How to Grow Garlic Step by Step & Tips for Growing Garlic

There is nothing quite like fresh garlic you grow yourself to use in your recipes while cooking. Learning how to grow garlic is pretty easy and the results can be delicious!

garlic growing tips

You don’t need a lot of supplies for growing garlic – you don’t even need a lot of space! Garlic is easy to grow both in your outdoor garden as well as indoors as long as you take a few measures to ensure it does well.

How to Grow Garlic Easily & Successfully

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to grow garlic successfully in your garden. It’s fun, easy, and oh-so-delicious! Learning these tips for growing garlic will help ensure a healthy and bountiful garlic harvest year after year.

how to grow garlic

Step 1: Choose What Type of Garlic You Want to Grow

There are two main types of garlic which are commonly grown in herb and vegetable gardens: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. Both are planted similarly, however the harvesting process is a bit different, since the softneck garlic has leaves and the hardneck garlic will grow a stiff wood-like stem and flowers.

garlic types examples

It’s ultimately your choice on which to choose to plant – for warmer climates that do not experience a cold winter, it is likely best to choose the softneck garlic varieties, as hardneck garlic needs the cold winter dormancy period to thrive.

Some of our favorite garlic garden varieties to plant:

There are many types of garlic, and most garlic varieties are sold by the bulb. The best part about garlic being a plant that is grown from a bulb means once you purchase and find a garlic variety you enjoy, you typically do not need to purchase garlic to grow again!

A bulb of garlic contains smaller bulblets, most commonly known as cloves of garlic. You are probably familiar with many recipes calling for 1-2 cloves of garlic. This is the smaller part inside the head of garlic.

Understanding The Difference Between a Clove vs. Head of Garlic

clove vs. head of garlic example

Each clove of garlic will grow into a new plant. Considering most garlic bulbs contain at least 6-8 cloves of garlic, with softneck varieties containing between 10-12 on average, it is relatively easy to propagate several garlic plants from just one bulb!

You can save a few bulbs from each year’s harvest to use again and again year after year. This makes it extremely economical to grow your own garlic.

Common Garlic Growing Question: Can You Plant Garlic Cloves You Buy From the Grocery Store?

A common question I hear all the time about growing garlic is wondering whether or not you can plant garlic cloves from the garlic you buy at the grocery store.

The official answer on whether you can grow garlic from garlic you purchased at the grocery store is: “Theoretically yes, but you probably do not want to!”

why you should grow your own garlic

The main caveat to planting garlic from the garlic available at your grocery store is that some varieties may have been treated with chemicals or radiation to prevent or delay sprouting. Yuck!

Why do they treat commercially produced garlic with toxic chemicals? Mostly this is done to prolong the time the garlic is still considered prime for cooking.

And yes, those chemicals that delay sprouting are a great reason to grow your own natural garlic instead! Seriously, after you learn about all the different toxic ways they treat garlic to prevent sprouting and you will definitely want to learn how to grow your own garlic!

The best bet when you are buying garlic is to buy garlic bulbs that are meant to be planted.

This way you will know they have not been treated with any harsh chemicals! The last thing you want to do is invest all the time, space and energy into planting garlic only for it to not sprout or yield the best possible heads of garlic!

Step 2: Determine Where You Will Grow the Garlic

Once you have chosen the type of garlic you want to grow, the next step is to decide just exactly where you will grow your garlic! Garlic can be grown both outdoors and indoors in containers – making it a perfect choice to grow for almost anyone who loves cooking – even if you live in a small apartment!

sprouting garlic leaves

Ideally, it is best to grow your garlic outdoors if possible, especially if growing hardneck varieties which require winter for the cold dormancy period. Garlic takes about 6-8 months to grow, but don’t let that deter you – you’ll be so glad you did when it’s harvest time!

Most gardeners recommend planting garlic in the fall, so that by the time summer comes you can enjoy the harvest bounty of fresh garlic, typically sometime between July and August. However, it is possible to plant garlic in the spring – it just means you may not be harvesting until September or October, and there is a possibility your garlic will not be as big as anticipated.

Still, if you want to plant garlic now – whatever the season may be – as long as you take the proper care to make sure the plants will not be damaged by frost once the sprouts start growing, many people have found ways to enjoy growing garlic no matter what the season may be!

