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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Garlic

growing garlic

Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum, is a bulbous plant that is frequently used in culinary applications across various cultures worldwide. Originating in Central Asia and northeastern Iran, it's now grown and used globally, enhancing our dishes with its distinctive robust flavor and aroma.

Garlic comes in several types, but the most popular are the hardneck and softneck varieties. The hardneck garlic typically produces larger cloves and is known for its strong flavor. On the other hand, the softneck garlic is favored for its long shelf-life and is the type commonly found in supermarkets.

Besides being a versatile culinary ingredient, garlic is also renowned for its numerous health benefits. It is rich in vitamins B6 and C, manganese, selenium, and fiber. Additionally, it possesses anti-inflammatory properties and has been used traditionally for its medicinal qualities, such as its potential to combat sickness, including the common cold.

Growing garlic in your own garden can be a fulfilling undertaking. Not only will you have a fresh supply of this beneficial ingredient, but you'll also be able to witness its unique growth cycle, which can add an interesting dynamic to your garden.

In the upcoming sections, we'll delve into how you can plant, grow, and harvest garlic in your own garden, ensuring that you're never short of this versatile ingredient when you're cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Optimal Growing Conditions for Garlic - Climate, Sunlight, and Soil Requirements

Garlic is quite hardy and can be grown in a variety of climates, though it prefers a colder winter period for the best bulb development. Here, we'll break down the optimal conditions for growing garlic in your home garden.

Climate: Garlic is a cool-season crop that thrives in a temperature range of 32°F (0°C) to 50°F (10°C). It's typically planted in the fall, allowing it to experience a period of chilling over the winter. This process triggers bulb development in the spring as the weather warms up.

Sunlight: Garlic requires full sun, meaning it needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. This is crucial as sunlight plays a significant role in bulb growth. Ensure that your chosen planting area isn't shaded by larger plants or structures.

Soil: Garlic prefers well-draining soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. Rich, loamy soil is ideal, though garlic can tolerate a variety of soil types. However, heavy clay soils should be avoided as they can inhibit bulb growth and lead to rotting in wet conditions. It's beneficial to work organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into your soil before planting to improve fertility and soil structure.

Watering: While garlic requires consistent watering, it's essential not to over-water. The soil should be kept moderately moist, but not soggy. Too much water can cause the bulbs to rot, especially in poorly drained soil.

Spacing: Garlic cloves should be planted about 3-4 inches apart in rows, with about 1-2 feet between each row. This gives each plant ample space to grow without competing for resources.

In conclusion, providing garlic with the right growing conditions is crucial to ensure a healthy, bountiful harvest. With these optimal settings, your garlic plants can thrive, gifting you with flavorful and healthful bulbs for your culinary creations.

Step-by-step Guide to Planting Garlic

growing garlic

When to Plant – Best Time of the Year for Planting Garlic

Choosing the right planting time for garlic is essential, as it has a significant impact on bulb size and overall yield. Here's a guide on the ideal planting periods for this flavorful bulb.

Fall Planting: Garlic is often planted in the fall, typically around 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. This timing allows the cloves to establish roots before winter sets in, but not enough time to produce above-ground shoots. A good rule of thumb is to plant garlic around the same time you would plant spring-flowering bulbs.

Spring Planting: If you're unable to plant garlic in the fall, it can also be planted in the early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Keep in mind that spring-planted garlic may not yield as large bulbs as fall-planted ones, since they have a shorter growing season.

Hardneck vs. Softneck: The type of garlic you're planting can also influence when you should plant. Hardneck garlic, which produces a stiff stem and large cloves, is typically planted in the fall. Softneck garlic, on the other hand, has a flexible stem and smaller, longer-lasting bulbs. It can be planted either in the fall or early spring.

It's crucial to remember that garlic is a long-season plant, meaning it requires a growing period of about 9 months. Therefore, plan accordingly to ensure your garlic is ready for harvest in late spring to early summer the following year.

