5 Tips for Spring Garlic Care

Spring Sprout Coming Through Mulch
Spring Sprout Coming Through Mulch

If you already planted your garlic crop in the fall, you’re well on your way to harvesting beautiful large bulbs this summer. Now that the snow has melted we’re all eager to get into our gardens, but where should we start?

In our fields, there are five important things that we do each spring to keep our garlic happy throughout the whole growing season. These methods have worked well for us for years and we hope they will help you in your spring garlic care as well!

1) Don’t Remove the Mulch

We do not remove mulch in the spring. We absolutely want our mulch to suppress the weeds, retain moisture, and protect the soil until we harvest the garlic. If the mulch has decomposed from the long winter, you can add an extra layer to help retain moisture and keep weeds under control. The only time we would want to remove it is if your garlic is in standing water and overly saturated soil. In this case, removing the mulch will allow the sun and wind to dry the soil out.

Spring Garlic Care - Adding Extra Mulch
Spring Garlic Care – Adding Extra Mulch

2) Fertilize the Garlic

In early spring, once you see the first sprouts, begin fertilizing your garlic. Apply fertilizer according to applications rates on package, every 10-14 days from when sprouts appear until ~1 week before garlic scapes emerge for large healthy garlic bulbs.

We recommend Keene Garlic’s Organic Garlic Fertilizer that is specially formulated for garlic and all alliums. We work closely with a local fertilizer company to make sure it has all the nutrients that garlic needs!

Keene Garlic Fertilizer 5-2-2-1
Keene Garlic Fertilizer 5-2-2-1

3) Keep the Garlic Weeded

Bulb size is reduced if garlic has to compete with weeds, so it’s best to get the weeds while they are small. Not only does it takes longer to weed when they get bigger, but the weeds rob nutrients from the bulbs. We find weed pressure is reduced significantly by using mulch.

We recommend that you start weeding as soon as you can see the rows of garlic coming up. Getting an early start on weeding is essential to great spring garlic care & will overall contribute to a healthier crop.

Spring Garlic Care - Weeding
Spring Garlic Care – Weeding

4) Irrigation

Ideally, garlic needs about 1″ of water a week and try to taper off right before harvest. In Wisconsin, we usually don’t have to irrigate, since we tend to get ample spring rainfall that tapers off into the summer before harvest. We do irrigate in dry seasons.

Irrigation for Garlic
Irrigation for Garlic

5) Picking Garlic Scapes

Removing garlic scapes in the springtime forces the garlic plant to direct all of its energy into the bulb of the plant, helping it grow bigger. Once the scape starts to curl, it is ready to be snapped off. The easiest way to snap the scape is to find where the scape is emerging out of the leaves, and snap it with your thumb and 1st finger.

When the garlic scapes have just produced a full curl, they are tender and delicious. They have a taste that is milder than the garlic cloves and has a broad spectrum of uses from soups & salads to stir-fry. See our website for more info on garlic scapes and their various uses in the kitchen!

Freshly Picked Garlic Scapes
Freshly Picked Garlic Scapes

What if my plants aren’t doing well?

If your garlic plants are yellowing or weather stressed, it’s important to give them some extra nutrients to help them bounce back. You can foliar feeding the plants by using compost tea or a mixture of Purple Cow’s BIOACTIVE LiquiLife™ (formerly CX-1)BIOACTIVE Liquid Supercharger™ (formerly Vegetable Supercharger).

Purple Cow’s BIOACTIVE LiquiLife™ (formerly CX-1) and BIOACTIVE Liquid Supercharger™ (formerly Vegetable Supercharger) are a game-changer in providing the nutrients your garlic needs to produce larger sizes and healthier plants. Apply as a foliar spray over plants in the spring upon sprouting until the garlic scapes emerge. This will “supercharge” your plants, providing them with living organisms and trace minerals to produce healthy, nutrient-dense plants.

Yellowing Plants in the Spring
Yellowing Plants in the Spring
Purple Cow Biology Bundle 1
Purple Cow Liquid Fertilizers for Foliar Spraying

Hope you find these 5 Tips for Spring Garlic Care helpful!


  1. Susan Bendlin on May 1, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    Missing section 6 – when to harvest. Can you please add?

  2. G on June 5, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    Hi! This is my first year growing garlic. I’m a bit worried I don’t see any scapes emerging now (in Minneapolis, MN.) The plants are looking great – getting super tall. Should I do something to encourage the scape to grow?

    • Keene Garlic on June 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm

      We will start picking them in WI early next week. Not sure where you are located, but they should be coming soon. Also, scapes are only on hardneck garlic.

  3. Nancy Gero on February 20, 2022 at 5:13 am

    Can the Garlic be fertilized on top of the mulch? Or, do you need to pull back the mulch to mix it into the soil?

    • Larry on December 4, 2022 at 12:19 pm

      I’m not Keene Garlic, but with any plant you’d want to pull back the mulch to apply fertilizer then replace the mulch (if you’re keeping it mulched). There should be no need to mix with the soil though for routine fertilizer application, as you would run more risk of disturbing roots than any benefit you would gain of doing so. It’ll water in just fine. 🙂

    • Chris on February 23, 2023 at 10:25 am

      Nancy,I have the same question! Zone 5b and we should be under a blanket of snow, but no. I have garlic peeking out from undermulch already and I’m panicked.

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