Garlic is a good choice for organic gardens throughout North America. Like onions, garlic is a cool weather crop; it requires cold in order for the bulb to split into cloves and, in some cultivars, to trigger cell division. That being the case, it’s best to plant it in the late fall or early winter, two weeks before the first frost.
Here are 5 great tips to planting and growing garlic you don’t want to miss.
5 Garlic Growing Tips:
1. Plant Seed Garlic
The germination rate for domesticated garlic seed is quite low. In fact, the seeds of most varieties are sterile, due to thousands of years of selection for certain characteristics that discourage fertility. Today, almost all garlic is propagated from cloves.
2. Plant Depth of Garlic Depending on Winter Climates
You’ll need to start with healthy bulbs, then pop them apart into individual cloves. Plant the largest, healthiest cloves one per hole, root end down. If you expect a mild winter, an inch is deep enough; in areas with severe winters, plant them 2-4 inches deep. Fair warning: it’s best to acquire your seed garlic, as it’s called, from a local source, or it may require a 2-3 year period to adapt to your climate.
3. Plant Oats in Garlic Beds for Natural Mulch
Garlic cultivation lends itself well to mulching. Here’s an ingenious example that’s especially appropriate for areas with harsher winters: sow oats in your garlic beds in late August or early September. When it’s time to plant the garlic, cut slices through the oats to plant your cloves in. The garlic plants won’t have a problem coming up through the oats cover. The oats should die back when it gets cold, forming effective dead mulch. If it doesn’t, expect your garlic yields to be smaller, as the oats will commandeer some of the water and nutrients your garlic would otherwise use.
4. Remove Scape to Preserve Bulb Size
Most garlic plants will eventually put out a woody flowering stem called a scape. You’ll need to cut or snap it off so that the plant doesn’t waste energy on it, as the development of the scape will compromise the size of the bulb. When you remove scapes, be sure to do so on a sunny day so the wounds will dry out quickly. And don’t just throw the scapes on your compost pile—if you get them while they’re tender, they make great stir-fry or pesto. On commercial farms, they’re sold for $1-3 per pound.
5. Don’t Over-Fertilize Garlic Plants
One more thing: you should use a high-phosphorous fertilizer such as bat guano or fish meal to encourage growth in your garlic. However, don’t over-fertilize it, or it will become too leafy and the bulbs won’t be as large as you’d like.
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Garlic
Are garlic scapes healthy?
Garlic scapes add fiber to the diet as well as packing the Vitamins A and C. They have a nutritional profile that is similar to garlic cloves, including healthful antioxidants, which can decrease inflammation in the body and fight or prevent certain diseases.
Can I freeze garlic?
Yes, freezing is one way to preserve the garlic your garden produces so you can use it later. You can choose between freezing the whole bulb with the peel on, freezing cloves with or without the peel, and peeling the cloves before chopping and freezing them—whichever best suits your needs. Additionally, you can begin preparing the garlic by roasting or processing it before freezing. While frozen garlic maintains the same delicious flavor as the fresh vegetable, its texture will be smoother and less crunchy once it has been frozen.
Peeled cloves can also be placed into a container and covered with olive oil, then frozen. To avoid the possibility of foodborne illness, do not thaw garlic frozen in oil or allow it to sit on counters or in the refrigerator before you use it. To use garlic frozen in oil safely, you must take it from the freezer immediately before use and place it straight into the dish you are cooking with.
Can I grow garlic from a clove?
It’s easy to grow garlic in your garden from a clove, even when the clove is store bought, as long as it is organic. Garlic sold in stores that is not organic has sometimes been treated to prevent it from sprouting, so it will not grow once planted in your garden. You do not even need to peel garlic cloves before you plant them. Use the large cloves on the outside of the bulb when choosing which ones to plant.
Plant garlic with the flat end pointed down deep enough so that the pointed end at the top rests one to three inches below the surface of the soil. Cloves should be planted with about six inches of room between them. Water them deeply just after planting so the soil is moistened to a depth of 18 inches. For best results, add a thin layer of mulch (about two inches). Plant garlic in fall for a June harvest.
