5 Tips for Spring Garlic Care

garlic sprouting
Garlic Sprouting

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 get our garlic crop off to a good start. They 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 sitting in pooling water and overly saturated soil. In this case, removing the mulch will allow the sun and wind to dry your plants out.

Adding extra mulch
Adding Extra Mulch

2) Fertilize the Garlic

When the leaves begin to grow, it is important to feed the garlic plants to encourage good growth. Fertilize the garlic with a good nitrogen-based fertilizer right when it emerges out of the ground. Pelleted chicken manure, feather meal, Chilean nitrate, or a blended fertilizer are all good organic fertilizers. Stop fertilizing right before the garlic scapes emerge.

Our Organic Garlic Fertilizer is produced by our local fertilizer business for our local garlic growers to provide us with the nutrients that garlic needs to yield nice large healthy nutrient-dense bulbs.

Our organic fertilizer
Our Organic Fertilizer

3) Keep the Garlic Weeded

Bulb size is reduced if garlic has to compete with weeds, so get the weeds while they are small. It takes longer to weed when they get bigger. By using mulch, our weed pressure is reduced significantly.

We recommend that you start weeding as soon as you can see the rows of garlic coming up. Getting an early start on weeding will save you a lot of work later, and will overall contribute to a healthier crop.

Weeding spring garlic
Weeding Garlic Plants

4) Irrigation

Try to get about 1″ of water a week and try to taper off right before harvest. We don’t usually ever have to irrigate, since we get “usually” perfect spring rainfall which tapers off into summer storms and then we harvest.

Drip irrigation
Drip Irrigation

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. Right as soon as the scape starts to curl, it is ready to be snapped off. The easiest way to snap the scape is to find where the garlic is emerging out of the leaves, and snap it with your thumb and 1st finger.

When the garlic scapes are still in 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 soup to salads to garnishes. See our website for more info on garlic scapes and their various uses in the kitchen!

Picking garlic scapes
Picking Garlic Scapes in the Spring

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. Foliar feeding the plants is helpful using compost tea or a mixture of Purple Cow’s CX1 Liquid Organic Fertilizer and BioActive Vegetable Supercharger Fertilizer.

Purple Cow’s CX1 combined with Purple Cows Supercharger are a game-changer in providing the nutrients your garlic needs to produce larger sizes and healthier plants. They are applied as a foliar spray over plants in the spring upon emergence until the garlic starts to scape. 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
Garlic fertilizer
Adding Supercharger to CX1 Liquid


  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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