Transplanting Hardneck Garlic

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"Our utility company told us they will be digging a trench in our yard.  Unfortunately, that trench will go though our garlic bed .  Can we transplant the garlic to a new location?"  - Mary in Wisconsin

"We planted our garlic way too close together! What were we Thinking?  Darn.  Can we thin the garlic and transplant the garlic that we pull - to a new locations?"  - Tim in Utah

How Does Garlic Grow - An Understanding of the Roots

In the northern tier of the United States, hardneck garlic is planted in the fall,  around the time we dress up like skeletons and ghosts - Haloween.  After the garlic is planted 2-3 inches deep, pointy-side up, the garlic begins to develop a root structure.  Garlic roots develop during the fall and winter—before the ground freezes—and by early spring, the planted clove and root structure begin to producing green foliage. If hardneck garlic cloves are planted at the right time, there should be no sprouting until early spring.

The garlic roots that develop in the fall and winter are fine and delicate.  If you remove a garlic clove from the soil in December (assuming the soil is not frozen), you will notice many creamy-white colored roots that have the appearance of very thin angel hair pasta.   The garlic root, in botany, is that part of a vascular plant normally underground. Its primary functions are anchorage of the plant, absorption of water and dissolved minerals and conduction of these to the stem, and storage of reserve foods. 

 

Can I Transplant Garlic?

The simple answer is Yes, you can tranplant garlic.  Unfortunaly, the transplanted garlic plant will not perform as well, as compared to the plants that are left alone.  Simply put, the garlic roots are very sensitive to disturbance.  Why?  Garlic does not like to be transplanted. We've shown this at our farm in Montana time and time again.   The plant will often survive but the plant will look sickly and usually will not produce a large bulb.  Especially if the soil around the delicate roots is disturbed. In most cases, the plant will be half the size of a plant that was not transplanted.   You will need to take your chances in transplanting. If you transplant, you may need to replant the smaller cloves for a larger yeild the following year.

Transplanting Garlic Early in the Spring

Transplanting garlic early in the spring involves digging up a clove (that was planted in the previous fall) and moving it to a new location.  In most cases, the garlic will have established roots but very little to no green leaf structure.  Carefully dig around the clove with a shovel or spade, trying not to disturbe any of the soil that touches the root structure.  Having a new hole already dug is really helpful here.  Place the ball of dirt, which includes the clove, into the new hold, and add water.  

Transplanting Garlic Later in the Growth Cycle

Transplanting garlic early in late spring involves digging up a clove and plant (that was planted in the previous fall) and moving it to a new location.  In most cases, the garlic will have 3-4" deep roots and significant leaf structures.  Begin by carefully digging around the clove with a shovel or spade, trying not to disturbe any of the soil that touches the delicate root structure.  Try to obtain a root ball at least the size of a softball.  Having a new hole already dug is really helpful here.  Place the ball of dirt, which includes the clove, into the new hold, and add water.  Using clean scissors or clippers, remove the top 4-6 inches of the leaf structure.  This haircut helps prevent water loss and really seems to help the plant get reestablished.  If the transplant was sucessful, it should begin to grow new leaves within a week or so. 

Best Time to Transplant Garlic?

The best time to transplant garlic is very early in the development of the plant.  Transplant in the morning, evening or on a cloudy day.  Check the weather forcast and transplant before it rains.  This protects the plants from direct sun while they make the transition. 

How to Transplant Garlic - a Few Tricks

Keep as much of the soil around the roots as possible when transplanting, especially if you transplant later in the growing season.  Try not to disturbe the roots in any way. This means digging up a large mound of dirt around each plant.  This can be accomplished with a broad shovel while the soil is either dry or damp.  

Keep the garlic roots moist – Keep the soil well-watered, but make sure that the garlic plant has good drainage and is not in standing water. Wait patiently – Sometimes a plant just needs a few days to recover from transplant shock. Give it some time with an understanding you just caused major trama to this delicate plant.

Can “Vitamin B1" be used for Transplant Shock?  This myth arose from early work on plant growth regulators, called auxins, which were mixed with vitamin B-1.
Vitamin B1 is not a miracle drug, and does not makes all plants grow bigger especially after transplanting. 

Garlic Does Not Like to be Transplanted
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