Mulch Garlic | When, How and Why You Should mulch it

mulch garlic

You have to mulch your garlic! Seriously, it is the key to success with this crop. Mulching solves so many Garlic issues and creates the perfect environment for this overwintering crop to grow properly and produce those epic bulbs for you.

In this article I’ll show you the top 7 reasons why you need to mulch your Garlic this fall, as well I’ll show you how, when, and what to mulch with. It’s all here so grab a warm drink, sit back, and enjoy reading!

If the how of mulching garlic is easy then the when is dead simple.

Also, read How to Grow Garlic Indoors from a Clove [Detailed Guide].

When to Mulch Garlic

When to Mulch Garlic

You want to mulch your garlic right after you plant it. Don’t wait just consider it part of the planting process. The benefits are immediate which we’ll get into later but here’s a sneak peek.

I mulch my garlic right away before I even water the freshly planted cloves. Let’s take a look at watering with and without mulch because the visual demonstration is going to explain it better than I ever could.

The immediate and severe destruction of the top layer of soil including our planting job is staggering. Even if the water doesn’t unearth your clothes entirely it’ll surely change the soil structure from that of loose, airy, and perfect for garlic to more solid and clumpy in nature and this is just one watering over the course of a minute.

Imagine your fallen winter raining down incessantly on this bare soil, not pretty. Now even with less than a one-inch layer of fine mulch let’s pour that same amount of water from the same distance and see what happens.

let's pour that same amount of water from the same distance and see what happens

Right away you can see the difference. Almost no movement of the mulch and certainly no structural changes to the soil below, amazing. And that’s with just a thin thin layer of mulch. So imagine an entire winter of precipitation melting down constantly on that bare soil.

Water and the movement of water is one of the most powerful forces on the planet because it’s relentless over time.

How to mulch the garlic

How to mulch the garlic

The how of mulching is super easy. Simply pick your mulch of choice and spread it out evenly over your freshly buried cloves. As I said, I do this right after the planting before the watering.

Now the thickness of the mulch and how much you use is going to depend on where you live. The colder and harsher your winter is the thicker your mulch should be. Garlic is only able to grow up through about two to three inches of mulch effectively but the beauty of loose mulches like straw is that you can apply them heavy now and remove the bulk of them in the spring when the garlic sprouts.

So, the thickness of your garlic will be entirely predicated on your climate but don’t think if you live in a warm area that you can skip mulching all together.

There’s a whole host of benefits beyond just tucking these guys in for the winter and we’ll get to those benefits in just a second. So we mulch right after planting, we go thick if we live in a cold climate and thinner if we’re in a warm one.

What to mulch your garlic with

What to mulch your garlic with

But what do we mulch with? Well, you can mulch with pretty much anything but obviously, some materials are better than others. Organic mulches are the best and the ones that create a complex structure of protection is what we’re after.

So things like loose straw, shredded leaves and grass clippings, things like that. Mix and match if you have to just make sure to cover every inch of bare soil.

7 Reasons to mulch garlic

We’ve already covered a couple of reasons why you should mulch your garlic but there are many seven in fact and if you’re not convinced that you should be mulching garlic this fall you’re about to be.

1. Temperature Extremes

Temperature Extremes

Like we said mulching that garlic, a crop that’s planted right at the onset of winter is gonna help protect those underground bulbs from temperature extremes, both in the immediate with winter right at your doorstep and in the subsequent summer before harvest time next year.

So Gauge that mulch thickness based on where you live to keep those cloves protected and you’ll get a bigger harvest as a result.

2. Exposure


The second reason we mulch is also related to temperature but it’s more extreme and that’s exposure. Garlic is not planted deep and without a mulch layer to protect that topsoil from both wind and rain cloves can become exposed.

Leaving them helpless against the unrelenting sun or the bone-chilling winter winds, obviously not good for growing, cover them up.

3. Frost Heaving

Frost Heaving

On that note and taking it even a step further one action that we often see in the winter is frost heaving. Frost heaving is when moist soil freezes and thaws over and over.

The expansion of frozen water in the soil causes pressure, filling in the air gaps causing compaction. Then in the subsequent thaw, the excess moisture has nowhere to go. Without adequate aeration and now drainage the soil structure is damaged, often beyond repair.

In severe cases the cloves may actually be lifted right out of the garden even if they’ve established healthy root systems, you gotta protect your garlic with a mulch.

4. Moisture Control

Moisture Control

Next, we have moisture control and this works in two ways both to mitigate water loss due to evaporation and to lessen the impact of extreme precipitation that we often get in the fall and winter.

During dry periods mulch can nearly eliminate water loss due to evaporation. Locking in valuable moisture to the top layers of the soil when the crop needs it the most and in cases of extreme rainfall or snowmelt, the protective and dissipating nature of the mulch will also protect your clothes from excessive watering.

5. Retains Nutrients

Retains Nutrients

This is key because on that same train of thought mulching can also help with nutrient retention. Not just by shedding nutrients back into the soil as the mulch itself breaks down but also by preventing excess moisture from literally washing your garden, leaching out nutrients in the process.

Another case of mulch has a direct impact on bulb size and thus the success of your garlic crop.

6. Mulching Garlic Protects Young Shoots

Mulching Garlic Protects Young Shoots

This next one we don’t often see until the following spring but mulch can protect the new green shoots from severe weather as they’re just beginning their life. All too many times garlic tends to sprout right when the crazy spring weather and storms happen.

The protective nature of a light loose airy mulch allows those shoots to form but in a sheltered cozy existence. Not that your garlic crops would perish from this necessarily but it could certainly hold them back.

7. Weed Control

Weed Control

Finally and this is a biggie we have weed control. It’s a well-known fact that weed seeds usually reside in the top one-half inch of soil, waiting for an opportune time to sprout. That or they come in from the wind looking for premium spots to get established like bare soil.

And I don’t know if you know this but garlic hates competition more than anything even from itself and especially from other plants.

The single biggest thing that you can do to get on top of weeds is prevention and the easiest way to prevent weeds from growing is to take away a suitable spot for them to sprout i.e mulching, with no bare soil to colonize and with layers and layers of thick mulch blocking out the light for the seeds that are in the soil weeds have a tough time getting going in your garlic beds.

If there were no other benefits to mulching than weed suppression I would still mulch every time because it’s that effective at it.


Mulching is sometimes overlooked in a crop that’s planted below the soil surface and one that you don’t often see for up to five to six months after planting.

Hopefully, after reading this you can notice why that would be a mistake and going forward your garlic beds will never be naked without a nice thick mulch layer ever again.

Hey, thanks so much for reading guys. I appreciate the support more than you know and if you’re getting value from this article please share to spread the word and help your fellow gardener to grow better. Happy Gardening!

I am Fenil Kalal. Professionally I have done Engineering in Information and Technology. Gardening is my passion/love/favorite hobby and I have 5+ years of experience in Gardening.

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