Growing Garlic from Planting to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Home-grown garlic

If I had to pick just one vegetable I couldn’t be without, it would have to be garlic. Its rich, satisfying taste is pure indulgence! Luckily for fellow garlic enthusiasts, anyone can grow these beautiful bulbs.

Types of Garlic

There are two types of garlic: ‘hardneck’ or ‘softneck’. Hardneck varieties produce flower stems, or ‘scapes’, which must be removed to encourage the bulbs to reach their full potential. The scapes themselves are an early summer treat, delicious chopped into salads or stir-fried for a taste of the bulbs to come. Hardneck varieties are more tolerant of cold weather than softneck ones, so opt for these if your winters are harsh.

While not a true garlic, the enormous ‘Elephant’ garlic behaves like a hardneck type. Despite its size, it has a mild flavor.

Garlic from the grocery store may carry disease and could be unsuitable for your climate.

Garlic scapes are not just tasty, removing them also helps increase the size of the bulbs

How to Plant Garlic

Originating from central Asia, garlic loves a sunny location in fertile, free-draining soil. You can improve your soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, a few months before planting.

Unlike many vegetables, garlic is usually planted in fall. This is because the winter cold signals it to begin bulb production the following spring. To find out when you can plant in your area, take a look at our Garden Planner. Add garlic to your plan then refer to the accompanying Plant List to see when to plant it and when you can expect to enjoy your harvest.

Plant your garlic into prepared soil raked to a fine tilth. Begin planting by carefully breaking apart the bulb to separate the individual cloves. Plant them pointy end up, about six inches (15cm) apart, leaving a foot (30cm) between rows. You can make a trench, or dig a hole for each clove. Cover them back over with soil so that the tips of the cloves are only just below the surface. If birds pull up the cloves, replant them and pop a row cover or netting over the top to prevent further problems.

Hardy garlic can be grown outdoors over winter in many regions

In very cold regions garlic cloves can be planted into module trays for planting out in spring. Fill the trays with general purpose potting soil and plant one clove per module in exactly the same way.

You can also grow garlic in containers. Choose pots that are at least eight inches (20cm) wide, with adequate drainage holes in the base. Plant the cloves so they are four to six inches, or 10 to 15cm apart in each direction. Cover them with more potting soil then move to a sunny spot.

Growing Garlic

Garlic needs very little attention. Water if the weather is dry – especially garlic in containers – and weed between rows to prevent plants from getting swamped.

Garlic will benefit from a mulch of grass clippings

Lay an organic mulch such as grass clippings occasionally during the growing season to help to feed plants, while keeping the ground cool and moist.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Your garlic is ready to lift when the leaves have begun to turn yellow or die down in summer. Use a fork or trowel to ease the bulbs from the ground then dry them out somewhere warm and airy.

Dry garlic on a wire rack to insure good airflow

Once dry, brush off any remaining soil, cut off the leaves, then store in a cool, dry place on racks for good airflow. Alternatively, weave the leaves into a plait to hang up. Garlic bulbs should keep like this for three months or more.

And that’s it – growing garlic couldn’t be any simpler! If you’ve got a variety you particularly rate, whether for character, flavor or storing abilities, please tell us about it in the comments section below. Or perhaps you’ve got a helpful garlic-growing tip you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it!

