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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, it just 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 so you know it will grow in your area.

If buying online, make sure you buy varieties that work for your area.

Grow From a Clove

Growing garlic from clove is the easiesht way to cultivate it.

  • You need to very 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 or 5 centimeters deep.
  • Space them 8 inches, or 20 centimeters apart to be sure it isn’t crowded.

You can use a sprouted clove you have laying around, though supermarket garlic may not grow as well due to climate or treatments applied to it.

How Much Sun Does it Need?

Garlic needs a lot of sunlight. It grows best with a hot summer and relatively dry soil. It can tolerate partial shade so long as it isn’t for the whole day or growing season.

Make sure they get lots of light and have a chance to develop well. If you’re planting near other crops, be sure they don’t block the sun for your garlic.

Related: How to Plant Onions: Ultimate Guide

How Deep to Plant Garlic Cloves

They should be planted 2 inches or 5 centimeters deep.

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 stem 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.

Hot climates may have an earlier harvest. It isn’t ready to harvest quickly, but the results are worth it.

Generally, it takes around 10 months to harvest your garlic from the time of planting. This does depend on climate and variety.

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 or 20 centimeters deep so it has enough room to develop roots and bulbs.
  • Width should depend on how many cloves you want to put in. Don’t crowd them so bulbs have enough room to develop.
  • Keep the pots in full sun
  • Do not to water too much
  • Ensure your pots drain well. Wet soil will rot it or cause the bulbs not to form properly.
  • Cloves should be placed about 5 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 inches or 5 centimeters deep and 5 inches or 13 centimeters 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 they reach 6 inches or 15 centimeters.
  • Harvesting the bulbs is one the lower leaves all turn yellow and the bulbs have separate cloves and papery dry skin.

Soil Type

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

The spot should get plenty of sun and stay warm. Cultivate in the fall for best results, but you can 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. Also, consider container gardening or raised beds.

However, it can withstand many soils and so long as it gets enough sun it can be near many plants. Just make sure it gets sun and enough cold or the bulbs won’t develop.

Pest and Diseases 

It is mostly resistant to pests. In fact, it tends to repel many other pests, making it a great companion 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 organic insecticidal soaps or sprays.

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

Be sure to rotate your crops and use pest control that will work for what is attacking your crops.

Companion Plants

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

It repels many common garden pests as well as animals like rabbits and deer. If you’ve had an issue with 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 near peas, beans, sage, parsley, or asparagus as it can stunt their growth. Otherwise, spread your cloves through the garden during fall to be ready for spring planting.


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. Hang it up in an area with refrigerators around 80°F or 26.7°C for two weeks. Either way, it should last well.

Just don’t wash it, since it might rot faster. If you don’t like the appearance, just remove the outer paper layers until it looks better.

Cutting Garlic Scapes

Once the scapes reach about 6 inches or 15 centimeters, you can harvest them.

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

It’s a great way to get delicious garlic flavor before they are ready to harvest. Wear gloves or your hands will smell strongly of it for days.


Store garlic in a cool, dry place.

You can braid softneck 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. Don’t refrigerate your bulbs or it will begin the sprouting process.

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

Types of Garlic

There are two main types.

1. Softneck

Softneck varieties are what you find in the grocery stores. 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 hardnecks 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.

They vary in taste and appearance, but you can find something for any taste. Feel free to get a variety for your first planting season so you can learn which varieties you like best.

Many online shops will offer plenty of varieties or even sampler packs to try. Just be sure it will do well in your climate if growing outdoors.


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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