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How to Plant Garlic: A Basic Growing Guide

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How to Plant Garlic: A Basic Growing Guide

An easy vegetable to grow and a great addition to any garden is garlic. It grows well in many climates and soils; however, it requires either a cold winter or weeks of chilling the bulbs to get the best results.

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

While you can plant it from the grocery store, 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.

Grow From a Clove

Growing garlic from cloves used for seed is the easiest way to cultivate it.

  • Carefully separate the clove from the bulb about a day before planting and use the largest ones.
  • Leave them in the skin or they won’t sprout.
  • Stick them with the tip up about 2 inches deep.
  • Space them 2-4 inches apart to be sure they aren’t crowded.

How Much Sun Does it Need?

Garlic needs a lot of sunlight. It grows best in full sun and 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: Ultimate Guide

How Deep to Plant Garlic Cloves

Plant them approximately 2.5 centimeters deep and 2 to 4 inches apart.

You can place in mounds that are 15cm tall and 20cm wide at the base if you have heavy clay soil. Go slightly deeper to get the best results.

Be sure to cover with mulch and fertilize both at the beginning and in spring when shoots come up again.

How Long Does it Take to Grow?

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

If you also want scapes, you can start harvesting these around spring, but be careful not to damage the bulbs.

Trim with scissors and leave some stems and be careful when getting it. It is ready when the lower leaves turn yellow. Be careful when digging it up because bruised garlic won’t keep very long.

Generally, it takes around 9 months to harvest your garlic from the time of planting. However, this does depend on climate and variety. Hot climates may have an earlier harvest.

Growing in Pots

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

  • Select pots that are at least 8 inches deep so it has enough room to develop roots and bulbs.
  • The width should depend on how many cloves you want to put in. Also, don’t crowd them so bulbs have enough room to develop.
  • Keep the pots in full sun.
  • 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 should 2 to 4 inches apart.

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 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.
  • Use a soilless growing medium that drains well and be sure your pot has a drainage hole. Perlite works well mixed with coconut fiber.
  • Place cloves 2.5 centimeters 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.
  • They can be harvested for greens once the leaves turn yellow and start to dry.

Soil Type

The soil should be loose and drain well. Sandy loam tends to be the best soil type. However, be sure to break up the soil well before planting.

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 or in the right climate.

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

Also, consider container gardening or raised beds.

Pest and Diseases 

It 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.

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

Mice may also nest in mulch or nibble on the plants. Moreover, they can get leek rust, which is a fungal infection. Affected bulbs can be eaten, but should be harvested immediately to control the spread.

Additionally, be sure to rotate your garden crops.

Companion Plants

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

It 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 it to help keep them away.

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

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. It should be harvested very carefully since it bruises easily.

Dig a bit away from the bulb and very carefully dig it up. Leave it to dry in full sun for a few days before attempting to brush off dirt or trimming it.

Curing garlic lets it last longer in storage. Just don’t wash it, since it might rot faster.

Cutting Garlic Scapes

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

Trim with scissors or shears and leave some stem behind. They are delicious in stir-fries and many dishes.

Wear gloves or your hands will smell strongly of it for days.


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 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 the grocery stores. Besides, they are common and easy to grow. There are many varieties to choose from for many growing conditions.

  • Inchelium red
  • French red
  • Blanco Piacenza
  • Silver rose
  • Corsican red
  • Silver white
  • California early and late whites

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

  • Creole
  • Purple stripe
  • Porcelain
  • Asiatic
  • Middle Eastern
  • Glazed purple stripe
  • Rocambole
  • Marbled purple stripe
  • Turban

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.


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 little space.

Just ensure the conditions are right and it should grow very well. It can even last for a long time if stored properly.

Image via Flickr/Crispin

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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