To sum up, planting garlic at the right time can enhance your yield and the size of your garlic bulbs. Whether you choose to plant in the fall or spring, remember to provide your garlic plants with the care they need to thrive. Happy planting!

Seed Selection – Choosing the Right Seeds for Your Garden

When it comes to planting garlic, the 'seeds' you're choosing are actually the individual cloves from a bulb of garlic. However, not all garlic cloves are created equal, and selecting the right ones can greatly impact the success of your crop. Here are some key considerations when selecting your garlic 'seeds':

Organic or Conventional: Purchasing organic garlic seeds ensures that the garlic is free from harmful pesticides and is not genetically modified. However, conventionally grown garlic seeds can also produce healthy and robust garlic plants.

Hardneck vs. Softneck: Garlic comes in two main types - hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties produce fewer, but larger cloves, and they typically have more complex flavors. They also produce a flower stalk, or 'scape,' which can be harvested in early summer. Softneck varieties are known for their long shelf life and are what you commonly see in supermarkets. They produce more cloves, but they're smaller and the plants don't produce scapes.

Size Matters: When separating the cloves for planting, remember that size matters. Larger cloves often yield larger bulbs. So, select the biggest, healthiest-looking cloves for planting.

Buy from Reputable Suppliers: It's recommended to buy garlic seed from a reputable nursery or seed supplier. Garlic from the grocery store may not be the best choice for planting as it might be treated to inhibit sprouting or could carry diseases


Variety: Garlic has many varieties, each with its unique flavor profile, storage life, and climate preference. Some popular ones include 'Music', 'Spanish Roja', and 'California White'. Try different varieties to discover what grows best in your area and suits your palate.

In conclusion, choosing the right garlic seeds is the first step towards a successful harvest. Take your time to research and select the type that best suits your climate, soil, and personal preferences. Happy gardening!

Site Preparation – How to Prepare the Garden Bed or Pot for Planting Garlic

growing garlic

Planting garlic requires a little advance preparation to ensure optimal growth and yield. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to prepare your garden bed or pot for garlic planting:

1. Choose the Right Location: Garlic prefers full sun, so choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Make sure the location also has good drainage, as garlic doesn't tolerate standing water.

2. Prepare the Soil: Garlic thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with a neutral pH. Work the soil at least a foot deep, removing any rocks, roots, or debris that could impede the growth of the garlic roots. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, improve its texture and nutrient content by adding well-rotted compost or manure

3. Test Soil pH: The ideal pH for garlic is between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline, amend it accordingly using lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower it.

4. Create Planting Beds: If you're planting in a garden bed, create raised rows or beds about 8-12 inches high and 10-12 inches wide. This elevates the planting area ensuring better drainage and warmer soil for the garlic.

5. Container Preparation: If you're planting garlic in containers, choose ones that are at least 8-12 inches deep and have good drainage holes. Fill the pot with a mix of potting soil and compost.

In conclusion, the right preparation lays a firm foundation for your garlic plants' success. With the right location, soil preparation, and planting beds, you'll set your garlic up for a fruitful growing season. Now that your site is prepared, you're ready for the next step - planting your garlic seeds!

Planting Process - Detailed Steps on How to Plant Garlic

The process of planting garlic is straightforward and rewarding, yielding an aromatic and flavorful crop that enhances a variety of culinary dishes. Here's a step-by-step guide to get you started:

1. Selection of Garlic Bulbs: For planting, select high-quality garlic bulbs. Break apart the bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.

2. When to Plant: Plant garlic in the fall, about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. This allows the garlic to establish roots before winter sets in.

3. How to Plant In Ground: Make a trench about 3 inches deep. Plant the garlic cloves about 6-8 inches apart with the pointy end facing up. Cover the cloves with soil and lightly pat down the surface.

In Pots: If planting in pots, make sure they are deep enough to allow the roots to develop. Plant each clove about an inch deep and space them approximately 4 inches apart.

4. Mulching: After planting, apply a thick layer of organic mulch like straw or chopped leaves. This will protect the cloves during the winter and help conserve soil moisture.

