How to Plant Garlic At Home

How to grow garlic

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Have you ever faced the struggle of wanting fresh garlic at your fingertips, only to be met with the disappointment of store-bought bulbs that lack flavor and zest? The secret to unlocking a world of robust aromas and culinary delights lies in mastering how to grow garlic plants. Garlic, an indispensable ingredient in cuisines worldwide, not only enhances the taste of your dishes but also brings a host of health benefits to your table.

Understanding the art of garlic cultivation and care is crucial for any gardener looking to reap the full bounty of this potent plant. It’s not just about throwing cloves into the ground; it requires knowledge, patience, and a touch of tenderness. This guide will walk you through the essential steps, from selecting the right variety to the joyous moment of harvest.

In the following sections, we’ll delve into the world of garlic, offering practical advice on soil preparation, planting, nurturing, and finally, harvesting your homegrown garlic. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a green-thumbed novice, our straightforward tips will equip you with the know-how to grow thriving garlic plants and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

how to grow garlic at home 4

Quick Care Guide

Garlic Care AspectGuidelines
Planting TimePlant cloves in the fall, about 4-6 weeks before the first hard frost.
Soil PreparationUse well-drained soil, rich in organic matter; pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
Planting Depth and SpacingPlant cloves 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart, with rows spaced 12-18 inches apart.
WateringWater deeply once a week; ensure soil is moist but not waterlogged.
FertilizingApply a balanced fertilizer at planting and in the spring when leaves begin to grow.
Weed ManagementKeep the area weed-free; mulch can help suppress weeds and retain moisture.
Pest and Disease ControlMonitor for common pests like aphids and treat with appropriate organic methods.
ScapingRemove the flower stalks (scapes) from hardneck varieties to direct energy to the bulb.
HarvestingHarvest when lower leaves turn brown but several upper leaves remain green, typically mid-summer.
CuringAllow harvested bulbs to dry in a ventilated, shady spot for several weeks before storing.
StoringStore cured garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation to prevent rot.

Understanding Garlic Varieties

When you set out to plant garlic, the first step is getting to know the types you can grow. There are mainly two kinds of garlic: softneck and hardneck. Each has its unique characteristics and benefits.

Description of Common Garlic Types

SoftneckKnown for its soft, flexible stems and does not produce a flower stalk.Ideal for braiding and longer storage.
HardneckCharacterized by a rigid stem that grows through the center of the bulb.Produces scapes and often has a more robust flavor.

Softneck garlic is often found in your local grocery store because it stores well and is easier to grow in a variety of climates. This type is excellent if you want to braid your garlic for storage or decoration.

On the other hand, hardneck garlic is cherished by chefs for its complex flavors. It also produces edible flower stalks called scapes, which are a delicacy in their own right.

Climate Considerations for Different Garlic Varieties

TypeIdeal ClimateConsiderations
SoftneckWarmer regions with milder winters.More tolerant of diverse conditions.
HardneckCooler climates with distinct seasons and cold winters.Requires a cold period to thrive.

Selecting the right garlic for your climate is crucial. Softneck varieties are more adaptable and can handle warmer climates without much fuss. Hardneck varieties, however, need cold winters to trigger the growth of large, divided bulbs. If you live in an area with cold winters, hardneck garlic could be a rewarding choice for your garden.

Selecting the Right Variety for Your Garden

Choosing the right variety for your garden means considering your local climate and how much space you can dedicate to your garlic plants.

Look for garlic that suits your taste preferences and culinary needs. If you want a hassle-free garlic that’s easy to store, softneck varieties may suit you best. For those in cooler climates or looking to experiment with flavors, hardneck varieties offer a range of options.

When you select your variety, also think about the space you have available. Garlic does not require a lot of room, but proper spacing is key to healthy growth. With the right care and conditions, you can look forward to a bountiful harvest that brings the zesty flavor of homegrown garlic to your kitchen.