Can I grow garlic indoors?
You can grow garlic for its scapes, or greens, indoors on a sunny windowsill where it will get six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Water lightly to keep the soil moderately moist (but not waterlogged) constantly. Don’t let the soil dry out completely between waterings. You can clip the scapes as they grow, about every 7 to 10 days. Replace the cloves with new ones when the greens stop having a strong flavor. To grow bulbs of garlic, you’ll need to plant outdoors because garlic requires a cold period of dormancy to produce the head of garlic under the soil.
Can I plant garlic cloves that have sprouted?
Sprouted cloves are edible and can be used just as you’d use any other clove of garlic in cooking, or you can plant the sprouted cloves for a harvest of green garlic, sometimes referred to as baby garlic. Green garlic is an immature version of the garlic you see in the store that has not split to have multiple cloves. It’s similar to a green onion but has a larger bulb. You can eat the whole thing, from the greens (also called scapes) to the clove.
Leave the papery husk on your sprouted clove—don’t peel it before planting. Choose an area in full sun that gets six to eight hours of sunlight each day and has rich, well-draining soil. Plant the sprouted clove two inches deep, spacing cloves six inches apart to grow more than one in a row. Water often enough to keep the soil consistently moist, but not overly wet or waterlogged.
Scapes can be harvested by snipping the greens from the plant with clean, sterilized shears once they’re four inches long. Never take more than a third of the foliage so the plant has enough left to remain healthy and strong. You can also wait until the greens are eight to 10 inches long to harvest the entire plant at once.
Can I plant garlic next to strawberries?
Garlic is a beneficial bedfellow for strawberries. One study found that companion planting of garlic and strawberries lowered spider mite populations in the garden by 45 to 65 percent when double rows of garlic grew between the rows of strawberries.
Can I plant garlic next to tomatoes?
Growing garlic alongside your tomato plants isn’t just possible—the garlic works as a natural bug repellent to prevent infestation in the garden.
Can you dry garlic in the sun?
You can dry garlic outdoors in the open air to lengthen its shelf life, but do not dry it in a sunny spot. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn, and the sun can literally cook your harvested garlic, ruining its flavor. Instead, find a dry, shady spot with plenty of air circulation, and lay your harvested garlic bulbs out in a single layer to dry. Ideal areas for curing garlic include on a porch, underneath a tree, or even inside a garage as long as there is plenty of ventilation. Don’t wash the garlic with water or worry about the dirt clinging to it before drying it.
Leave your garlic out to dry for a month or two. You’ll know it’s ready when the roots and greens are brown and shriveled, with the roots feeling stiff. Once the curing is complete, store in a breathable container stashed in a dry location, and it will keep for up to several months. Your storage spot should stay between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, have humidity that averages 60 percent, and offer plenty of air circulation. Colder temperatures can result in sprouted garlic, and warmer temperatures tend to dry it out.
Can you eat garlic bulbils?
Garlic bulbils can be eaten after being peeled, or you can plant them in the garden as you would a garlic clove. After one growing season, they will have transformed into a small round bulb similar to a daffodil’s, and if left alone or transplanted and allowed to grow another year to three years, they’ll usually mature into a full head of garlic with separate cloves. (The bulbil grows at the top of the scapes, or greens, and is a small teardrop-shaped bulb similar to a tiny clove of garlic.) Planting bulbils allows gardeners to bypass diseases that proliferate under the soil and can plague their garlic. The bulbils won’t be afflicted with soilborne diseases even if the garlic under the ground has been infected, so planting bulbils reduces the likelihood of passing on these diseases.)
Can you eat garlic fresh from the ground?
You can eat garlic as soon as it is harvested—as long as you peel and clean it, of course. However, fresh garlic that hasn’t been permitted to cure for a while won’t have the extended shelf life of dried garlic. Garlic fresh from the ground should be used when you will be consuming your harvest quickly.
