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How to Plant Garlic Cloves: Basic Guide

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How to Plant Garlic Cloves: Basic Guide

An easy vegetable to grow and a great addition to any garden is garlic. It grows well in many climates and soils.

However, chill the cloves in the fridge for 30 to 40 days before planting. Pre-plant chilling helps in getting better clove and bulb yields [1].

Garlic does take a while to reach harvest, but the wait is worth it.

When planting, it’s best to get your stock from a farmer’s market or gardening center. Also, make sure you buy varieties that work for your area.

Here’s how to grow garlic at home:

Planting Garlic Cloves

Planting garlic from cloves is the easiest way to cultivate it.

  • Carefully separate the cloves from the bulb about a day before planting and use the largest ones.
  • Leave them in their skins.
  • Next, stick them with the tip up about 3 inches deep into the soil.
  • Space them 2-4 inches apart to be sure they aren’t crowded.

When to Plant

The best time to plant garlic is in the fall, 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. Start putting them in late September to early October for a summer harvest. Moreover, when you plant it in the fall, it produces a larger and more flavorful harvest.

However, you can still plant in the spring, but the harvest will be ready close to the end of summer. Also, the cloves won’t be as large.

Sunlight Requirements

Garlic needs a lot of sunlight. It grows best in full sun on relatively loamy soil. However, it can tolerate partial shade so long as it isn’t for the entire day.

In essence, it needs about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.

Related: How to Plant Onions: The Ultimate Guide

How Deep to Plant Garlic

As mentioned, plant the cloves approximately 3 inches deep and 2 to 4 inches apart. You can also place them in mounds that are 15cm apart and 7cm deep. This will help prevent rot.

Additionally, be sure to mulch and fertilize both at the beginning and in the spring when shoots come up again.

How Long Does It Take to Grow?

Garlic planted in autumn will be ready to harvest by summer.

However, if you want scapes, you can start harvesting them around spring, but be careful not to damage the bulbs.

Trim with scissors, leave some stems, and be careful when getting them. They are ready when the lower leaves turn yellow. Also, be careful when digging them up because bruised garlic won’t keep very long.

Generally, it takes around 7 to 8 months to harvest your garlic from the time of planting.

Growing in Pots

You’ll need good, fertile soil to start with when growing vegetables in pots. A soilless growing medium may also help.

  • Select pots that are at least 8 inches deep so the garlic plant has enough room to develop roots and bulbs.
  • The width of the container should depend on how many cloves you want to put in it. Also, don’t crowd them, so bulbs have enough room to develop.
  • Keep the pots in full sunlight.
  • Do not water too much.
  • Ensure your pots drain well. Wet soil will rot it or cause the bulbs not to form properly.
  • Place cloves 2 to 4 inches apart at a depth of 3 inches in loose, fertile soil.

Containers are the best way to grow if your soil is currently injected with onion worms or other pests that target garlic and related crops.

Growing Indoors

  • Select a large pot or container that is at least eight inches deep. The width depends on how many bulbs you want to grow. Just be sure you have enough space to let the bulbs grow.
  • Fill the pot with loose, fertile soil, and be sure your pot has a drainage hole.
  • Plant cloves 3 inches deep and 2 to 4 inches apart. Cover them with soil and place them in front of a sunny window.
  • Be sure to fertilize with a liquid fertilizer such as Seaweed or Fish Emulsion once a month.
  • Water as the soil dries out.

Soil Type

The soil should be loose and well-drained. Sandy loam tends to be the best soil type.

The spot should get plenty of sunlight and stay warm. Cultivate in the fall for best results, but it can be done in the spring if you buy pre-chilled bulbs.

Heavy clay-based soil either needs amendment or you can make mounds to plant your garlic in. However, it can withstand many soils, so long as it gets enough sun and nutrients.

Plant Pests and Diseases

Garlic is mostly resistant to pests. In fact, it tends to repel many other pests, making it a great companion plant to scatter around your garden.

The main issues are aphids, thrips, onion maggots, wireworms, and armyworms. Basically, anything that likes to go after onions and their relatives. Mice may also nest in the mulch or nibble on these plants.

You can handle most garden pests manually or with organic pest control methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap sprays.

Additionally, the plants can get leek rust, which is a fungal infection. Affected bulbs can be eaten, but they should be harvested immediately to control the spread.

Also, be sure to rotate your garden crops.

Garlic Companion Plants

Many crops like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, spinach, beets, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage benefit from being around the garlic plant.

Moreover, garlic repels many common garden pests as well as animals like rabbits and deer. If you’ve had an issue with these animals eating your garden, plant garlic to help keep them away.

Plants that benefit garlic include rue, which drives away maggots; chamomile; yarrow; and summer savory.

However, don’t put it near peas, beans, sage, parsley, or asparagus, as it can stunt their growth.


The crop is ready to harvest when the lower leaves are all yellow and the bulb has clearly defined cloves. However, it should be harvested very carefully since it bruises easily.

Also, if you leave them in the ground for too long, the bulbs can split open.

Dig a bit away from the bulb and very carefully dig it up. Next, hang in bunches of 5 to 10 in a cool, dry place for about 4 to 6 weeks.

The area should also be dark and well-ventilated. You can eat garlic immediately after harvesting; however, curing lets it last longer in storage [2].

Cutting Garlic Scapes

Once the scapes reach about 6 inches, you can harvest them.

Trim with scissors or shears and leave some stem behind. However, wear gloves, or your hands will smell strongly of it for days.

These tender green stalks are delicious in stir-fries and many other dishes.


Store garlic in a cool, dry place.

You can braid soft-neck varieties to make the traditional garlic string. Keep this in a closet or pantry, away from light.

Hardneck varieties don’t store as well and need to be eaten first. However, don’t refrigerate your bulbs, or they will begin the sprouting process.

Save larger bulbs for the next planting season. Just keep them dry until you’re ready to plant.

Types of Garlic

There are two main types.

1. Softneck

Softneck varieties are what you find in grocery stores. Besides, they are common and easy to grow. There are many varieties to choose from for many growing conditions.

  • Inchelium red
  • Polish red
  • Lorz Italian
  • Galiano
  • Applegate
  • Italian Late
  • California early
  • California late

2. Hardneck

Hardneck varieties are a bit harder to grow, but you get the flower stalks called scapes that are edible and delicious.

If you live in the right climate, try growing them. Also, be aware that softneck varieties store longer than hardneck varieties. If you plant both, eat the hard necks first.

  • Spanish Roja
  • German White
  • Porcelain
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Polish Hardneck
  • Siberian
  • Persian Star
  • Chesnok Red
  • Purple Stripe

You can find more varieties of softneck than hardneck, but you should find one that will work for your area. Many online shops will offer plenty of varieties or even sampler packs to try.

See also: How to Grow Black Pepper Plants at Home.


Growing garlic is very rewarding. It produces well, and you might even be able to be self-sufficient if your harvest goes well.

Since it doesn’t take much space and can be grown in containers, you can get a very large harvest with very little space. Just ensure that you plant in the garlic season when conditions are right.

Image via Flickr

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

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