Garlic Fertilization Soak

Soaking Garlic Before Planting

  1. Separate each clove from the bulb before planting.  It does NOT matter if the wrapper around the clove is on or off the clove before planting.  There are theories on both ways.  Over 15 years of Keene Garlic and our growers growing garlic, we all have planted MILLIONS of garlic cloves with the wrappers on or off, and guess what?  We still yield beautiful healthy strong big garlic!   
  2. Soak the cloves in a sterilizer for 10 minutes.
    • The sterilizer may be isopropyl alcohol, vodka, hydrogen peroxide, Tsunami, or another sterilizer. In 2020, these items are hard to come by, and for many of us, vodka may be the cheapest and easiest to come by.  Customers have asked me about various things to use like bleach and such, but we don't have experience in that to give a recommendation.  If it is cost prohibited to use these items, skip step 2, and go to step 4.  At least, get the garlic some food before putting them to bed for the winter.   
  3. Strain the sterilizer
  4. Put cloves into a container with a fertilizer
    • Put cloves into a container with a fertilizer like fish emulsion, kelp meal, or a fertilizer blend (use the application rates according to the package). Then add 1 teaspoon of baking soda per gallon of water.
  5. Soak the cloves in the fertilizer.
    • The cloves should soak for at least 30 minutes up to overnight. Many times we start our soak and are not able to plant in the morning, so we have left them in the fertilization soak for up to 3 days. After 3 days, they may develop roots at the bottom which are very delicate and you don't want them to break off when planting.
  6. Plant your garlic
    • Through the years we have changed the steps in this method and we use to do the fertilization first, but so many times we go to plant and for some reason, we can't and after the sterilizer has been drained they need to be planted right away, so we changed the process and get the same results with fewer issues. You can do it either way. Sterilizer then fertilizer or fertilizer then sterilizer.


Read Martha Stewart's blog on the fertilization soak and planting our garlic. 

Garlic Fertilization soak before planting
Soak the garlic for up to 10 minutes to overnight.
Garlic fertilization soak
Comparison of treated garlic seeds vs. untreated after planted.

Why we soak our garlic before planting

  • The reasons why we recommend a fertilization soak of garlic seed:

    1. Reduce the transmission of microorganisms that naturally live in garlic.
    2. As an organic farm, our goal is to promote the health of the plant. We can't spray with chemicals to save a plant, so our goal is to have healthy soil and healthy plants.
    3. It increases bulb size. Many of us growers believe it increases the size of the bulb by giving the plant some food before putting it to bed before winter.
    4. From the picture, these are garlic cloves from the same bulb 7 days after planting. The clove on the right went through the fertilization soak and the other did not. As you can see, the roots develop much faster allowing the plant to root down and start on its growth cycle before winter sets in.
  • It is not mandatory that you soak garlic before planting. In fact, there are plenty of successful garlic growers that do not do this step and plant the cloves right into the ground and have a wonderful garlic crop.
  • As a garlic farm selling seed stock, we do a fertilization soak before planting, because we are growing for others to plant our garlic and we want our customers to have the healthiest best performing garlic seed stock.

Garlic Fertilization Soak