Can you eat garlic scape flowers?
The scapes, seeds, and flowers of the garlic plant are all edible in addition to the familiar bulbs in their papery husks. Bear in mind, though, that allowing your garlic plants to flower redirects energy that would otherwise be put toward developing the bulb of the plant, which some gardeners may prefer to cultivate.
The flower buds can be used just as you’d use cloves of garlic in the kitchen, or you can wait for the flowers to appear and eat the blooms. Garlic flowers are tastiest just after they’ve opened because, although they’re still edible when seeds begin to grow as the flowers mature, the texture suffers. Wash garlic flowers thoroughly to dislodge small insects or dirt that may be hiding inside, then make them an ingredient in salads or use them in vegetable dishes.
However, not all garlic varieties will produce flowers. Most hardneck varieties will bloom if allowed to grow for long enough, but softneck garlic varieties do not result in flowers no matter how long you let them mature.
Can you eat garlic straight out of the ground?
You can eat garlic fresh from the garden without letting it cure, but you’ll miss out on the extended storage time you get with curing. Be sure to peel and clean the garlic before putting it to use. Fresh garlic goes bad quickly, so reserve it for when you’ll be eating the garlic very quickly.
Can you eat garlic without curing?
You are not required to cure garlic to make it edible. The curing process is a way to make the garlic last longer in storage. You can eat garlic fresh from the garden when you’ll be consuming it quickly, as long as it’s cleaned and peeled before you eat it.
Can you eat raw garlic scapes?
You can eat garlic scapes, or greens, either raw or cooked. The thick stem in the middle of the leaves that begins to curl is the scape. Trim the scapes from the plant once they’ve begun to curl into their spiral shape just before you plan to eat them. Then you can put them to use in salads or add them to a baked potato as you would chives. The flavor is similar to garlic cloves, but much milder.
Store any scapes you won’t be eating right away in the freezer. Clean them first, and chop them if desired, or you can keep them whole. Blanch the garlic scapes in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to kill bacteria, then move them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen through, you can move them to a more permanent situation, like a plastic airtight freezer-safe container or a plastic Ziploc freezer bag. Freezing the scapes on the cookie sheet first means they won’t be stuck together in their long-term container, and it will be easier to remove the portion you need when you’re ready to use them.
Can you grow garlic from a single clove?
Yes, you can grow a garlic plant from a single clove. Leave on the papery husk, and plant the clove with the pointed end facing up and resting two or three inches below the surface of the soil. Choose a spot that will get six to eight hours of sun per day and has rich, well-draining soil. If you plant more than one clove in a row, leave six inches of room between them. Keep the soil consistently moist, but do not allow it to get oversaturated. Plant your garlic in the fall to harvest it in June.
Can you grow garlic in just water?
You can grow garlic for its shoots and greens in water, but you will not be able to grow an entire garlic plant in water without a complete hydroponic system. To grow garlic in water for its greens, use a small glass (like a shot glass) and a single clove of garlic, and fill with water until the water reaches halfway up the clove. (You do not need to peel the clove to remove its papery husk.) Change the water out for fresh water each day. Keep the growing garlic in a sunny windowsill. Once the shoots are a few inches tall, snip them with clean shears to harvest them, discard the clove, and replace it with a fresh one if desired.
Can you plant a whole garlic bulb?
To grow garlic, you should plant individual cloves spaced about six inches apart, not the entire bulb, which consists of many cloves grouped together. Planting the whole bulb would not leave enough room between the growing plants, causing too much competition between them. The result of planting a whole head, or bulb, of garlic will be underdeveloped, immature bulbs that did not have enough room to grow. If you have already planted the whole head and it is sprouting, it’s not too late to separate the cloves and replant them with the appropriate spacing, but do so as soon as possible.
Can you plant garlic in the same spot?
It’s recommended to never plant garlic in the same plot two years running because rotating your garlic crop helps to prevent diseases.
Do you dry garlic before braiding?