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Show Comments


"Your article says : "In very cold regions garlic cloves can be planted into module trays for planting out in spring." Could you please tell me more about this? If cold is needed to trigger the garlic to grow, do these modules need be kept at a certain temperature all winter to trigger growth before planting out and prevenyt premature growth? Can I then put them out earlier under row covers for an earlier crop or what size and weather temperature is safe for transplanting them out? Thank you."
P T Theriault on Saturday 11 November 2017
"The module trays should be kept under cover, out of the severe cold. It will still be more than cold enough to initiate bulb production when then warm weather finally arrives. You could certainly plant them out under row covers to help them along at the start of the season. They are generally planted out as soon as there are regular days of pleasant, warm weather, with fewer frosts at night. In my part of the world that's usually early April."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 November 2017
"Great information"
Anna C on Monday 9 July 2018
"Thank you interest in growing garlic along w scrapes in NYC"
Linda on Tuesday 18 September 2018
"Hi Barbara, I've never had trouble with garlic before (in all of 4 years with a veg garden haha) but..I planted this year in December (The Netherlands, by Amstersdam) and they're now around 5cm high. But brown at the edges! There's something not quite right (like a child who's looking a little green around the gills) and my guess they're either missing something, or are having too much of something. Can you help? "
Veronica on Thursday 13 December 2018
"This could be down to a number of reasons. If shoots are already that high it could be that the soft growth has been hampered by a sudden and intense cold snap, though I don't think it's been that cold in The Netherlands yet. Nevertheless, it may be prudent to protect the garlic in very cold weather with fleece covers or similar, to stop the delicate foliage being further damaged. Once winter progresses it is likely that the shoots will toughen up a little anyhow. Another problem could be overly wet soil, causing waterlogging and plants to struggle? If the plants don't recover, then take heart - you can re-plant in the spring and should still get a good crop towards the end of summer."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 13 December 2018
"Thanks for the advice Ben..I've taken it on board and am keeping an eye on it all. I suspect that it's slightly too warm, rather than too cold.. "
V Nienhuis on Thursday 14 February 2019
"Very informative thank you Gary"
Gary on Tuesday 23 April 2019
"Thanks Gary. I will plant today. Very good video."
Sue Nicol on Monday 27 May 2019
"Very interesting! Yes - please put me on your email list."
Jane Meyer on Thursday 12 September 2019
"Very good article. How do I get to print it for future use ? Thanks Keith"
Keith White on Saturday 6 June 2020
"Hi Jane. Please head up to the top of the page and click the 'Create an account' tab to join the email list."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 8 June 2020
"Hi Keith. Try going up to 'File' and then select print. Or right-click your mouse and then select print. Hopefully one of those will work for you."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 8 June 2020
"I don't know why, last year my grocery store garlic cloves grew better than what I purchased from a local nursery."
J P on Saturday 3 October 2020
"Hi JP. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with planting garlic cloves from the grocery store. They're the same plant after all. The issue is that they are just more likely to harbour diseases, and they might not be from your area/climate, so may not be best suited to your garden. But then often they are and you can have very good results - it's just a little bit more hit and miss that's all."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 4 October 2020
"Garlic brought from supermarkets may contain diseases? That is quite a story. Could you.please explain? I would have thought they would be throroughly clean from diseases and I havent had any problems...thought they may be treated if brought from nurseries garlic doesnt seem to exhibit anf problems. And neither should they as the growers need to take particular care to prevent disease. Supermarkets would stop them being sold..."
Johnoh on Sunday 16 May 2021
"Hi Johnoh. It's more a question of the bulbs being grown specifically for eating, rather than re-planting. The producers of bulbs grown for planting by gardeners will have paid meticulous attention to ensuring a product that is disease free, including viruses. The varieties sold will also be better suited to the region in which they are sold, whereas bulbs bought from the grocery store may have been grown a long way away, and not well adapted to your specific climate."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 17 May 2021
"The way I like to grow garlic is to put the hole bulbs in a 1/8 inch of water in say an ice cream container. When it shoots, plant the segments and Keep well watered[not wet} till it astablishes. Mulch a little and as the garlic grows, thiken the mulch. This method gives you near a 100% sucess rate. Wom tea cant go wrong ever month. Yes keep your own seed crop it will get better every year. I find moost deaseses are foiled if you plant it in fresh soil every year."
Gregory Potter on Sunday 26 June 2022
"Hi Gregory. That's super, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with garlic. It sounds like you're onto a winner there."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 June 2022
"Hi There! I'm in So Oregon, USA. Zone 8 best I can tell. I am interested in trying different varieties to see which ones I would rather have. Can they all be in the same box each row marked as to what it is. Or do I need to put each variety in separate boxes. Any particular types better for companion planting? Thank you for your answer"
Nancy Goss on Sunday 11 September 2022
"Hi Nancy. You could certainly plant different varieties in the same box, no problem - just be sure to label them so you don't get mixed up! All garlics are very good for companion planting purposes."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 12 September 2022
"Thank you for your prompt answer. :) "
Nancy Goss on Monday 12 September 2022

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