It's only February, but my garlic is coming up. What should I do?

Question:

It's only February, but my garlic is coming up. What should I do?

Answer:

While not a regular occurrence, it is not unusual for the foliage of fall-planted bulbs like garlic to emerge a bit early during a mid-winter warm-up. While in Iowa garlic normally begins to emerge from the ground in mid-March to early April, mild winter weather can encourage premature growth. 

While the premature emergence of garlic foliage is undesirable, the danger is not as great as it may seem.  The foliage of garlic can tolerate cold temperatures (down into the 20s °F).  Often, typical winter weather (cold temperatures and snow) returns, delaying further growth.  A blanket of snow is especially helpful.  The snow discourages additional growth and also protects the foliage from extreme cold.

Once normal winter temperatures return it will be beneficial to add an extra layer of mulch, especially if there is poor snow cover, in case the temperature gets down into the teens or lower.  At temperatures below 20°F, the foliage will likely see some damage.  However, even if the foliage is damaged or completely killed to the ground, the garlic will likely regrow – although the resulting crop will likely be smaller as energy was lost producing leaves that were then destroyed. You can remove the mulch once temperatures are consistently warmer and spring growth is appropriate and expected. 

Answered by
  • Specialist
  • Consumer Horticulture Extension
Last updated on
March 19, 2024