Do not allow garlic to dry completely before braiding, as the stems will be too rigid and brittle to braid. Instead, wait a few days to let the stems wilt a little before braiding them. Then allow them to dry in the braid.
Do you harvest garlic before or after it flowers?
Flowers may form before it is time to harvest your garlic, and you can either pinch them off or leave them as they are. Harvest your garlic in June or July if you planted it in the fall and slightly later in summer if you planted it in the spring. You will know your garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves have just begun to wither and turn a bit yellow.
Do you peel garlic before planting?
There is no need to peel garlic by removing the papery husk that surrounds the clove before planting. If the peel naturally comes off, however, it should not present a problem to plant a peeled clove. Peeling the cloves before planting them could result in damage to the cloves. The peel also protects the clove from damage when it remains intact, so leave it on whenever possible.
Do you soak garlic cloves before planting?
It is not necessary to soak garlic cloves before planting them in order to have a successful harvest. However, there are soaking techniques you can use to reduce the likelihood of various diseases or to fight garden pests. These techniques are outlined below. (Do not peel the garlic cloves before treating them, but do separate the individual cloves in the head from one another.)
- Fungal Disease: Perform this treatment immediately before planting the garlic. Soak the cloves for 15 to 30 minutes in room temperature water. Drain the water from the cloves, then pour in enough rubbing alcohol to cover them and soak for three to five minutes.
- Fusarium Wilt: Soak the garlic cloves in a mixture of 9 parts water to one part bleach, then roll in wood ash. Sprinkle in more wood ash when you plant the garlic.
- Mites: Soak the cloves in water overnight. (Optional: Per gallon of water, add either one tablespoon of liquid seaweed solution or one heaping tablespoon of baking soda.) Right before you plant the garlic, drain the cloves, then pour rubbing alcohol to cover them and soak for three to five minutes. Plant as soon as the alcohol soak is complete.
- Stem and Bulb Nematode/Bloat Nematode: Soak cloves in water that is one percent soap and has been heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour before planting. (Alternatively, heat the water and soap mixture to 120 degrees and soak for 20 minutes.) Then move the cloves to room temperature water for 10 to 20 minutes to cool down. An even faster method is to prepare a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water and soak the cloves for 10 minutes, then rinse in warm water. You may either dry the cloves out for two hours at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or plant them immediately after the treatment.
Does garlic go bad?
Garlic, like most food items, will go bad if not consumed quickly enough. When stored at room temperature (such as on the counter or in the pantry), fresh whole garlic cloves last for a month or two, while a whole head of fresh garlic will keep for three to six months. In the refrigerator, freshly chopped garlic will last for a week, while if you prepare a jar of chopped garlic in olive oil, it will keep for two or three months. You can preserve garlic for longer by freezing it.
To determine whether your garlic is still good to eat, peel it and inspect it visually. Garlic that has gone bad often has brown spots or other discoloration on the cloves, while the flesh of the cloves may change from pale white to a yellow or brownish color. If you see green shoots coming from the center of a garlic clove, this is an indication that the garlic is about to expire.
Does garlic need direct sunlight?
Garlic thrives in full sun, which means it needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day to grow healthy and strong.
Does garlic need to be watered?
Water garlic plants deeply each week, if there has been no rainfall in your area that week. The soil where garlic plants are growing should stay moderately moist without being oversaturated.
Do you have to plant garlic every year?
You can grow garlic as a perennial so that it returns each year on its own, even though it is most often grown as an annual, if you use the proper harvesting technique. To grow garlic as a perennial, only harvest the large plants, leaving the small ones in the ground to die back so they can sprout again the following spring.
How deep do I plant garlic?
Plant each clove of garlic with the pointy end up so that the pointy part rests two or three inches below the surface of the soil.
How do I grow bigger garlic?
To grow the largest garlic possible in your garden, start by planting the largest cloves of garlic available to you. (Do not use garlic from the grocery store, as sometimes this garlic has been treated to inhibit sprouting and will work against your goal of growing bigger garlic.) As a bonus, the larger cloves are also more resistant to extreme weather and drainage problems in the soil.