Remember, the success of your garlic plants starts with the variety you choose. Take time to consider your options carefully and pick the type that aligns with your environment and your culinary aspirations. With the right selection, you’ll be on the path to growing garlic that’s not just a joy to cultivate but also a delight to eat.

Garlic plant

Preparing for Planting

Choosing the Right Time to Plant Garlic

Timing is key when it comes to planting garlic. You need to plant your cloves at the right time to ensure they have the best chance to grow into full, flavorful bulbs.

For most gardeners, the ideal time to plant garlic is in the fall, specifically about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in winter.

This window gives the garlic enough time to establish roots but not so much time that it grows a lot of leaves before the cold sets in.

Soil Preparation Tips

Before planting your garlic, it’s important to prepare the soil properly. Garlic thrives in soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter.

The pH level of your soil should ideally be between 6.0 and 7.0. To prepare your soil, you should mix in compost or aged manure to add nutrients.

Make sure to break up any large clumps of soil so that the roots can easily grow and spread out. If your soil is heavy and doesn’t drain well, consider raising your beds to improve drainage.

Selecting the Best Planting Location

The location where you plant your garlic can have a big impact on how well it grows. Garlic needs a spot that gets plenty of sunlight—at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.

Look for a location that’s protected from strong winds, which can dry out the soil and harm the growth of your plants. Ensure the area you choose has good soil drainage to prevent water from pooling around the cloves, which can cause rot.

Choosing the Right Time to PlantPlant 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in winter.Ensures proper root establishment.
Soil PreparationMix in compost or aged manure; ensure pH is between 6.0 and 7.0.Promotes healthy growth and drainage.
Selecting the Planting LocationChoose a sunny, wind-protected area with good drainage.Maximizes growth potential and bulb development.

By following these simple yet crucial steps in preparing for planting, you set a strong foundation for your garlic plants to flourish. Remember, investing time and effort in this initial stage can significantly influence the quality and yield of your garlic harvest.

So, take care to choose the right time, prepare your soil with care, and select the best location to enjoy a bountiful garlic crop.

Planting Garlic

Step-by-step Guide to Planting Garlic Cloves

When it’s time to plant your garlic, you’ll want to follow these steps closely to give your plants the best start. Begin by separating the cloves from the bulb, but don’t peel them.

The papery skin protects the clove and is necessary for healthy growth.

Take each clove and push it into the prepared soil, pointy end up, until it sits just below the surface.

Ideal Spacing and Depth for Planting

SpacingPlace cloves 4-6 inches apart.Allows ample room for bulb development.
DepthPlant cloves 2 inches deep.Ensures protection and proper rooting.
Row SpacingSpace rows 12-18 inches apart.Provides sufficient air circulation.

Spacing is crucial for garlic, as it needs room to develop a robust bulb. Plant the cloves about 2 inches deep to shield them from temperature extremes and protect them from being disturbed.

Rows should be spaced 12-18 inches apart to allow for good air flow, which helps prevent fungal diseases.

Initial Watering and Mulching Practices

After planting, water your garlic gently to settle the soil around the cloves. This initial watering is important because it helps to establish good contact between the cloves and the soil, which encourages rooting. Mulching with straw or leaves can help to maintain consistent soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth.

Planting ClovesPush each clove into the soil, pointy end up.Encourages proper growth orientation.
WateringWater gently after planting.Helps establish contact and encourages rooting.
MulchingApply straw or leaves after watering.Maintains moisture and temperature; suppresses weeds.

By adhering to this guide, you ensure that each garlic clove is given the care it needs to sprout and eventually mature into a full bulb. Remember, the work you do now in planting your garlic correctly will reward you greatly when it comes time to harvest.

Soft neck garlic

Caring for Garlic Plants

Watering Requirements and Techniques

Proper watering is vital for garlic plants, especially during the early stages of growth and in the weeks leading up to harvest. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Overwatering can lead to rot, while underwatering can stress the plants and reduce bulb size.

