Are you a garlic lover with a green thumb? Sounds like it’s time to learn how to grow garlic at home! Garlic is a fantastic addition to the vegetable garden. It is easy to grow, very useful for cooking, and can even help ward off garden pests and unwanted nibblers like deer and rabbits!
Ready to add some garlic to your garden? This article will cover everything you need to know about growing delicious, healthy bulbs of garlic in your own backyard. Let’s get started!
Everything you need to know about planting garlic
Planting your garlic at the right time is key to your success. Here’s when and how to plant your garlic to grow big, delicious bulbs that will add some real flavor to your life.
When to plant garlic
Garlic can be planted in both the fall and spring, but the ideal timing varies depending on your location. In regions with harsh winters, fall planting is preferred, typically from late September to early November. In milder climates, you can opt for early spring planting from late February to early April.
Garlic prefers to be planted when the soil temperature is cooler but not too cold. Aim for soil temperatures between 50°F to 65°F for optimal growth. For fall planting, aim to get your garlic cloves in the ground at least a few weeks before the first hard frost in your area- around the same time you plant spring bulbs and do your fall garden cleanup. This allows the cloves to establish roots before winter dormancy.
You can also plant garlic in containers as I did above. Garlic is surprisingly well-suited to container gardening. If you’re planting in the spring, do so as soon as the soil is workable. Aiming to plant as early as possible is important to ensure enough time for garlic to mature before the summer heat sets in.
How do you grow garlic from a clove?
Select healthy, firm garlic bulbs for planting. Break them into individual cloves, leaving the papery skin intact. At this point, you can either plant them straight into the ground or get some roots started by soaking the cloves. I usually do the latter.
I select a shallow dish and let the bottoms of the cloves sit in water (refreshed daily) until little roots form at the bottom. This helps to give the cloves a head start on their growth process and ensures you’re planting cloves that will actually sprout. Here’s what it looks like when roots begin to form.
Plant your garlic cloves approximately 2 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. Space them about 4-6 inches apart in rows, with rows spaced 12 inches apart. Apply a layer of mulch, such as straw or dried leaves, to protect the garlic from extreme temperature fluctuations and suppress weeds.
Water your garlic thoroughly after planting to settle the soil and provide essential moisture. Continue to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged throughout the growing season. Provided the right conditions, a new bulb will begin to form from the original clove. Here’s a picture of some garlic I dug up a few weeks into planting.
I don’t remember why I dug these up instead of letting them grow, but at least it gave us a cool visual of the growth progress!
Growing conditions for garlic: What’s best?
Garlic thrives in full sun, requiring at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Ensure your chosen planting site receives ample sunlight to encourage robust growth. In areas with exceptionally hot summers, some light afternoon shade can be beneficial to prevent scorching.
Garlic prefers well-draining soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Amending your soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, not only improves drainage but also provides essential nutrients. Loose, fertile soil allows garlic roots to penetrate easily and develop healthy bulbs.
Harvesting your garlic: How long does garlic take to grow?
Because the actual garlic heads develop underground, it can be tricky to know exactly when your garlic is ready, though it’s usually around 8-9 months after planting. So, how do you settle on a harvest day? Don’t worry – we’ve got some tips to help you figure out when your garlic is ready!
Firstly, check the leaves of your garlic plants. As the plants mature, the leaves will start to turn yellow and wither from the tips down. This browning and drying of the leaves are natural indicators that the bulbs are approaching maturity.
The plants pictured above are not quite ready for harvest. Fun fact: each leaf of the plant represents a layer over the garlic bulb below. Wait for at least 3 dry leaves/layers to ensure your garlic bulbs will be well protected and ready for harvest.
If the leaves are starting to turn yellow and wither, gently dig up one or two bulbs to take a look. Mature garlic bulbs should have well-formed cloves that fill out the bulb wrappers. If the cloves are still small and not well-defined, it’s a sign that your garlic needs more time to grow.
Which types of garlic should you plant?
One thing many new garlic growers don’t realize is how many different types of garlic there are to choose from! Softneck and hardback are the two most common types you’ll need to choose between. Here’s a brief description of the two, but Savvy Gardening has a great post that goes more in depth on the subject.
Softneck garlic varieties are the most commonly grown type. They typically have a milder flavor and longer shelf life than hardneck varieties. Common softneck types include ‘California White,’ ‘Silverskin,’ and ‘Artichoke.’
Hardneck garlic varieties are known for their robust, bold flavors and large, easy-to-peel cloves. Some popular hardneck types include ‘Rocambole,’ ‘Porcelain,’ and ‘Purple Stripe.’
Elephant garlic is not a true garlic but belongs to the leek family. Elephant garlic produces large, single cloves that can be as big as a garlic bulb. While it doesn’t have the same intensity as true garlic, some prefer its mild and nutty taste.
Common garlic pests and diseases and how to treat them
While garlic is a relatively resilient crop, it can still fall victim to a range of pests and diseases. Aphids are the most common pest you’ll have to deal with. These tiny, soft-bodied insects feed on garlic leaves, causing curling, yellowing, and distortion of the foliage.
To control aphids, you can use insecticidal soap or a strong blast of water to dislodge them from the plants. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators that help keep aphid populations in check.
Enjoy your garden-fresh garlic!
I hope this post has you excited about planting some garlic cloves in your garden this fall! Whether planted as a companion plant or a culinary ingredient, garlic is a great, easy to grow addition to any garden. Looking for more vegetable gardening inspiration? Learn how to grow broccoli in our recent post, or find vegetables to plant for a fall harvest. More excited about flowers? ? Check out our list of fall planted bulbs to consider adding to your garden and then our guide on how two plant all of them!