Planning How Much Space You Need to Grow Garlic

At a minimum, garlic requires at least 18″ deep of soil, and about 6″ between each plant to have ample room to grow. You’ll want to plant each clove at least 4-6 inches apart to give each clove optimal amounts of light, water, and drainage. If you are planting multiple rows of garlic, each row should be about 12″ apart.

If you are planning for growing garlic in containers, you will want to make sure that you have chosen containers which are deep enough and wide enough for each clove you plant. While many people have had some success by cramming in many cloves into one small pot, it is not ideal if you are planning for full bulbs.

For outdoor growing, it is important to choose a patch that will get enough sunlight, water, and has a good environment for soil drainage. If water does not drain well where you grow your garlic, you risk the bulbs rotting – and that is not much fun to deal with!

raised garden bed for growing garlic

A raised bed is ideal for growing garlic, as it allows for the soil to drain well. Garlic should be rotated in where you plant it each year, as the soil can be too acidic if garlic, onions, or other similar plants were planted in the same spot recently.

You can easily create a raised garden bed by using 1×6 boards, which will raise the ground about 6″ up from the top of the soil. This will help prevent water pooling and collecting around the roots of the plants.

Once you’ve decided on where you will grow your garlic, you’re ready to get started gathering your supplies!

Step 3: Gather Your Supplies for Growing Garlic

Learning how to grow garlic is pretty straightforward, and once you have decided what type of garlic to grow and where you will be growing it, the next step is to gather everything you need to prepare for planting.

Here is what you will need for growing garlic:

Potting Soil: Garlic does not require any special type of dirt, but using a fertile potting soil is a good choice. Soil should have a pH between 6.5 and 7. If you are unsure of your soil’s pH, you can get an inexpensive soil testing meter which will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about your garden soil’s condition! It’s a handy gadget to have for whatever you may be growing, not just garlic!

Prepared Space: Whether you plan on using containers, a raised garden bed, or growing in the ground as-is, you will need to prepare some of the space. Drainage is the most important aspect with growing garlic, because water collecting at the roots can be disastrous for this plant. This means drilling holes if necessary in any container, and making sure the soil is well turned & aerated.

Mulch: If you are planting the garlic outdoors in the fall, mulch is absolutely necessary to protect the plants over the winter. You can use straw, grass clippings, leaves, or other organic mulch. You will want to mulch about 4″ deep over the plants once in the ground, so this will help you get a good ball park idea of how much mulch you need for your plants. Mulch helps prevent the plants from surfacing throughout winter thaws and freezes, as well as helps reduce weeds.

Garlic Cloves: Lastly, but not least, you will need your garlic cloves! Remember that for each clove you plant, you will get one bulb of garlic {which will typically contain between 8-16 cloves, depending on the type of garlic you are growing in the garden}. This will help you plan the amount you should purchase. For our family of 5, 3-4 bulbs of garlic is usually more than ample to supply us with fresh garlic year round!

Now that you have an idea for everything you need, you’re ready! Let’s plant!

Step 4: Break Apart the Garlic Bulbs and Plant Each Clove

Planting garlic is easy and fun to do. First, you will want to peel the outer layer from the bulb and separate each of the cloves. Try to keep each clove and its papery covering intact – you do not want to peel the garlic cloves!

If you have a bulb of garlic which has many little cloves, you will want to choose the top largest ones for planting and save the rest for cooking – small cloves will not yield large bulbs.

planting garlic cloves direction

Next, you’re ready to put them in the dirt! When you are planting garlic, it is very important to take direction into consideration!

If you look carefully at the cloves of garlic, you will notice one side is pointed. You will want to make sure it is the pointed side that goes up – as this is the part where the shoots will sprout from!

If you’ve ever had a bulb of garlic start sprouting, you will notice this is the part where the green shoots start coming out of the top.

The bottom of the garlic, which should be facing downwards towards the ground when you plant, is generally rounder and thicker than the top.

This is so important, I actually made two pictures to give you a visual reference so that you know the skinnier side is pointed up!

how to plant garlic

Once each clove is separated from the bulb, all you need to do is push it into the dirt about 3″ deep. You may wish to first poke the holes into the dirt if you want to ensure that you have you gone deep enough.

Using a ruler or even a bamboo stick where you mark the 3″ with a pen or pencil works well for ensuring even spacing and planting.

Cover the clove back up with dirt, so that the pointy-side-up is about 1″-2″ from the top of the soil. If you are planting in the fall, you will next want to cover with mulch that is between 4-6″ thick. This will help protect your plants over the winter.

