Guide to Planting Garlic in Minnesota: Tips and Steps for Successful Growth

- Editorial Staff

Tuesday, 1 August 2023 - 01:40

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Hello there! If you’re a gardening enthusiast in Minnesota looking to add some flavor to your meals, you’ve come to the right place. Garlic, with its rich aroma and distinctive taste, is a fantastic addition to any garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice just starting out, this guide will provide you with all the tips and steps you need to successfully grow garlic in the Minnesota climate. From selecting the right variety to harvesting the bulbs, we’ve got you covered. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to embark on a garlic-growing adventure that will fill your kitchen with deliciousness and your garden with beauty!

Choosing the Right Garlic Variety

When it comes to planting garlic in Minnesota, selecting the right variety is crucial for a successful harvest. The climate and soil conditions in Minnesota can be challenging, so it’s important to choose a garlic variety that is well-suited for these conditions.

Understanding the Climate in Minnesota

Minnesota experiences a cold and temperate climate, with long, harsh winters and short, hot summers. The state is located in USDA hardiness zones 3-4, which means the average minimum winter temperature can range from -30°F to -20°F (-34°C to -29°C). These cold temperatures can pose a challenge for garlic growth.

When selecting a garlic variety, it is important to consider its Hardiness zone. Ideally, you should choose a variety that is recommended for zones 3-4 or even lower.

Growing garlic in Minnesota requires a variety with a strong cold tolerance and the ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Some varieties that are commonly recommended for Minnesota include German Extra Hardy, Siberian, and Minnesota Midget.

Considering Soil Conditions

The soil conditions in Minnesota vary across the state, so it’s important to understand the pH and composition of the soil in your specific area. Garlic prefers well-draining soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

If you are unsure about the pH of your soil, you can purchase a soil testing kit or send a soil sample to a local agricultural extension office for analysis. This will help you determine if any amendments need to be made to the soil before planting.

In addition to pH, the composition of the soil is also important. Garlic grows best in loamy or sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. If your soil is heavy clay or lacks organic matter, you can improve its texture and fertility by adding compost or well-rotted manure prior to planting.

Exploring Different Garlic Varieties

When it comes to garlic, there is a wide range of varieties to choose from, each with its own unique flavor and growth characteristics. Exploring different options will allow you to find the perfect garlic variety that suits your preferences.

Some popular garlic varieties include:

– Hardneck garlic: This variety produces a hard stem or “neck” and typically has larger cloves. Hardneck varieties are known for their robust flavor and are suited for colder climates like Minnesota.

– Softneck garlic: This variety does not produce a hard stem and has a larger number of smaller cloves. Softneck varieties are known for their long shelf life and are well-suited for milder climates.

– Rocambole garlic: This variety is known for its rich and complex flavor. It produces fewer cloves but each clove is larger in size.

When selecting garlic varieties, consider factors like flavor, clove size, and the amount of time it takes to mature. If you are a garlic enthusiast, you can also experiment with different varieties to find unique flavors that suit your palate.

In conclusion, choosing the right garlic variety is essential for successful growth in Minnesota. Consider the climate in your area, the soil conditions, and your personal preferences when selecting garlic varieties. By choosing the right garlic variety, you’ll be on your way to a bountiful harvest of flavorful garlic bulbs.

Preparing the Soil

When it comes to planting garlic in Minnesota, preparing the soil is an essential step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Preparing the soil properly ensures that your garlic bulbs have the best chance of growing and thriving. In this section, we will discuss how to prepare the soil for planting garlic in Minnesota.

Clearing the Planting Area

Before you begin planting garlic, it’s important to clear the planting area of any existing vegetation and debris. By removing these obstacles, you provide a clean and fertile space for your garlic to grow. Start by removing any weeds, grass, or other plants that may be present in the area. Use a garden fork or shovel to loosen the soil and remove any rocks or roots that could interfere with root development.

Amending the Soil

Once the planting area is clear, it’s time to amend the soil to improve its structure and provide essential nutrients for your garlic plants. One of the best ways to do this is by adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. These organic materials help improve the soil’s texture, allowing for better drainage and root penetration. Additionally, they provide a rich source of nutrients that garlic plants need to thrive. Spread a layer of compost or manure over the planting area, and use a garden fork or shovel to mix it into the top few inches of soil.

Testing Soil pH

The pH level of your soil plays a crucial role in the success of your garlic crop. Garlic prefers a slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6 and 7. To determine the pH level of your soil, you can conduct a soil pH test. Soil pH test kits are available at most garden centers and can provide you with accurate results. Follow the instructions on the test kit to collect soil samples from your planting area. Once you have the samples, mix them with the testing solution provided in the kit. Compare the resulting color to the pH chart included in the kit to determine the pH level of your soil.

If your soil’s pH is below 6, it is considered acidic. In this case, you might need to add lime to raise the pH level. Conversely, if the pH is above 7, the soil is alkaline, and you may need to add sulfur or other acidic materials to lower the pH. It’s important to adjust the pH level of your soil before planting garlic to provide the optimal growing conditions for your plants.

In conclusion, preparing the soil is a crucial step in successfully planting garlic in Minnesota. Clearing the planting area, amending the soil with organic matter, and testing the soil pH are important tasks to ensure your garlic bulbs have the best environment to grow and thrive.

Planting Garlic

In order to successfully grow garlic in Minnesota, it is important to carefully select the right planting time, prepare the garlic bulbs properly, and plant them at the correct depth and spacing. By following these steps, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of flavorful garlic.

Selecting the Right Planting Time

Choosing the right time to plant garlic is crucial for its growth and development. In Minnesota, it is recommended to plant garlic in the fall, typically between September and October. This time allows the cloves to establish roots before the winter sets in and the ground freezes. It is important to consider the frost dates in your specific region as well, as planting garlic too late in the season may result in stunted growth or even failure.

