Removing mulch from garlic

We planted garlic for the first time last fall. Before the frost began, we mulched it heavily with (very) old hay. When the weather got warmer, we realized we weren’t sure when to take the mulch off the plants (we’ll leave it between the rows). Some internet research suggests we wait till the danger of frost is over. That’s about a month from now for us, and some of the garlic is coming up through the mulch already. Should we take the mulch off now? Never? When the danger of frost is past?



I’m in Toronto, near the lake and my garlic seedlings (possibly 2nd year) are up and growing without mulch, so they must be able to tolerate some cold. Mind you, it’s been mild lately.

We don’t take the mulch off ever. Last year we mulched VERY heavy with hay in the fall. In the spring I was worried we had mulched a bit too heavy for the garlic to come through, but they made their way through even though it took a bit longer. Was very glad to of had the heavy mulch in such a dry season.

Thanks very much, both! I guess we’ll leave the mulch in place. Mulch kept some of our vegetables going last summer well into the drought.

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Hey Jim!

Typically when they start poking out I would walk the mulch and clear the mulch with my finger around the garlic just so it isn’t hindered. If it gets “stuck” beneath the mulch it’ll just elongate and get twisty and lose a lot of strength trying to get through, and a weaker plant is never a good plant. So I’ll finger the mulch just so I can see the garlic, if you can see, the sun can see it, and if the sun can see it, the garlic can punch through easy. You just have to be careful that you don’t break off any heads, but with consistent head spacing it’s easy to do this pretty quickly.

Having said that, I didn’t mulch my garlic last year after reading a reasarch paper relating to the fact that they saw no difference in mulched vs unmulched garlic. So I wanted to see for myself. I had my garlic out of the ground by an inch in December 2015 (because it was so warm and the ground hadn’t frozen yet), and 1.5 to 2 inches by Spring 2016, we got frosts about 3-4 times after that, and I had no discernible damage and a great crop in 2016. I’m always sold on techniques that require less work and give good results.

Mind you the 2015-2016 winter was unusually mild, so on a harshly cold snow-free year, would I get the same results? Mayyyyybe not!

We’re in Eastern Ontario and go through a lot of freeze-thaw cycles through the fall and spring. Mulching heavily after the first hard frost in November or December decreases the risk of frost heave and resultant winter kill. (For reference, we are just seeing the end of snow in our garlic planting this week!)

We typically pull some of the mulch into the gullies early in the season (plants are less than 6" tall) and ensure that there is no mould formation in compacted mulch patches. We also do as Denis suggests and make sure plants emerge as unimpeded as possible. Good luck, Jim

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Probably should have mentioned that I’m in Southwestern Ontario.

Thank you, all. We ended up clearing the mulch directly around the plants (and yes, a few of them were growing sideways under there, trying to get to the light). That was about a week ago, and it’s all doing well. There was ice on our water buckets this morning, and the garlic is fine, so I guess it’s hardy, all right!

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Hello We don’t mulch our garlic in our lowland farm here and regularly have excellent crops. We find we have more than enough water and many of our peers who mulch heavily regularly have far more fungal diseases than we do, although they have been having more success in reducing this by harvesting a bit earlier. Mulching garlic is a strong option in dry well drained zones where lack of water is more of an issue. We have never lost garlic planted in October to heaving but have lost a mid november planting to heaving. (The year our first child was born Halloween night:) We have never had a frost or cold damage our garlic in the spring once it’s up, even with well below minus 20

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