Also prepare your soil so that it is loose and well-draining, amending it with manure or compost before you plant in the fall. A balance of 13 percent organic material is ideal for growing garlic. Garlic also needs more nitrogen than other crops, so you may wish to supplement your soil with blood meal so it is well fed. Adding potassium will help increase the size of your garlic as well as maxing out the harvest.
Give garlic extra room if you want it to grow large, leaving six to eight inches between plants. Adding a layer of mulch on the top of the soil around your garlic plants helps keep moisture in the soil and creates the conditions garlic thrives in.
How do I grow garlic from a bulb?
Separate the cloves without peeling them, then select a location for planting that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day and has rich, well-draining loamy soil. Plant each clove with the pointy end up so that the point is two or three inches under the surface of the soil. Space plants at least six inches apart. Water deeply just after planting, and keep the soil moderately moist but not waterlogged. Plant in the fall for a June harvest.
How do you know when garlic is ready to harvest?
If you planted your garlic in the fall, expect it to be ready for harvesting in June or July. If you planted in the spring, it will be ready later in the summer. A visual inspection will tell you when garlic is ready to harvest—look for leaves that have just begun to wither and are turning slightly yellow.
How do you know when garlic is ready to pick?
You’ll know when your garlic is ready to pick both by the timing and by paying attention to visual clues. When you plant garlic in the fall, it will be ready for harvesting in June or July, but if you planted in the spring, it will be ready a bit later in the summer. Watch your plants for leaves that are starting to wither and turn yellow, which is your cue to harvest your garlic crop.
How do you prepare garlic for planting?
All that’s required to prepare your garlic for planting is to separate your seed garlic into individual cloves if it’s still in its original bulb form. To do this, you’ll need to remove some of the outer layers of the peel, but don’t remove too much. The individual cloves do not need to be peeled. Optionally, you can treat your seed garlic to make it resistant to certain diseases and garden pests, as described below.
- Fungal Disease: Just before planting, soak the garlic cloves for 15 to 30 minutes in lukewarm water. Drain the water off the cloves, then cover them with rubbing alcohol and soak for three to five minutes. Plant immediately after the alcohol soak is complete.
- Fusarium Wilt: Mix nine parts water with one part bleach and soak the garlic cloves in this solution, then roll them in wood ash. When you plant the garlic, add more wood ash sprinkled into the soil.
- Mites: Soak garlic cloves in lukewarm water overnight. If desired, you may add either one heaping tablespoon of baking soda or one tablespoon of liquid seaweed fertilizer to the water.) Drain the cloves, then cover them with rubbing alcohol and soak for three to five minutes. Plant immediately after finishing the alcohol soak.
- Stem and Bulb Nematode/Bloat Nematode: Prepare a solution of water and one percent soak, and heat it to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Soak garlic in this solution for 30 minutes. As an alternative, you can heat the solution to 120 degrees and soak the garlic for 20 minutes. Move the garlic from this solution to lukewarm water and soak for 10 to 20 minutes so it can cool down. (For an even faster treatment, soak garlic in nine parts water and one part bleach for 10 minutes, then rinse in warm water.) If desired, dry the cloves at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, or you can move immediately to planting them once the soaking and rinsing is complete.
How do you save garlic to plant?
To save some of your garlic crop to use as seed the following season, allow it to stay in the ground until it is completely mature and has reached its maximum size. Watch for the foliage to begin to wither and turn yellow. Then carefully dig or pull up the bulbs, making sure not to cut into the garlic or bruise it with your gardening tools. (Always use clean, sterilized tools when gardening to avoid spreading disease.) On the garlic you will keep for seed, trim the leaves so that just an inch of the stalk remains above the bulb.
