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Fertilize Garlic Plants: Best Organic Methods (2023)

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fertilize your garlic plantsGarlic: the pungent bulb that has been used to ward off vampires, but more recently as a delicious addition to many dishes. Growing garlic is a great way for any gardener – beginner or master – to add flavor and nutrition into their meals.

With just the right amount of fertilizing, you can ensure your garlic plants are healthy and produce large bulbs with lots of flavor. Fertilizing your garlic plants correctly involves understanding what kind of fertilizer works best for them, when is the ideal time for applying it each season, and which organic options are available out there.

To help get you started on growing garlicky goodness in your garden this year, let’s take an in-depth look at how to fertilize your garlic plants!

Key Takeaways

  • Fall fertilization is important for healthy bulb development.
  • Spring fertilization enhances plant health and maximizes bulb size.
  • Proper fertilization leads to a successful garlic harvest with robust flavor.
  • Choosing the right organic fertilizer is crucial for providing the necessary nutrients for garlic plants.

How and When to Fertilize Garlic

How and When to Fertilize Garlic
You’ll wanna boost your garlic with organic fertilizer when plantin’ in the fall and side dress with a nitrogen source come spring for the healthiest, most flavorful harvest.

Hardneck and softneck varieties both need nutrients, but their needs differ based on plantin’ time. For fall plantin’, work aged manure or compost into the soil a month beforehand to enrich it.

Come spring, side dress plants every 4 weeks with nitrogen-rich solutions like liquid kelp, fish emulsion, or cottonseed meal to energize leaf growth.

Stop feedin’ 6 weeks before harvest so energy goes to the bulbs, not leaves. Well-fed garlic resists pests and disease while producin’ large, robust bulbs bursting with flavor.

Mind the variety and time those feedings right to get the healthiest, tastiest garlic around.

Best Fertilizers for Garlic

Best Fertilizers for Garlic
You need to provide plants like garlic with the proper nutrients for vigorous growth and large bulbs. Chicken manure, bone meal, and coffee grounds are organic fertilizers that can benefit garlic with nitrogen and other plant nutrients.

Chicken Manure

Chicken manure packs a nitrogen punch for your garlic in spring.

  • High in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
  • Provides organic matter to enrich the soil
  • Apply aged manure before planting
  • Side dress growing garlic every 4-6 weeks

With aged chicken manure, you’ll have happy, vigorous garlic plants. This organic fertilizer supplies essential nutrients, especially nitrogen, that garlic needs for lush foliage and large bulbs. Chicken manure helps condition your soil too. Just be sure to compost chicken manure before using it to avoid burning plants.

Bone Meal

While not as rich in nitrogen as chicken manure, bone meal fertilizer is high in phosphorus, which can benefit garlic under certain conditions. Apply only sparingly, as garlic prefers nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Consider alternatives like rock phosphate or soft rock phosphate, which slowly release phosphorus over time.

Bone meal rapidly increases soil phosphorus to excessive levels. Reserve bone meal for phosphorus-deficient soils. Otherwise, look to nitrogen sources like alfalfa meal and avoid over-applying phosphorus to your garlic plants.

Coffee Grounds

Refresh the soil and invigorate your garlic with invigorating coffee grounds. These energizing grounds fortify fertility and deter pests when blended into the planting bed. The caffeinated riches stimulate microbial activity for enhanced nutrient cycling, while the gritty texture loosens and aerates the earth.

Scatter used grounds around your crop to nourish your garden, stimulate the soil, and ward off destructive insects. Repurpose spent coffee into a dynamic soil amendment that revitalizes your garlic patch with each ground’s generous infusion of nitrogen.

Organic Garlic Fertilizer Application

Organic Garlic Fertilizer Application
To thrive, your garlic plants need the right organic nutrients applied at the optimal times.

First, prepare the soil well in advance by incorporating several inches of rich compost or well-rotted manure. This boosts organic matter, improving moisture retention and drainage. It also provides a slow-release of nutrients over the season.

If compost isn’t available, use an organic 4-6-4 fertilizer when planting garlic in the fall.

Come spring, side dress plants with organic nitrogen sources like pelleted chicken manure, alfalfa meal, or fish emulsion. This fuels rapid leaf growth. Apply every four weeks through mid-spring. Then switch to a high-potassium fertilizer like langbeinite to size up bulbs.