A good rule of thumb is to water deeply once a week, allowing the water to reach the roots where it’s needed most. During the hotter months, you may need to water more frequently to maintain moisture levels.

Fertilizing Your Garlic Plants

Garlic benefits from regular nutrition, but it’s important not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of bulb development.

Apply a balanced fertilizer at the time of planting and then again in the spring as the plants start to show vigorous leaf growth. A slow-release fertilizer works well, providing a steady supply of nutrients over time.

Managing Weeds in the Garlic Bed

Weeds compete with garlic for nutrients and space, so it’s important to keep your garlic bed clean. Mulching is an effective way to suppress weeds and also helps to retain soil moisture.

If weeds do appear, remove them by hand to avoid disturbing the garlic roots. Regular monitoring and prompt removal of weeds will ensure your garlic plants can thrive without competition.

Recognizing and Dealing with Pests and Diseases

Vigilance is key in protecting your garlic from pests and diseases. Common pests include onion thrips and aphids, which can be managed through organic methods such as insecticidal soaps or neem oil.

Diseases like white rot and rust can be more challenging. Practice crop rotation and remove any affected plants to prevent the spread of disease. Healthy soil and proper spacing can also reduce the risk of problems.

Watering RequirementsKeep soil moist; water deeply once a week.Essential for growth; prevents stress.
FertilizingApply balanced fertilizer at planting and in the spring.Provides necessary nutrients for bulb development.
Weed ManagementUse mulch to suppress weeds; remove any weeds by hand.Reduces competition for resources.
Pest and Disease ControlMonitor plants; use organic methods for pests.Protects plants from damage and disease.

By following these care guidelines, you will foster a healthy environment for your garlic to grow. Consistent watering, timely fertilization, diligent weed control, and proactive pest and disease management are all crucial to cultivating robust garlic plants.

Your efforts will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of flavorful bulbs that can enhance your cooking and provide numerous health benefits.

Garlic Growth Cycle and Maintenance

Understanding the Garlic Growth Stages

Garlic’s growth can be broken down into several key stages, starting with germination, where the cloves begin to develop roots and shoots.

As the weather cools, the plants focus on developing a strong root system. Come spring, the garlic enters a rapid leaf growth phase, which is crucial for bulb development.

Following this, the bulbs begin to form and swell, a process that continues into the early summer. Recognizing these stages helps in providing the right care at the right time.

Tips for Nurturing Garlic During Different Growth Phases

During the initial growth phase in the fall, focus on keeping the soil moist to support root development. As the plant transitions into spring, ensure it has enough nutrients to support leaf growth—this is when the bulb is gathering the energy it needs to grow.

As the weather warms, be mindful of watering; consistent moisture is key until the bulbs begin to form. Once the bulbs are maturing, reduce watering to avoid rot and to signal the plants to begin the curing process in the bulb.

Scaping Hardneck Garlic Varieties

Hardneck garlic varieties produce a flower stalk, known as a scape. While scapes are edible and can be a delicious addition to your dishes, it’s beneficial for the garlic bulbs to remove them.

This process, known as scaping, directs the plant’s energy back into bulb growth rather than flower production. Cut the scapes off once they’ve formed a full loop for the best results.

StageAction NeededPurpose
GerminationKeep soil moist; ensure proper planting depth.Encourages root and shoot development.
Leaf GrowthFertilize; maintain consistent watering.Supports energy accumulation for bulb growth.
Bulb FormationGradually reduce watering as bulbs mature.Promotes proper bulb formation and curing.
Scaping (Hardneck Varieties)Remove scapes once they form a loop.Redirects energy to bulb growth.

By understanding the garlic growth cycle and providing tailored care during each stage, you can optimize the health and productivity of your garlic plants. Regular maintenance, such as watering, fertilizing, and scaping, will help ensure that your garlic develops to its full potential, resulting in a generous and flavorful harvest.

how to grow garlic at home 3

Harvesting Garlic

Identifying the Right Time to Harvest Garlic

The timing of your garlic harvest is crucial for achieving the perfect balance of flavor and storability. You’ll know it’s time to harvest when several of the lower leaves have turned brown, but there are still a number of green leaves remaining—usually about five or six.

