How to Grow Garlic. Now’s the time!

Garlic is a fall planted crop that is harvested in July. So if you’re reading this in October, now is the time to plant your garlic for next year’s harvest.  (but if it isn’t fall, don’t worry you *can* plant garlic in the spring) A step by step tutorial on how to plant garlic!

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Many, many, many, several, too many to count … years ago, my father brought home some garlic.  He got it from an old Italian man at work.  Actually, I’m making up the old Italian man part, but it seems entirely probable.  And THAT is when my garlic growing obsession began.  I’m obsessed with many things, that’s how I’ve learned to do so much and why I can’t sleep at night because I’m always plotting, planning or cleaning up after my latest venture.  Occasionally I’m getting rid of evidence.

Any idiot can grow garlic.  Seriously.  When’s the last time you watched a television special on the “Remarkable Garlic Growing Person”?  Never.  Because you do not have to be remarkable in any way, shape or form to successfully grow garlic.

Same for bean sprouts. You can grow bean sprouts at home in 4 days. These are not difficult skills.

For growing garlic you just need some garlic and some dirt.  Or “soil” for you haughty types.   You also need fall weather to plant garlic (although even that isn’t a deal breaker – more on that later).   Ready?  Let’s plant some garlic.

The first thing you need to know is which type you should be planting: hardneck or softneck garlic?


What’s the difference between Hardneck and Softneck garlic?

Softneck garlic

  • Softneck garlic is best grown in warmer climates. 
  • Has no stalk that grows up from the centre and therefore doesn’t produce a garlic scape.  
  • Softneck garlic heads are generally smaller than hardneck and have smaller cloves. 
  • The head of a softneck garlic can be made up of multiple rows of garlic cloves.
  • Softneck garlic will store for 6-8 months if kept in optimal conditions.

Hardneck  garlic

  • Hardneck garlic is best grown in cooler climates.
  • It has a long hard stalk that grows up from the centre of the head, producing a scape in June and a flower head later in the season filled with little garlic bulbils which you can use as garlic seed. 
  • Hardneck garlic is larger than softneck and has bigger cloves.
  • Cloves form the head in a single row.
  • Hardneck garlic will store for 4-6 months if kept in optimal conditions.

So generally speaking, if you live in a climate where you get lots of very cold temperatures and snow in the winter, plant hardneck. If you live in a warmer climate with mild winters and hot summers, softneck garlic is for you.

How to Grow Garlic

Separate your garlic head into cloves.  Just pull them apart.  Pick out the biggest cloves for planting.

The flat end of the garlic is the root end.

The pointy end is the tip of the garlic. It needs to point up.

You want to plant the garlic “root” end down and pointy end up. 2-3 inches into the ground.   The bigger the clove you plant, the bigger the resulting head of garlic will be.  

If you sprinkle a little oregano on top of the garlic and squeeze a tomato over everything, in 9 months you’ll have grown a delicious marinara sauce.  

No you won’t.

Plant the garlic cloves so they’re around 4 inches apart and their tips are covered by two inches of dirt.


Cover them up and wait.  Through the fall the clove will start to develop roots and maybe even a shoot depending on how warm your weather is.

By the spring with a little help from sun, water and these little guys to aerate the soil, you’ll have garlic plants starting!  A single clove, produces an entire head of garlic.

Harvesting takes place in July followed by curing the garlic and properly storing it.

How to Grow Garlic.

How to Grow Garlic.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 10 months
Total Time: 10 months 30 minutes

How to grow hardneck garlic. From planting to harvesting.

Materials

  • Heads of garlic

Tools

  • Trowel or shovel

Instructions

  1. Separate your head of garlic into individual cloves.
  2. Choose the largest cloves for planting.
  3. Plant the garlic, flat end down (the root end) in a hole that is 3-4" deep. When covered with soil, the tip of the garlic should be around 2" below the soil line.
  4. Fall planted garlic will develop roots underground in the fall and then go dormant through the winter. In spring it starts to grow again.
  5. In June, hardneck garlic will send up "scapes". Scapes are the tip of the growing stalk. Cut these off once they loop into a complete circle.
  6. DON'T THROW THE SCAPES OUT. You can use them for cooking or making a DELICIOUS garlic scape pesto.
  7. Stop watering your garlic 2 weeks before you harvest. (Around the time the lower leaves on the plant have turned brown.)
  8. Dig garlic up in July when one half of the leaves are brown. This indicates the garlic is ready to be harvested.
  9. Cure your garlic by hanging it in a well ventilated, shaded area like a porch. Leave it to dry for 2 weeks. This curing process will help your garlic to store much longer.
  10. Once cured you can cut the roots off of your garlic and the stem, leaving 1-2" of stem above the bulb.
  11. Store garlic between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidity level of 65% is the best.

Notes

  • The bigger the clove you plant the bigger the head of garlic will be.
  • If properly stored hardneck garlic will store for around 6 months.
  • You can also freeze your garlic cloves. Just separate the cloves and put them in a freezer safe container. Do not remove the skins, they're a protective layer.
  • Want garlic powder? Dry extra garlic in a dehydrator and then grind it into homemade garlic powder.
  • Softneck garlic is planted and grown the exact same way except it's planted in the spring and there are no scapes to remove.
  • If you missed the fall planting for your garlic, don't worry! You can still plant it in the spring and get a good garlic harvest. A gardener at my community garden does this every year. Your garlic heads may just be a little smaller than fall planted garlic.


