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I got a bunch of garlic bulbs to plant a couple weeks ago but winter struck early and I didn't manage to plant them yet. We've had a foot of snow and 2 cycles of snow/thaw so far, and for at least two weeks we've had minimum daily temperatures below freezing.

I will check how frozen the soil is - the top layer has been frozen at times but it may not be frozen very deep. I read that it can take until January or at least December for the top inch of soil to freeze, so that gives me some hope.

Can the garlic bulbs be planted in late-autumn winter conditions that are happening already in much of zone 4 & 5 of northeast USA? Under what condition is it too late for garlic bulbs to be planted due to onset of winter? For example if it can be planted as long as the soil isn't frozen, does that mean they can be planted in mid/late-winter during a warm spell?

  • You should try it and tell us what happens! I really don't think the answer is something very many people know for sure, but I'd sure love to hear other peoples' experience who have tried it. – Shule Nov 28 '18 at 6:15
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    @Shule I will probably plant a smaller set as CoolKoon described during a warm spell. Right now, another cold & snow snap, so that'll depend on if I see grass again before Spring! I'll revisit & update this Q&A if I do plant any during winter, to share how they did or not in Spring/Summer! – cr0 Nov 28 '18 at 13:41
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Since garlic is recommended to be planted about 6 weeks before freezing, you've already passed the (proper) opportunity to plant them I'm afraid (why would you want to plant them in the frozen soil anyway?). Planting garlic in USDA zones 4 and 5 is fine, but since winter comes sooner in those zones than say in zones 6 or 7 you should've planted them several months ago anyway.

If you really insist on planting them, sure, feel free to plant them about 3 in deep during a warm spell, but personally I'd wait until the soil thaws during spring. Sure, your harvest would be late, but it'd also lessen the chance of the bulbs catching some fungal infection (which they're prone to doing while in storage too). Until then they should be stored in a cool and dry place.

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I would avoid planting them in frozen soil. An alternative is to keep them in a cool, dry and DARK place until the spring. If you have a dry basement or garage that stays "cold", that might be perfect, especially if outside temps stay well below freezing all winter. (aim for "40/40" - 40 days below 40 degrees before you plant). You'll have beautiful scapes and delicious bulbs in the summer!

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