This typically occurs in mid-summer, depending on your climate and the variety of garlic you’ve planted. Harvesting too early can result in underdeveloped bulbs, while waiting too long could cause the cloves to separate, reducing their shelf life.

How to Properly Dig Up Garlic Bulbs

When the time is right, approach the harvest with care to avoid damaging the bulbs. Use a garden fork or spade to gently loosen the soil around the plants.

Start a few inches away from the stem to prevent slicing into the bulb. Once the soil is loose, you can lift the garlic out of the ground by the base of the stems.

Shake off any excess soil, but avoid washing the bulbs, as moisture can promote rot during storage.

Techniques for Cleaning and Curing Garlic

After harvesting, curing the garlic is essential for long-term storage. Lay the bulbs out in a single layer in a dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

A shed, garage, or covered porch can be ideal. Allow the garlic to cure for several weeks; during this time, the outer layers will dry out, forming the papery husk that protects the bulbs.

Once cured, trim the roots and cut the stems to about an inch above the bulb if desired. Brush off any remaining dirt, being careful not to remove the protective husk.

Harvesting StepInstructionsPurpose
TimingHarvest when several lower leaves have browned.Ensures mature bulbs and optimal flavor.
Digging Up BulbsUse a tool to loosen soil, lift garlic gently by the stem.Prevents damage to the bulbs.
Cleaning and CuringDry in a ventilated area, then trim roots and stems.Prepares garlic for storage and use.

By carefully timing your harvest and handling the garlic gently, you can maximize both the quality and longevity of your garlic bulbs. Curing is a critical step that should not be rushed, as it directly impacts the storability of your garlic. With these techniques, you can enjoy your homegrown garlic for many months to come.

Storing Garlic

A. Best Practices for Storing Garlic

Once your garlic has been properly cured, storing it correctly is key to maintaining its freshness and flavor. The best conditions for storing garlic are in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

Ideal temperatures range from 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid storing garlic in the refrigerator, as the cold and moisture can cause it to sprout prematurely.

Instead, use a mesh bag, paper bag, or even a basket to allow the air to circulate around the bulbs. Keep the garlic away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat, which can also encourage sprouting.

B. Long-term Storage Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid

For long-term storage, softneck garlic varieties tend to last longer than hardneck types, sometimes keeping for up to six months or more under ideal conditions.

One common mistake to avoid is storing garlic in plastic bags or containers, which can trap moisture and lead to mold and rot.

Another tip is to periodically check your stored garlic and remove any bulbs that start to go bad to prevent them from affecting the others. If you notice any sprouting, use those bulbs first as their quality will decline more rapidly.

Storage AspectBest PracticesMistakes to Avoid
ConditionsStore in a cool, dry place with air circulation.Do not store in the refrigerator or plastic bags.
ContainerUse mesh bags, paper bags, or baskets.Avoid airtight containers that trap moisture.
MonitoringCheck periodically and remove any bad bulbs.Ignoring sprouted or rotten bulbs in storage.

By adhering to these storage practices, you can extend the life of your garlic and enjoy its robust flavor for many months. Remember that the key to successful garlic storage is keeping the bulbs dry and cool with plenty of air circulation.

Avoid common pitfalls such as improper containers and neglectful monitoring, and your garlic will remain a staple in your kitchen long after the harvest.

Troubleshooting Common Garlic Growing Problems

Addressing Issues with Garlic Growth and Bulb Development

Occasionally, you may encounter problems with garlic growth, such as small bulbs or poor development. This can often be attributed to planting at the wrong time, insufficient nutrients, or overcrowding.

To address these issues, ensure you plant garlic at the appropriate time for your region, typically several weeks before the ground freezes.

