How to Grow Tons of Garlic in Home Gardens

Grow garlic easily in a productive vegetable garden! How & when to plant in soil, pots or water, with best tips on harvesting, curing & storage.

Grow garlic easily in a productive home garden! How & when to plant in soil, pots or water, with best tips on harvesting, curing & storage.

First off, let’s talk about why you should consider growing garlic in your garden. Besides adding flavor to your dishes, garlic has awesome health benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants, helps boost the immune system, and might even keep vampires at bay (just kidding, but it’s been rumored!).

how to plant and harvest garlic

Plus, it is so much fun to experiment with all the beautiful varieties, and making your own braided garlic edible decorations! Let’s start, and if you are new to gardening, we have these really helpful guides on vegetable gardening, composting, and building raised beds for you!

Can you plant grocery store garlic?

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grow your own garlic

Yes you can plant organic garlic cloves from the grocery store, but success is less guaranteed because they may not be the best varieties for your climate.

garlic braid hanging

A better option would be to buy garlic from your farmer’s market for planting. The local farmers often offer more garlic varieties which are also likely to grow well in your region. 

Selecting the best garlic varieties for home planting 

Selecting the best garlic varieties for home planting

The two main garlic varieties are hardneck and softneck. 

Hardneck garlic varieties are very cold tolerant, and great for growing in cold climates. They have fewer but larger cloves surrounding a central stem- the scape, which is usually cut off in summer so that more energy can go to the bulbs.

Grow garlic in water

Softneck garlic varieties are often less winter-hardy and best grown in mild climates. They store much better than hardneck garlic. Grocery stores usually sell softneck garlic. 

Hardneck garlic varieties must be exposed to 6 to 8 weeks of temperatures below 45 degrees F in order for them to develop into a full head of garlic at harvest time.

purple garlic varieties

If you live in mild winter climate, you can store hardneck garlic in a paper bag in the veggie drawer of the fridge for about 8 weeks before planting them in the early spring.

Even Softneck garlic can benefit from a vernalization period by being in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks before planting in a warm climate. 

When to plant garlic 

Cold climates:

planting garlic
Video tutorial by The Dutch Farmer on YouTube.

In cooler climates, planting is usually between September and November. The goal is to allow the garlic plants a long enough period to develop good roots, but not enough time to send out top growth before freezing temperatures set in. Here are some tips to ensure success:

Fall Planting: Aim to plant garlic about 4-6 weeks before your average first frost date. This gives the cloves enough time to establish roots before the ground freezes.

apply a thick layer of mulch like straw or chopped leaves over the garlic bed.

Mulch for Insulation: Once planted, apply a thick layer of mulch like straw or chopped leaves over the garlic bed. This helps insulate the soil, keeping it warmer for longer and protecting the cloves from frost heaving. Images via Earth Food & Fire

Protect from Extreme Cold: If you experience particularly harsh winters, consider covering your garlic bed with a floating row cover or cold frame for added protection.

Warm climates:

Grow garlic in raised bed

In warmer climates, you can plant garlic anytime from fall through early spring in March. Fall planting is still preferred because you will get larger bulbs. Experiment and try different planting times or varieties to see what works best for your specific climate and conditions. Images via Burpee | A Way to Garden

How to grow garlic in garden soil

Garlic likes full sun and loose soil rich in organic matter. Mix your soil with some high quality compost and / or organic fertilizer before planting.  Here are some helpful guides on how to make great compost for your garden, and 20+ best DIY raised beds ideas!

How to grow garlic in garden soil

Break apart a garlic bulb. Leave the papery skin on each clove. Only plant larger cloves and save the tiny cloves for cooking. Each garlic glove will grow into a whole head of garlic bulb in a few months! Images via Reddit | Earth Food & Fire

Plant the garlic cloves with their tips pointing up at about 2 inches deep. The top of the tips should be at 1 inch below soil surface. The spacing should be 6 to 12 inches apart in garden beds, or 4 to 6 inches apart in limited space such as containers. Carefully remove any weeds as they appear.

harvest lots of garlic from backyard garden

Plant the cloves closer than 4” apart if you want to grow green garlic, which can be used like chives and taste super delicious when cooked in omelette. Image source: 1 | 2

How to grow garlic in pots

How to grow garlic in pots

Growing garlic in pots is a fantastic option for those with limited garden space or who want to enjoy fresh garlic right on their patio or balcony. Garlic plants have relatively shallow roots, so you don’t need a huge pot. A pot that’s at least 8-12 inches deep and wide should provide enough room for the bulbs to develop. Source

Selecting the right pot to grow garlic

Terracotta or Clay Pots: These are classic choices and provide good drainage, which is crucial for garlic. However, they can dry out quickly, so be mindful of watering.

