.


Planting garlic in Michigan requires careful storage and preservation techniques, the utilization of garlic scapes in recipes, and the implementation of crop rotation and succession planting practices. By following these guidelines and utilizing the available resources, you can successfully grow garlic in Michigan and enjoy a bountiful harvest year after year. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, the unique flavors and health benefits of garlic make it an excellent addition to your Michigan garden.


When Should I Plant Garlic In Michigan?

Garlic should be planted in Michigan in the fall, between mid-September and mid-October, before the ground freezes.

What Type Of Soil Is Best For Planting Garlic In Michigan?

Garlic thrives in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter, so it is recommended to amend your soil with compost or aged manure before planting.

How Do I Prepare The Garlic Cloves For Planting In Michigan?

Break apart the garlic head into individual cloves and choose the largest, healthiest ones. Peel off the papery outer layer but leave the thin skin covering the cloves intact.

How Do I Plant The Garlic Cloves In Michigan?

Each clove should be planted about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart, with the pointed end facing up. Cover with soil and mulch to protect the garlic from harsh winter temperatures.

How Often Should I Water My Garlic Plants In Michigan?

Garlic prefers slightly moist soil, so water regularly but avoid over-watering. In Michigan, during the dormant months, water sparingly. Then increase watering in spring when sprouting begins.