Provide adequate nutrition by amending the soil with compost before planting and applying a balanced fertilizer in the spring. Also, make sure to give each clove enough space to grow by following the recommended planting distances.

Solutions for Common Diseases and Pests

Garlic is susceptible to various diseases and pests, with white rot and rust being among the most common diseases, and onion thrips and aphids being typical pests.

To combat diseases, practice good crop rotation and remove any affected plants to prevent the spread. For pests, organic methods such as introducing beneficial insects, using insecticidal soaps, or applying neem oil can be effective.

Always ensure good air circulation around the plants and avoid overhead watering to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

Tips for Avoiding Common Garlic Growing Mistakes

Common garlic growing mistakes include overwatering, which can lead to bulb rot, and neglecting to remove the flower scapes on hardneck varieties, which can result in smaller bulbs.

To avoid these issues, water only when the soil is dry to the touch and be sure to cut off the scapes once they begin to curl.

Another mistake is harvesting too early or too late; keep an eye on the garlic leaves and look for the right balance of brown and green as your cue to harvest. By being attentive to these aspects of garlic care, you can prevent many common problems.

Problem AreaSolutionPrevention Tips
Growth and Bulb DevelopmentPlant at the right time, fertilize, and space properly.Ensure proper timing, nutrition, and spacing.
Diseases and PestsPractice crop rotation, remove affected plants, use organic pest control.Maintain air circulation, avoid overhead watering.
Common Growing MistakesWater appropriately, scape hardnecks, harvest at the right time.Monitor soil moisture, scape timely, observe leaves for harvest cues.

By taking proactive steps and employing these solutions, you can effectively troubleshoot and prevent many of the common issues faced when growing garlic. Regular observation and maintenance are key to ensuring the health and productivity of your garlic plants.

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to handle any challenges that arise during the garlic growing process.


In conclusion, growing garlic successfully requires attention to various aspects of planting and care throughout its lifecycle.

By understanding the right time to plant, preparing the soil adequately, and choosing the best location, you establish a strong foundation for your garlic. Proper watering, fertilizing, and diligent weed and pest management are essential for nurturing your plants.

When it comes to harvesting, timing is everything—wait for the right balance of green and brown leaves to ensure well-developed bulbs. Curing and storing garlic correctly will extend its shelf life and preserve its pungent flavor.

Troubleshooting common problems with growth, pests, and diseases can seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and proactive measures, these issues can be managed effectively. Remember to provide your garlic with the right conditions, monitor its progress, and be ready to intervene with organic solutions when necessary.

By following these guidelines and learning from common mistakes, you can enjoy a bountiful garlic harvest. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, the satisfaction of growing and harvesting your own garlic is within reach. With patience and care, your garlic plants will reward you with their aromatic bulbs, ready to enhance your culinary creations.

Additional Resources

A. Books and Websites for Further Reading

For those looking to deepen their understanding of garlic cultivation, there are numerous books and websites available. “Growing Great Garlic” by Ron L. Engeland is a comprehensive guide that is often recommended for its depth of information.

Websites such as and the Old Farmer’s Almanac online provide a wealth of articles on garlic growing tips, schedules, and troubleshooting.

B. Community Resources, such as Local Gardening Clubs or Online Forums

Connecting with local gardening clubs can be an invaluable source of knowledge and support. These clubs often hold meetings, workshops, and plant swaps that can benefit garlic growers. Online forums like GardenWeb and the Gardening section of Reddit allow you to ask questions, share experiences, and learn from a global community of garlic enthusiasts.

C. Suppliers for Garlic Seeds and Gardening Tools

Quality garlic seeds can be sourced from reputable suppliers such as Filaree Garlic Farm, which specializes in premium garlic seed, or Keene Garlic, which offers a wide variety of garlic for different climates and tastes. For gardening tools, consider checking out local garden centers or online retailers like Johnny’s Selected Seeds or Burpee, both of which offer a range of tools suited for garlic planting and care.

How to grow garlic at home