Fabric Pots: Fabric pots, often made from breathable fabric, are excellent for garlic. They provide ample aeration to the roots and prevent over-watering. Plus, they’re lightweight and easy to move around.

grow garlic in fabric pots and wood planters

Wooden Pots: Wooden pots add a rustic charm to your garden and offer decent drainage. However, they may deteriorate over time, so make sure to choose a rot-resistant wood like cedar or redwood. Images via Gardeners | Instagram

Plastic Pots: While not as aesthetically pleasing as other options, plastic pots are durable, lightweight, and retain moisture well. Just make sure they have drainage holes at the bottom.

Easy vegetables for container gardening.

Like garlic, there are so many vegetables you can grow in containers, here are some of the best ideas.

Planting and Care:

Fill your chosen pot with well-draining potting mix and good quality fertilizer, leaving a few inches of space below the rim. Follow the same planting and harvesting process as you would for garlic grown in the ground.

Unusual ways to grow garlic

Unusual ways to grow garlic

You have probably seen some of these unusual ways ( image source see video tutorials below) to grow garlic in water, in plastic bottles, or even in laundry baskets.

Grow garlic in water.
Grow green garlic sprouts in hanging baskets.
Grow green garlic in plastic bottles.

These methods are great for growing green garlic for cooking, or jump start garlic root for planting in soil later. We will talk more about this method in the following section.

How to grow garlic in water to jump start the roots

How to grow garlic in water to jump start the roots

We started experimenting with a new technique a few years ago: grow garlic bulbs in water for 1-2 weeks before planting the garlic cloves in garden soil.

grow garlic in water

This method is suitable for warmer winter climate planting where there isn’t too much need for protection from frost. The results have been very good so far. Here’s the step by step process if you want to give it a try:

garlic roots in water

In a bright room away from direct sun, Set your garlic bulb on top of a jar filled with water, with base of the garlic bulb touching the water surface. 

planting garlic in soil

In just a few days, the garlic will start to grow roots and green sprouts. When the roots are about 2 inches long, which usually takes 1-2 weeks, break apart the bulb carefully so each clove has some roots attached at the base. 

plant garlic gloves in soil

Plant the garlic cloves like described earlier, make sure to plant them deep enough for the roots. We have noticed that all the cloves grew really fast and developed very healthy foliage when we used this method.

Grow garlic in plastic bottles

We have gotten great the harvest with this method, so now we do it every year. Below is a video tutorial by showing you this method-

The method we use is similar, except we don’t peel or cut the garlic bulbs.

How often to water garlic

A thin layer of mulch can help conserve moisture in the soil.

Water your garlic 1 to 2 times per week throughout the growing season. If you get regular rainfall, watering is not needed unless the soil gets dry. Stop watering completely during the last 2 weeks before harvest.

harvest garlic 

When to harvest garlic 

Garlic has a long growing season. It takes about 8 to 9 months for a small planted garlic clove to develop into a ready-to-harvest head of garlic. 

the lower two or three garlic plant leaves turn yellow or brown

When the lower two or three leaves turn yellow or brown, usually in June or July, bulbs are ready to harvest.

home grown garlic

Loosen the soil around each garlic plant away from the bulb with a pitch fork or shovel. Don’t just pull on the stem, because we need to cure the heads with their stems and foliage intact for best results.

How to cure and store garlic 

DIY garlic drying rack hanging in the garage

You can eat the garlic right away, or cure them for better storage. There are many creative ways to dry garlic, this DIY rack is great for a small patio or to hang in the garage.

braided garlic

You don’t have to wash the garlic, just brush off the extra soil gently. Find a dry and well ventilated area away from direct sunlight, lay the heads in a single layer on a screen or hang them on a string for several weeks to cure. You can also braid the Softneck garlic and hang them to cure like this

metal shelf turned into garlic drying rack

A metal shelf turned into garlic drying rack! Image source. Curing is complete when the roots are shriveled and the leaves are completely tan and dried. At this time you can either leave the garlic on the braid, or trim off most of the stems and roots, and store the garlic bulbs in breathable materials such as paper bags, mesh bags, or cardboard boxes.

DIY garlic and onion drying rack

Softneck bulbs are known for their long storage life and properly stored bulbs can last six to nine months. You can also store chopped or whole gloves of garlic in the freezer for a few months.  The ideal conditions for garlic storage are cool (around 60-65°F or 15-18°C) and dry, with moderate humidity (around 60-70%). A dark place like a pantry or cellar works well. Image source

How to cure and store garlic 

Properly cured and stored garlic can last anywhere from 6 months to a year, depending on the variety and storage conditions. Some varieties, like softneck garlic, tend to store longer than others. Image source: 1 | 2

Saving garlic for planting next year

Saving garlic for planting next year

Like saving seeds, it’s very easy to save some garlic bulbs from your harvest to plant next year. Choose the largest, healthiest bulbs from your harvest. These will have the best chance of producing robust plants next season. Store your “seed garlic” in a cool, dry place similar to how you would store cured garlic bulbs.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy homegrown garlic year after year, all while saving some to perpetuate your garlic-growing adventures!

Grow garlic easily in a productive home garden

Happy Gardening! See you soon!

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