Preparing Garlic Bulbs

Before planting, it is essential to prepare the garlic bulbs properly to ensure their health and viability. Start by selecting bulbs that are firm and free from any signs of disease or damage. Gently separate the bulbs into individual cloves, being careful not to damage any of them in the process. It is recommended to use the larger, outer cloves for planting, as they generally produce larger and healthier bulbs.

Planting Depth and Spacing

The depth and spacing at which you plant your garlic cloves can greatly impact their growth and development. To plant the cloves, make sure their pointed ends are facing upwards. Dig a hole or furrow that is approximately 2 inches deep, using a garden trowel or your fingers. Place each clove in the hole, ensuring that it is covered with soil. Space the cloves about 6-8 inches apart in rows, allowing enough room for the plants to grow and spread.

In addition to depth and spacing, it is important to consider other factors such as soil fertility, sunlight exposure, and watering requirements. Garlic prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Adding compost or well-aged manure to the soil before planting can help improve its fertility and structure. Garlic also thrives in full sunlight, so choose a location in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Furthermore, it is important to provide adequate water to the garlic plants throughout their growing season. While they need regular watering, it is also crucial to avoid over-watering, as this can lead to rotting of the bulbs. Keep the soil moist but not saturated, and adjust your watering schedule based on weather conditions.

By following these guidelines and paying attention to the specific needs of your garlic plants, you can enjoy a successful garlic harvest in Minnesota. With proper care and maintenance, your garlic crop will reward you with delicious, flavorful bulbs that can be used in various culinary creations.

Caring for Garlic Plants


Proper watering is essential for the successful growth of garlic plants in Minnesota. It is important to provide consistent and adequate water throughout the growing season, especially during dry periods. However, it is crucial to avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to rot and other diseases.

One effective method is to give garlic plants about an inch of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Keep in mind that garlic plants require more water during the initial stages of growth and bulb formation.

Regularly check the soil moisture levels by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels dry, it is a sign that the plants need watering. However, be cautious not to water too much, as garlic thrives in well-draining soil.


Mulching is an excellent practice to consider when planting garlic in Minnesota. Apply a layer of organic mulch, like straw or leaves, around the garlic plants. This protective layer helps conserve moisture in the soil, suppress weed growth, and prevent extreme fluctuations in soil temperature.

Before mulching, ensure that the soil is adequately moist. Spread a layer of mulch around 4-6 inches thick, making sure to avoid direct contact with the garlic stems. The mulch acts as a barrier, preventing weed seeds from germinating and competing with the garlic plants for nutrients.

Additionally, the mulch provides insulation, protecting the garlic bulbs during harsh winter conditions. In spring, when the temperatures start to rise, the mulch can be gently pulled back to allow the plants to emerge.


Proper fertilization plays a significant role in the development of healthy garlic plants. While garlic generally grows well in Minnesota’s fertile soil, providing additional nutrients through organic fertilizer can enhance its growth and flavor.

Before planting, it is advisable to incorporate well-rotted compost or manure into the soil. This helps improve soil structure and provides a slow-release source of nutrients for the garlic plants.

During the growing season, applying a balanced organic fertilizer once or twice can further support the garlic plants’ nutrient requirements. Look for fertilizers with a balanced NPK ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), specifically formulated for vegetable gardens.

Follow the package instructions for the recommended application rate. Generally, a handful of fertilizer per garlic plant, applied evenly around the base, is sufficient. Water the plants after fertilizing to allow the nutrients to reach the root zone.

Remember, moderation is key when it comes to fertilizing. Avoid applying excessive amounts of fertilizer, as this can lead to imbalanced growth or environmental pollution.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Monitoring Garlic Growth

Monitoring the growth of your garlic plants is an important step in ensuring a successful harvest. As the garlic plants mature, there will be noticeable changes in their appearance that indicate it is time to harvest. Keep an eye out for yellowing leaves and dried-down stems, which are clear signs of maturity.

Harvesting Techniques

When it comes time to harvest your garlic, it’s essential to handle the bulbs with care to avoid damaging them. To begin, gently loosen the soil around the bulbs using a garden fork. Be cautious not to nick or bruise the bulbs during this process. Once the soil is loosened, carefully lift the bulbs from the ground, making sure to gently remove any excess soil clinging to them.

After lifting the bulbs, it is recommended to allow them to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area. This drying process is called curing and helps to enhance the flavor and extend the storage life of the garlic. Place the bulbs in a single layer, ensuring that they are not touching each other. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as this can cause them to sprout prematurely. Allow the garlic bulbs to cure for approximately two to three weeks.

Storing Garlic

Proper storage is vital to maintaining the quality and flavor of your harvested garlic bulbs. Once the curing process is complete, it’s time to store the garlic in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated location. A temperature range of around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius) is ideal for storing garlic.

Choose a storage area that has moderate humidity to prevent the bulbs from drying out or becoming too moist. An excellent option is to store garlic in mesh bags or baskets, which allow for air circulation and help prevent moisture buildup. Remember to keep the garlic away from direct sunlight, as exposure to light can degrade the garlic’s flavor and quality.

Regularly check your stored garlic for any signs of sprouting or decay. It’s essential to remove any bulbs showing these signs to prevent spoilage from spreading to the rest of your stored garlic.

In conclusion, by closely monitoring the growth of your garlic plants and properly harvesting and storing the bulbs, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of flavorful garlic. Taking the time to follow these steps will ensure that your garlic bulbs remain in optimal condition for an extended period, allowing you to enjoy their fantastic taste in your culinary creations.

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