5. Watering: Water your newly planted garlic well to settle the soil around the cloves.

With these steps, you've successfully planted your garlic. Now, it's all about taking care of the growing plants, nurturing them through the various stages until you're ready to harvest and enjoy your homegrown garlic. The key to a successful garlic harvest lies in attention to detail, patience, and proper care.

Care for Growing garlic

growing garlic

Watering – How Often and How Much to Water Garlic Plants

While garlic does require regular watering for optimal growth, it's crucial to find a balance, as both under and overwatering can lead to issues. Here's a guide on how to water your garlic plants:

1. Initial Watering: After planting your garlic, water the soil thoroughly to settle the soil around the cloves and to kickstart the root development process.

2. Regular Watering: During the growing season, aim to water your garlic plants once a week. The aim should be to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to the cloves becoming waterlogged and rotting, while underwatering can stunt growth.

3. Seasonal Adjustments: Adjust your watering schedule according to the weather. If you're experiencing a particularly wet or dry spell, you might need to decrease or increase your watering, respectively.

4. Drip Irrigation: If available, consider using a drip irrigation system. This ensures the water is delivered directly to the root zone, reducing water waste and preventing the foliage from getting wet, which can lead to fungal diseases.

5. Pre-Harvest Watering: About two weeks before you're planning to harvest, start reducing the water. This helps to dry out the outer wrappers of the garlic bulbs and makes them easier to clean after harvest.

Remember, garlic plants have deep root systems, so when watering, ensure that the water penetrates deep into the soil. A good rule of thumb is to water until the top 6 inches of soil is moist. Always water in the morning, giving the plants plenty of time to dry before the cooler temperatures of the evening set in.

Fertilizing – The Type of Fertilizer Needed and How to Apply It for Garlic Plants

Fertilizer is crucial for the optimal growth of garlic plants, as it provides the necessary nutrients that the plants need to thrive. Here's what you need to know about fertilizing garlic plants:

1. Choosing the Right Fertilizer: Garlic plants benefit from a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. An NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 is often a good choice. Alternatively, you can use organic fertilizers such as compost, well-rotted manure, or bone meal.

2. When to Fertilize: The best time to fertilize garlic plants is early in the spring when the green shoots start to emerge. This will help give the plants the nutrients they need to start vigorous growth.

3. How to Apply: Sprinkle the fertilizer around the base of the plants, being careful not to let the fertilizer touch the stems, which can burn them. Then, water the soil thoroughly to help the fertilizer reach the roots.

4. Reapplying: Apply the fertilizer once more in mid-spring to give the plants an extra nutrient boost before the growing season kicks into full gear. Remember, while fertilizing is crucial, it's equally important not to over-fertilize as this can lead to lush top growth at the expense of the garlic bulbs. Regular soil tests can help you understand the nutrient content of your soil and adjust your fertilizing routine as necessary. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when applying fertilizers.

Disease and Pest Control – Common Diseases and Pests that Can Affect Garlic and How to Manage Them

Garlic plants, like other garden crops, can be susceptible to various diseases and pests. Being aware of these potential problems and knowing how to manage them can help ensure a healthy, productive harvest.

1. White Rot: White rot is a common fungal disease that affects garlic. It causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves and white, fluffy growth around the base of the plant. To manage this disease, practice crop rotation and avoid planting garlic in the same place where other alliums (like onions or leeks) have been grown in the past three years. Fungicides can also be used as a preventive measure.

2. Rust: This is another fungal disease that can affect garlic plants. It presents as small, orange pustules on the leaves. Remove and dispose of any affected plant parts and use a fungicide if necessary.

3. Nematodes: These tiny, worm-like pests can cause damage to the garlic bulbs. Crop rotation and soil solarization can help manage nematodes.

4. Onion Thrips: These are tiny insects that can cause silvery-white damage to the leaves. Regularly inspect your plants and use insecticidal soaps or oils, or beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, to control thrips.