Then allow the garlic to cure, or dry, in a warm, dark area with plenty of ventilation for 10 to 14 days. Avoid curing outdoors, or you run the risk of sunscald. The garlic has finished curing when the neck has tightened, the center of the stem is rigid, and the outer husk has dried out. Make sure to choose the largest heads of garlic to save as your seed for the following season. You can store the garlic for six to eight months in a well-ventilated container that is kept between 30 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
How long do you hang garlic to dry?
Hang garlic to dry in a warm, dark place that gets plenty of ventilation for 10 to 14 days. You will know garlic has finished drying because the neck will tighten, the center of the stem will harden, and the outer part of the peel will be crisp and dry.
How long does it take for garlic to grow?
Garlic takes nine months to go from planting to maturity, when it is ready to be harvested. When you plant garlic in the fall, it will be ready to harvest in June or July, but garlic planted in spring is ready to harvest later in the summer. Softneck garlic does not take as long to mature.
How much water do garlic plants need?
Garlic should be watered deeply about once a week when there is no rainfall—deeply enough to hydrate their entire root system. Water often enough to keep soil moderately moist but not oversaturated.
How tall do garlic plants get?
Fully mature garlic plants can reach heights of 18 to 24 inches.
Is garlic a vegetable?
Though for culinary purposes, garlic is most often used as a spice or seasoning, in the botanical world it is classified as a vegetable. Garlic is a part of the allium family, which also includes onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. The official definition of a vegetable is the edible portion of any herbaceous plant, whether that is the root, stem, bulb, or foliage.
Is garlic grown underground?
While the green leaves and scapes of garlic plants grow above ground, the head of garlic that is made up of individual cloves, the part that we season food with and think of most often when we think of garlic, grows below the ground like other bulbs.
Should you let garlic flower?
Whether you pinch the flowers off your garlic or allow the flowers to remain where they are does not seem to have any effect on the bulb underground that you will harvest at the end of the season.
Should you wash garlic after harvesting?
Simply brush the dirt off garlic with your hands when you harvest it. Do not wash garlic with water. You want to dry the garlic before storing it, and washing it will slow this process down. Also, before consuming the garlic, it will be peeled, so the dirt is not in contact with the edible portion.
What can be planted next to garlic?
Garlic makes an excellent companion plant for many of your other garden crops. Growing a double row of garlic in between rows of strawberries can help to keep spider mites at bay. In the spring, spinach grown between rows of garlic will help keep weeds out of the garlic plot. Garlic and peppers planted together have a beneficial effect on soil. Planted with cabbage, garlic defends against diamondback moths, cabbage worms, and other insects that plague brassicas. Garlic is also a good bedfellow for tomatoes, herbs, celery, carrots, parsnips, beets, lettuce, and peaches.
What can you not plant with garlic?
Although garlic makes an excellent companion plant for many crops, it should not be planted next to asparagus, beans, parsley, or sage because it will stunt their growth.
What fertilizer is best for garlic?
Because garlic is a heavy feeder, it should be planted in soil that has been amended with plenty of compost. Garlic also likes being supplemented by manure, 10-10-10 fertilizer, or blood meal.
What happens if you don’t harvest garlic?
If you leave garlic in the ground to die back over the winter, it will sprout again in spring, and you can cultivate it as a perennial crop. Some gardeners harvest the largest garlic plants and leave the smaller ones in the ground to try again the next season.
What happens if you plant a whole garlic bulb?
If you plant a whole garlic bulb instead of separating the head into its individual cloves and planting each separately, the plants will not have room to develop properly. The result is likely to be very small garlic plants that fail to mature into multiple cloves. If you have already planted the whole garlic bulb, dig it up and separate the cloves to replant them separately as soon as possible.
What type of garlic is sold in grocery stores?
The classic garlic you will find in the produce aisle is softneck garlic.
Will garlic reseed itself?
If you leave garlic plants in the ground over the winter, they will die back and return the next spring, functioning as a perennial crop.
Want to learn more about growing garlic?
Don’t miss these resources:
Get Your Garlic On: A primer on planting, growing and harvesting from Oregon State University Extension Service
Garlic in the Garden from Utah State University Cooperative Extension