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Growing Garlic in Southern Ontario (Zone 5 and 6)

Hard Neck Garlic Drying
Shelley Pauls / Unsplash

It’s near the end of October, which means 2 things: fall harvest, and spooky season! What better way to celebrate both events than to grow your own garlic at home! Whether you plan on growing them outdoors or indoors, now would be the perfect time to start planting your garlic to be ready for spring. Before you start planting, let’s start with the basics of garlic.


There are 2 garlic varieties that are grown in Ontario: hard neck and soft neck garlic.


Hard Neck Garlic
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Hard neck garlic develops a long flowering stem called a scape. They bolt during the late spring or early summer, producing a bulbil instead of a true flower.


Bulb of ripe soft neck garlic in peel cut in half on wooden board
Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Unlike their counterpart, soft neck garlic does not produce a scape, so their stems stay soft and flexible. This makes them excellent for creating braids of garlic. They also thrive under warmer climates, as they are not generally as hardy.


Pairs of gardening gloves laid out on the deck

Depending on where you live in Ontario, the perfect date to plant your garlic could range from the last week of September to as late as early November. This is because the garlic thrives under cooler weather conditions when growing, a process also known as vernalization. The goal is to plant early enough to have the cloves develop a large root system, while at the same time, planting late enough that garlic cloves don’t sprout and show green top growth above the soil.

Based on this timeframe, since zones 3 and 4 region (Northwestern Ontario) gets the earlier frost, they can be planted in early September or late October. For zone 5 and 6 region (Southern Ontario), planting can range from early October to the last week of November.


Now that you have the planting dates sorted out, it’s time to start planting! There are a few techniques to consider while having the best garlic harvest next season.


Growing the perfect garlic crop starts with its environment: the soil. Creating a healthy soil environment will ensure the garlic will grow, since it is a nutrient feeder. Consider adding our organic biofertilizer to your soil before planting so it can soak up all the nutrients. It is also important that the soil is well drained and to monitor the moisture level of your garlic plant by creating a watering schedule.

infographic of benefits of growing garlic with NurtureGrowth's organic biofertilizer


Planting garlic cloves by hand
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Planting garlic in a straight row, or uniform layout is highly recommended since garlic tends to require a lot of weeding. Consistent weed control is also important when maintaining your garlic garden. This allows all the energy to be put into the growth of the bulbs, rather than the weeds. Planting your garlic in containers with close spacings is also ideal as it would minimize the space where weeds would grow.

If you are planting hard neck garlic cloves by hand, it should be pushed as deep as 1 to 3 inches into the soil with the clove tips pointing upward and their flat bottoms pointed down. This allows the first leaves to emerge from the ground easily in the sprig and ensures the garlic necks don’t grow crooked. If it is planted deeper than 3 inches, this could create more work and energy to grow, limiting the size of the bulbs.


Person scooping a handful of mulch
Ronstik / Getty Images

It is important to add mulch to your garlic garden as it acts like an insulator. Doing so will moderate the soil temperature and keeps the planted cloves protected from Ontario’s fluctuating temperatures.

If you plant your garlic early in the fall, you can sometimes end up with a green spout above the soil. When this happens, it’s normal for the leaves to die if they are exposed to very cold temperatures. However, the cloves will re-grow new leaves in the spring.


Field of hard neck garlic scapes
Tim Sullivan / StockSnap

Depending on the hardiness zone, when the first frost is complete, the covers and/or mulch can be removed from the garden so the soil can be warmed up. For hard neck garlic, scapes that are grown can be removed, but keep a few to monitor when to harvest your garlic! Doing so will allow the garlic to focus on maximizing the growth of the bulbs. Scapes can be used as garnishes for your meals or could be planted.

By late July or early August when the garlic leaves start to brown, they are ready to be harvested! It is important not to wash your garlic or remove the bulb wrapper after harvesting. You would want to avoid extra moisture in the bulb as it could lead to fungal infestations. Instead, leave them on a table to cure for a few days, then hang them on a rack for the drying process.


a row of garlic growing in the garden
Eeenevski / Getty Images

With the right materials and technique, you could grow your own garlic right in your kitchen! Container gardening for garlic is a great alternative if you do not have the capacity to grow outdoors and is a great way to have garlic right at your fingertips! So go ahead and start planting your garlic to be ready by next spooky season.

infographic of Nurture Growth's organic biofertilizer




Blogger Biography

Freda is a Toronto-based social media and digital marketer. New to the plant world, she is looking forward to learning all the tips and tricks on how to keep her plant babies thriving! If she's not walking her maltipoo Leo, you can find her practising yoga or enjoying live music.

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