Step 5: Caring for Your Garlic Plants

While your garlic is growing, it’s important to take care of your plants. Be sure to check the moisture levels regularly to see whether or not the plants need watered. You will also want to be on the look out for any potential garden pests, such as Nematodes, a common garlic pest that may cause damage. Mites and snails can also sometimes be a nuisance.

It’s also important to regularly weed your garden and ensure weeds don’t grow surrounding the garlic. Weeds can be very bad when growing garlic, as not only do they take up important soil nutrients your garlic needs, but they can contribute to water not draining properly.

If you are having a hard time differentiating between weeds and the garlic, you may find it useful to use toothpicks or other garden markers to mark where the bulbs are planted.

You will also want to replenish with about 1″-2″ of mulch if necessary after the winter to help protect the plants and reduce weed growth.

Garlic will likely not need watered much in the summer months, but you’ll want to make sure it gets some additional water if you have an unusually dry spring season. Be sure that water does not pool and collect around the roots of the plant.

If you are growing hardneck garlic, you will want to trim the skapes before they turn stiff and start to flower. Not only will this allow for the plant to have more energy to producing a beautiful, full bulb, but garden skapes are delicious to cook with as a substitute for scallions in your favorite cooking recipes!

If you planted in the fall, you will want to check on your garlic plants in the spring for signs of growth. Once the leaves begin to show, you are ready to fertilize your garden plants.

What Kind of Fertilizer is Best for Garlic?

Garlic requires fertilizer which is high in nitrogen. You can use blood meal or compost to help supplement your garlic’s soil quality.

Step 6: Harvest Your Garlic

Harvesting your garlic is easy. Once your garlic’s leaves/stem begin to turn yellow and before they dry up, you are ready to harvest! For most people, this will be sometime in July or August if you planted in the fall before. If you planted in the early spring, this will likely be sometime in September or October before the first frost.

The first thing to do is carefully begin digging away at the soil surrounding the bulb. The bulb should be large and have a healthy papery wrapper surrounding the cloves. Carefully lift each bulb with a small garden spade or gardening fork. If the bulb appears small, you may wish to wait a few weeks and discontinue watering the plants.

how to harvest garlic

Once the bulbs are safely out of the ground and still intact, it is very important to hang the bulbs to dry to allow them to cure. This curing process can take about 2 weeks and is relatively easy to do.

You will want to hang your garlic in a dry, warm place that is not in direct sunlight. Cooler temperatures can cause sprouting, and excessive moisture could cause rotting or fungus to develop, so make sure you choose a place that is dry and warm.

For many people, this can be the kitchen, or other place indoors. The garage or a storage shed can also sometimes work as a suitable place to cure your garlic, as long as the area is not subject to extreme temperatures or moisture.

The curing process is complete when the wrapper of the bulb is paper-like, and the stems and leaves are completely dry to the touch.If you grew hardneck garlic, you may wish to remove the bulbs from the stems for easier storage. If you grew softneck garlic, you can braid the leaves together to create a garlic braided knot.

Garlic can also be a very pretty kitchen decoration! Gather the stems together and hang them from your kitchen or dining room walls for an easy to access storage solution.

kitchen decor from homegrown garlic

Hanging your garlic from hooks in the wall can be a beautiful touch to any home! If you do not wish to braid your softneck garlic or grew hardneck garlic, tying twine around the stalks can be helpful to make a lovely dried bouquet of garlic.

Note: It is not recommended to keep your garlic in the refrigerator, as this can actually cause sprouting to occur sooner. You will also want to keep your garlic in an area that is not subject to moisture or high humidity levels.

Be sure you keep at least 3 of your best bulbs for planting in the upcoming fall season! This will ensure you have a long lasting supply of garlic to grow for the next year!

Growing Garlic is Fun and Easy!

Learning how to grow your own garlic is fun and easy. It does not require a lot of work – do not let all the directions overwhelm or intimidate you! By following these simple directions step by step, you will be on your way to growing a bountiful garlic harvest.

With the right planning and preparation, you will be enjoying delicious fresh garlic for all of your cooking needs and favorite recipes! You may even have enough to share with family and friends, who will certainly appreciate the garlic you have grown!

I hope you find these tips and directions for how to grow garlic useful. If you have any questions however, please don’t hesitate to ask in our comments section below! We’d also love to hear any of your ideas and suggestions for ways to grow garlic – it’s always interesting to learn from other gardeners! Share your thoughts and comments on growing garlic below!

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