Foliar feed garlic in early summer with liquid kelp or fish fertilizer to correct any deficiencies. Proper organic fertilization, along with mulching, irrigation, and pest management, ensures your garlic thrives from planting to harvest.

With the right care, you’ll be rewarded with huge aromatic bulbs bursting with flavor.

Fall Fertilization for Garlic

Fall Fertilization for Garlic
Dig in some compost before the ground freezes to nourish your crop through the winter, bud.

Fall fertilization for garlic is a crucial step in ensuring your garlic plants thrive and produce robust bulbs next year.

  • Nutrient Timing: Timing is everything in fall fertilization. Apply your fertilizer before the first frost when the soil is still workable. This allows the nutrients to penetrate deep into the soil, providing a nutrient reservoir for your garlic during the winter.

  • Soil Preparation: Start by amending the soil with well-rotted compost or organic matter. This enriches the soil with essential organic nutrients and improves its structure, creating a favorable environment for garlic roots.

  • Bulb Development: Fall fertilization sets the stage for healthy bulb development. Garlic plants rely on stored nutrients during the winter to fuel their early spring growth. A well-fertilized soil now ensures they have the resources they need for strong root and shoot development when the weather warms up.

Spring Fertilization for Garlic

Spring Fertilization for Garlic
Come spring, side dress your rows with a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer like alfalfa meal. This gives your garlic a growth boost when it needs it most. Proper spring fertilization enhances plant health and maximizes bulb size.

Week Fertilizer
4-6 Alfalfa Meal
8-10 Fish Emulsion
12-14 Kelp Extract

Prepare the soil by working in 1-2 inches of composted manure before planting. Then feed your garlic regular doses of nitrogen in spring. Alfalfa meal provides a slow release of nitrogen to stimulate robust growth. Switch to fish emulsion or kelp extract as the bulbs start swelling.

These organic fertilizers deliver a nutritional punch without excess nitrogen. Follow package directions for rates.

Proper soil preparation and strategic spring feeding give your garlic the right nutrients at the right time. This results in super healthy plants and maximum bulb size for a bountiful harvest.

Recommended Organic Garlic Fertilizer
Since garlic’s a heavy feeder, try Organic Garlic Fertilizer 5-2-2-1s. It’s blended with chicken compost and feather meal for the nitrogen you’ll want. Whether you’re growing hardneck, softneck, or elephant garlic, all varieties benefit from the right nutrition.

Prep your soil with compost, but for the robust fertility garlic needs, look to organic fertilizers. Chicken manure compost supplies a steady nitrogen release, while feather meal boosts it immediately.

Time applications in fall, just before planting, and again in spring about one month after shoots emerge. That jumpstarts nutrients for healthy roots and leaves. Two more treatments, a month apart, sustain growth through bulb swell.

Micronutrients like calcium in the mix strengthen cell walls for full, firm heads. With the right feed, your garlic will thrive from its long growing season to a bountiful harvest of extra large bulbs.

Essential Nutrients for Garlic Growth

Essential Nutrients for Garlic Growth
Gotta have enough nitrogen and potash for your garlic, or them bulbs’ll be puny.

  • Nitrogen keeps garlic leaves green and healthy, promoting vigorous growth. Apply 40-60 lbs actual N per acre in split applications.
  • Phosphorus stimulates root and bulb development. It’s already high in most soils.
  • Potassium or potash produces larger, higher yielding bulbs. Apply 100-150 lbs K2O per acre.
  • Sulphur boosts bulb size and storability. Apply 25-50 lbs elemental sulfur per acre before planting.

Healthy soil breeds healthy garlic loaded with flavor. Test soil to see which nutrients are lacking. Pick organic amendments suited to your soil needs. With adequate N-P-K, you’ll harvest huge, pungent bulbs.


Symbolic of the natural cycle of life, garlic is a hardy, long-season crop that requires proper fertilization to thrive. With the right nutrients, garlic plants will produce large, healthy bulbs with robust flavor.

Knowing when and how to fertilize your garlic can make the difference between a successful harvest and a lackluster one.

Chicken manure, bone meal, and coffee grounds are all great organic sources of nitrogen for garlic. Additionally, organic garlic fertilizer blends, such as Organic Garlic Fertilizer 5-2-2-1s, can provide the essential nutrients needed for optimal garlic growth.

Fall fertilization is key for winter nutrition, while spring fertilization helps promote healthy roots and bulb growth. With the right fertilization, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of garlic that will fill your kitchen with its signature aroma.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.