Garlic and spring bulbs are excellent plants for eastern Idaho. They are very cold hardy and have a unique growing season. It’s fun to watch these plants grow in early spring and survive a blanket of snow at the start of the new growing season.
One challenge for growing garlic is that it is subject to quarantine from white rot disease of onion. All allium bulbs, plants or plants (ornamental allium, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and chives) must be certified before they can be planted. The quarantine does not apply to crops grown from seed. Idaho counties subject to the white rot onion quarantine rule are Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonneville, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka , Owyhee, Payette, Power, Twin Falls, and Washington. Here is a link to a University of Idaho extension post on plant quarantines in Idaho.
Garlic and spring bulbs grow best when planted in the fall. They must go through vernalization (cooling process) to break dormancy and produce flowers. This vernalization can be done in a refrigerator or garage, but you don’t benefit from the establishment of fall roots.
Bulbs will do best if planted in locations with full sun with protection from the wind. Strong spring winds from eastern Idaho can dramatically shorten the flowering season for spring bulbs.
Soil and fertility
The soil should be rich and well drained. The soil should be friable (friable) deep enough that holes or trenches can be easily dug for bulb placement.
Fertilizer for flowering plants should be applied before planting and incorporated into the soil, based on the rate indicated on the product label. Any subsequent flowers or crops will also need to be fertilized for their growing season.
The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to cover them about two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Spring bulbs (garlic, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, crocus, etc.) will be planted at a depth of 2 to 8 inches, depending on the size of the bulbs. Irises are a rhizome and should barely be covered with soil.
If you are only planting a few bulbs, you can use a bulb planting tool. Places that plant thousands to millions of bulbs each year use a spade for complex flower beds or machines for commercial production.
- Work the soil so that it is easy to dig
- Smooth the ground with a rake
- Remove the bulbs
- Using a garden trowel
When using a garden trowel, poke to the desired depth, pull back a little, place the bulb with the nose up, pull out the trowel and tamp the soil on the bulb
If the soil is well worked, you can plant several bulbs per minute. It’s cool to watch the machines for commercial production.
Since I plant my garlic in rows, I have a furrow tool that I make a deep furrow with, then I plant the pods and cover them as I go down the row.
Work now to take advantage of the early spring flowers.