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How to Plant and Grow Garlic

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Garlic is a crop that you can plant in the fall to be harvested in midsummer. Homegrown garlic tastes great, take up very little room in your garden, and doesn’t require a great deal of maintenance. In fact, even if you have a small garden, you’ll find that you still have sufficient space to plant and grow garlic.

Many people may not know this about garlic, but it’s actually pretty simple to grow. We buy it from the grocery store because it’s quick, easy, and relatively cheap. But, did you know that growing it yourself is so easy that you’ll never want to buy it again?

If you want to grow garlic in your own backyard, here is an easy to follow guide to help you get started.

How to Plant and Grow Garlic

bucket full of freshly harvested garlic

When Is The Best Time To Plant?

Typically, garlic is planted during fall or early winter. It can even be planted during early spring in the warmer planting zones.

However, most gardeners plant garlic in the fall.

October is a perfect time to get them in the ground for that spring to summer harvest. This is a root crop and it develops those roots during the fall and winter, just before the ground freezes.

During the early spring, you will notice that the plants will start to add foliage. If they pop their tops a little out of the soil, this is normal and not a cause for concern.

If you are living in an area where you get a hard frost, plant your garlic two weeks after the first fall frost or just before the ground freezes.

Make sure that you are giving the plants enough time to settle in and for their roots to develop before the ground freezes but not long enough that the leaves emerge from the ground prior to freezing temperatures.

For places with cooler climates, plant your garlic between the months of September and November.
For warmer places with milder winters, you have the option to start planting in the fall, early spring, or late winter, as late as December.

What Are The Best Garlic Varieties?

braided garlic hanging

When it comes to garlic, there is no one best variety — it depends on the time you are planning to plant your garlic as well as the depth of flavor you are looking to get out of it.

There are two main types of garlic: softneck and hardneck.

The softneck garlic forms more cloves. They have one large clove around the outside of the head as well as smaller ones at the center of the bulb. This variety keeps longer once harvested than the hardneck varieties do.

Some popular varieties of softneck garlic are:

Picardy Wight which produces a strong flavor and can be stored for a longer period of time. It can be planted during spring or autumn for a midsummer harvest.
The Germidour has a very reliable yet slightly milder flavor than others. This variety is best to be planted during spring or autumn.
The Wight Cristo garlic produces an elegant bouquet and can be planted during fall or spring.

Meanwhile, the hardneck bulbs have several cloves that grow around a hard central stalk. The hard central stalk forms a flower stem in late spring or early summer that you”ll eventually need to cut off to encourage the plant to redirect its energy to expanding the bulb.

Some of the best varieties of the hardneck type of garlic are:

Red Duke which has a fiercely intense as well as a spicy kick to it.
Elephant Garlic is known for its extra-large, mild bulbs that are ideal for roasting. It can be grown during spring, autumn, or early winter.
The Georgian Crystal variety grows four to six immense cloves for each head and has a smooth, mild flavor.

Where Is The Best Place To Plant?

garlic plants growing in a field

To ensure healthy crops, you need to choose the best spot available for your garlic to flourish.

When choosing a planting spot, make sure to select a sunny spot in your garden. Your garlic will need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive.

Garlic needs well-drained, fertile soil with a pH level of 6.5 to 7. If the soil in your garden is thin and on the sandy side, before you start planting, add healthy organic compost and aged manure. Avoid using fresh animal manure as it can transfer diseases.

What Is The Best Place To Get Fresh Garlic Seed Stock?

Unlike other plants, when planting garlic, you need to plant the cloves inside the bulb individually.

To start with, buy fresh garlic from a store, farm stand, or local farmers market.

Your local Farmer’s Market is a great place to purchase seed garlic.  We used to buy ours from an older gentleman who sold his at our local market.  We knew he grew his garlic organically, which was important to us.