5. Bulb Mites: These tiny mites can damage the garlic bulbs. If you notice any issues, try to improve soil health and drainage and consider using natural predators, like beneficial nematodes, to control the mites.

6. Deer and Rodents: These animals may be attracted to your garlic plants. Fencing and other deterrents may be necessary to protect your crop.

In addition to these strategies, maintaining overall plant health is crucial for disease and pest management. Healthy plants are more resistant to pests and diseases. Regular watering, proper fertilization, and good soil management can all contribute to the health of your garlic plants. Always ensure you're following the recommended guidelines for each control method and consult with a local extension service or garden center if you're unsure.

Harvesting Garlic

growing garlic

When to Harvest – Identifying signs that the garlic is ready for harvesting

Determining when your garlic is ready to harvest can make a significant difference in the quality, size, and longevity of your garlic bulbs. The key lies in identifying the right signs that indicate maturity and readiness for harvest. Here's how to pinpoint the optimal time:

1. Watch for Foliage Changes: Garlic plants give a clear sign when they are ready to be harvested. The leaves of the plant will start to turn yellow and brown from the bottom up. When about one-third of the leaves are yellowing, it's a good sign that your garlic is almost ready to harvest.

2. Assess the Bulb Size: By gently brushing away some soil at the base of the plant, you can check the size of the bulb. If the bulbs are fully formed with individual cloves (you should be able to feel the bumps), then it's time to harvest.

3. Beware of Over Matured Garlic: If left in the ground too long, the garlic cloves can burst out of their skins. This makes them less convenient to use and shortens their storage life. So, if the lower leaves are all brown and the upper leaves are starting to turn, it's time to harvest, even if the bulbs are smaller than you'd like.

4. Weather Conditions: Dry weather is optimal for garlic harvesting. If a dry spell is not in your forecast when your garlic is ready, you can lift the bulbs and move them to a protected location to cure.

5. Time of the Year: Depending on your climate and the variety of garlic you are growing, harvest can be in late spring or early summer. In general, hardneck varieties are typically ready in June and softneck varieties in July.

Remember that harvesting at the right time is essential to ensure your garlic stores well and lasts. With proper timing, garlic can store for several months, providing you with a flavorful addition to your meals long after the growing season has ended.

How to Harvest – Techniques for harvesting garlic to prevent damage to the plant and fruit

The process of harvesting garlic requires gentle handling and precision to protect both the plant and its valuable bulbs. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to harvest your garlic correctly:

1. Loosen the Soil: Begin by using a spade or garden fork to carefully loosen the soil around the base of the garlic stalk. Be sure to start several inches away from the stem to avoid cutting into or damaging the bulb.

2. Gently Lift the Bulbs: Once the soil is sufficiently loosened, you can gently lift the bulbs from the ground. Never pull the garlic up by the stalk as this can damage the bulb and shorten its storage life.

3. Shake Off Excess Soil: After lifting the garlic, gently shake the bulbs to remove excess soil. Avoid banging the bulbs together or against hard surfaces as this can cause bruising.

4. Keep the Stalks and Leaves Intact: Do not trim the stalks or roots right after harvesting. Keeping them intact helps the garlic cure and enhances its storage life. The leaves can also protect the bulb from direct sunlight, which can cause discoloration or other damage.

5. Handle with Care: Remember that freshly harvested garlic is not yet cured and is therefore susceptible to bruising and damage. Handle with care during transport and initial storage.

Adopting these careful techniques when harvesting garlic will help ensure that your bulbs remain in the best possible condition. Once harvested, your garlic is ready to be cured, a process that allows it to be stored and used over an extended period, letting you enjoy the fruits of your labor long after harvest season.

Post-Harvest Care and Storage – How to store and preserve Garlic for maximum freshness and longevity

After you've harvested your garlic, the next crucial step is post-harvest care and storage. Proper handling after harvesting ensures that your garlic will stay fresh for the longest time possible and its flavors will remain intact. Follow these steps for optimal post-harvest care and storage:

1. Curing Your Garlic: The first step after harvesting is curing, a process that prepares the garlic for long-term storage. Leave the stalks, roots, and leaves on the bulbs and place them in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. A shed, garage, or covered porch can work well for this. Allow the bulbs to cure for at least two to three weeks.

2. Cleaning and Trimming: Once your garlic has cured, you can clean and trim it. Gently brush off any remaining soil and trim the roots to about half an inch. If you want to store your garlic as braids, leave the stalks long. If not, you can trim the stalks an inch or so above the bulb.

3. Storing the Garlic: Store the cleaned and trimmed bulbs in a cool, dark, and dry place. Garlic likes humidity levels of about 60-70%, and temperatures of 60-70°F (15-20°C). A well-ventilated cupboard or pantry can work well.

4. Regularly Check Your Stock: Periodically check your stored garlic for any signs of sprouting, mold, or softness. Remove any compromised bulbs to prevent the spread of rot to other bulbs.

5. Consider Preservation Methods: If you have a large harvest, you might not be able to use all your garlic before it begins to deteriorate. Consider preservation methods like roasting and freezing, pickling, or making garlic powder for long-term storage.

By following these steps, you can enjoy your homegrown garlic for many months post-harvest. Remember, the unique aroma and taste of your garlic are well worth the wait and effort of growing, harvesting, and storing. So savor the experience and the result. Happy gardening!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long does garlic take to grow?

Garlic is typically planted in the fall and harvested in the summer, so it takes about nine months for a garlic bulb to fully mature. However, this can vary depending on the specific variety of garlic you're growing and your local climate conditions. For instance, softneck garlic varieties are often ready to harvest a bit sooner, typically in late spring or early summer. Hardneck varieties, on the other hand, usually take a bit longer and are ready in mid to late summer.

Can you plant garlic in the spring?

Yes, you can plant garlic in the spring. However, it's typically better to plant garlic in the fall. Garlic needs a period of cold weather to properly form its bulbs, a process known as vernalization. When you plant in the fall, the garlic has all winter to experience this necessary cold period.

If you missed the fall planting window or live in a warmer climate where winters aren't very cold, you can still plant in the spring. It's best to chill the garlic cloves in the refrigerator for a few weeks before planting to simulate the cold period they would have experienced if planted in the fall.

Keep in mind that spring-planted garlic will still grow, but the bulbs will likely be smaller and the harvest time will be later than garlic planted in the fall. It's also worth noting that softneck garlic varieties are better suited to spring planting, as they are less reliant on cold weather for bulb formation than hardneck varieties.

Recap and Final Thoughts: Time to Start Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Strawberries

We hope this guide has provided a wealth of information that will prove invaluable on your journey to successfully planting, growing, and harvesting your own garlic. To recap the main points:

1. Garlic, a plant known for its robust flavor and health benefits, thrives best in cool climates with full sunlight and well-drained soil.

2. The ideal time for planting garlic is in the fall, although spring planting is also possible with a few adjustments.

3. Selecting the right garlic variety and ensuring your chosen bulbs are healthy and disease-free is crucial for a successful harvest.

4. The planting site requires careful preparation to ensure the soil conditions are optimal for garlic's growth.

5. A regular watering and fertilizing schedule is important to keep your garlic plants healthy and thriving.

6. Effective management of common diseases and pests ensures the overall health and productivity of your garlic plants.

7. Garlic is ready for harvest when most of the leaves have turned brown. The bulbs should be carefully lifted from the soil to avoid any damage.

8. After harvesting, garlic should be cured and stored properly to ensure its longevity and to preserve its flavor.

Now, with all this knowledge at your disposal, it's time to get your hands dirty! Whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting out, growing your own garlic is a rewarding venture that yields flavorful results. Remember, gardening is a journey that's filled with learning and growth, and every gardener has to start somewhere. So why not start with garlic? Your kitchen – and your tastebuds – will thank you. Happy gardening!

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