Keep in mind that the fresher and the higher quality it is, the better.
Choose fresh bulbs with large cloves. Do not buy those that are soft to the touch.
Each of the cloves will sprout into its own garlic bulb.

How to Plant Garlic Bulbs

planting garlic cloves into the ground

Once you have the garlic cloves ready and you have chosen the perfect spot in your garden, it is now time to start planting garlic cloves.

Carefully separate the individual cloves from the garlic head.

When doing this, be careful not to damage the cloves at the base. If the base is damaged, your plant will not grow.

When planting, choose the larger cloves. The smaller ones will just take up space in your garden bed and they will also produce smaller plants and smaller bulbs of garlic.

Push the clove into the garden bed soil. Making sure to have the pointy tip upward, push them at least 2 inches deep into the soil. Make sure to give the cloves enough space to spread out and grow into a large bulb, at least 8 inches apart.


mulch around garlic

To discourage diseases from spreading and bugs from eating the cloves, cover them with a thick mulching of at least a few inches deep.

You can use organic materials like dry leaves, hay, straw, manure, or grass clippings to cover the planted cloves.

Apply fertilizer. To grow healthily, your planted garlic needs fertilizer after planting. You also need to apply another layer of fertilizer in the spring.

When first planted, be sure to water well. For the roots to develop, you need to keep the soil moist in the beginning.

Avoid over watering once the plants have acclimated to their new home, as garlic does not grow well when overly wet.

You can water deeply at least once a week. As the weather warms up, reduce watering the plants to give the bulbs more time to mature.

How To Best Protect Your Garlic?

Because of its aroma, most birds would love to pull your freshly planted garlic right out of your garden beds.

After planting, cover the area with horticultural fleece or netting.

You can also plant the garlic in module trays, especially if you live in colder regions. Fill the tray with compost then place a garlic clove in each module. Cover the cloves with more compost and then store the trays in a sheltered area outdoors.

What is 1 clove of garlic?

garlic clove vs bulb

Sometimes there is confusion over garlic cloves vs bulb.

A bulb of garlic is what you would buy at the grocery store and is made up of many cloves of garlic.

A clove of garlic is the individual pieces of garlic that you would normally de-skin when using garlic in a recipe.  Although, when you are planting garlic, you want to keep the garlic skin on.

If you are wondering how big is a clove of garlic, the answer depends on the variety of garlic you are referring to.  Some garlic cloves tend to be larger and can be several inches long if it comes from the elephant garlic.  Most varieties though around about an inch to an inch and a half long.

What does a Garlic Plant Look Like?

grown garlic

If you haven’t seen a garlic plant before, you might be curious what the plant looks like.  It has dark green, long leaf stems.  When it flowers, the flowers tend to be purple.

How Long Does Garlic Take to Grow?

We plant garlic around the beginning of October and then harvest it around the beginning of July.  If you are wondering how long does it take for garlic to grow, the answer is nine months.

Growing garlic in your garden is not as complicated as it sounds. It is well worth the effort as you can use it in stews, sauces, meat, seafood, and chicken dishes. It also has many health benefits.

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Leave a Reply
  1. You have some great tips here, thanks!

    I tried growing garlic recently and it didn’t do very well. After reading your article I think I know why.

    I probably watered too much and also didn’t plant them deep enough. I have them about halfway sticking out of the ground.

    After reading your article I’m going to give it another shot.

    Thanks again!

  2. Hey , I thought I was growing garlic, but when I checked on them – they looked more like scallions. I must have mixed up the areas

  3. Hello, I live in zone 8 and planted fall garlic. It is January and the leaves are already 12-14 inches tall. I planted in a raised bed area and the plants look great. Should I still mulch for the winter? Cut the green growth to let the bulb have more energy or just leave them alone?? Our hardest freeze so far is tomorrow. 24 degrees
    Thank you for your article.

    • Hi, I would mulch them and then let them be. The freezing temperature will make them go dormant and the foliage should die off. In spring they will emerge again and grow.

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