Can You Use Grocery Store Garlic for Planting?


  • Despite what you may have read on the Internet, you can just buy garlic for planting at the grocery store.  As long as the garlic hasn’t been treated with anything to keep it from sprouting you’ll be fine.  As a little experiment, I bought 2 heads of garlic from my produce aisle.  One bulb of regular giant garlic and a package of smaller, organic garlic.  Both of them sprouted and grew. HOWEVER note that most grocery store garlic is not locally produced and can introduce new disease to your soil. 

  • What’s The Best Variety of Garlic to Grow?


  • For the best quality garlic you should buy locally sourced garlic heads that do well in your growing area. Music, Russian Red, and Chesnok Red are all popular hardneck varieties. Italian softneck is a standard softneck variety.

  • Can I Plant My Garlic in the Spring? Because I Forgot/Ran Out of Time/Couldn’t Be Bothered To Plant It in the Fall.


  • If you forgot to plant your garlic in the fall you can also do it in the spring!  But hardneck varieties do best when they have a period of “cold”.  So stick the planting bulbs in a refrigerator 2 weeks prior to planting them out in the spring. The cold will trigger them to come out of dormancy and sprout when you remove them from the fridge.

  • How Much Should I Water It?


    Water your garlic just like you would any other crop you’re growing. The fall is usually a rainy time and once I plant it I don’t water it at all. I just let nature run its course. What IS important though is to stop watering your garlic 2 weeks before you harvest. Around the time the lower leaves on the plant have turned brown. This helps speed up curing and the drying of the papers around the head.


    When Can I Dig It Up?


  • Garlic dies from the bottom of the stem up. It’s time to dig up your garlic when the bottom half of the leaves have turned brown.   
  • So if your garlic has 6 sets of leaves, when the lowest 3 sets have turned brown, it’s time to dig it up.

    How do you dig up garlic? Just rip it out?


    Um, no. Don’t harvest your garlic by trying to pull and manhandle it out of the ground. Dig it.  Otherwise you may break the head apart.

    How to store garlic.


  • 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity are ideal storage conditions for garlic.
  • Even then your garlic will start to sprout and dry out by late winter or early spring. So if you have a lot of garlic heads you should freeze unpeeled cloves or heads in the freezer. Garlic freezes perfectly. You can also preserve garlic by slicing it thin and putting it in a dehydrator at 125 F until it’s fully dried and crispy. Then put the dried garlic it in a coffee or spice grinder and grind it into a powder. Your very own homemade garlic powder is NOTHING like store bought. It actually smells and tastes like fresh garlic.

    What kind of dehydrator do you use?


    I use an Excalibur dehydrator (it’s pretty much what most dehydrating enthusiasts use) for all my dehydrating projects. You can take a look at the Excalibur dehydrator here (this one is white, but mine is black.)


    Hands down my favourite garlic recipe is actually one that doesn’t use any garlic at all! It uses the garlic scapes I harvest in June. My garlic scape pesto is delicious on pasta or pizza and stores for a year in the freezer.

    Now that you have all the information you need on how to grow garlic so get out there and get your hands dirty.  Or for the more refined among you – soily.  

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    182 Comments

    1. Blair says:

      Would it be acceptable to do this in a pot? I live in an apartment so my gardening has to happen on my patio…

      • Karen says:

        Blair – Yup. Just make sure the pot is big enough. The bigger the better. At least 12″ deep. Keep it watered and make sure it’s in the sun. Those long rectangular planters work well too, as long as they’re big and deep. ~ karen!

    2. Eva says:

      ooooh thanks for the post! totally doing it this weekend. just have to decide where….

    3. Vinci.L says:

      How often do you have to water them in Vancouver BC or do you just leave them in the soil???? Thanks for the awesome post!!!!!!!! Yum garlic bread!!!! :)

      • Karen says:

        Vinci.L – Just leave em in the ground. Come spring treat them like any other vegetable. Water when it’s dry. Although being in Vancouver … you should probably be O.K. :) ~ karen

    4. Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily says:

      This is pure, simple awesomness! Why the heck have I never even considered growing my absolute favorite errr, food? I live in Phoenix, so I should be o.k. to plant a few bulbs right?

      p.s./fyi
      just because something is Organic is not a guaruntee that it hasn’t been sprayed w pesticides. yup, I was shocked too.

    5. Shauna says:

      We just planted garlic for the first time ever as well. They grow so quickly, we already have green shoots coming out of the ground.

    6. Nancy says:

      I remember the post with the garlic scapes..they looked so pretty the way you arranged them..I think I will give the garlic planting a try!!

    7. Laura says:

      Thank you! I planted garlic a few years ago, but didn’t know when they were supposed to be ready. I just left them! I’m going to go plant more right now! (I have some crocus bulbs waiting to be put in too. Thanks for the reminder.)

    8. Brenda j says:

      Good to know; as the ones I put in, in the spring did notta! Now I know why.

    9. Lonelle says:

      Hmmm…we got a huge (for So Cal, lol) hail storm last night and everything is frozen this morning!! I guess its to late for me to plant right?

      • Karen says:

        Lonelle – I’m not sure about planting in Southern California … but for the price of the garlic, and the fun of the reward, I’d say as soon as you can work the soil, plant the garlic and see what happens. Then in the early, early spring plant some more. From the both plantings, something should end up producing garlic! ~ karen

        • Lonelle says:

          Thanks!! I am going to try it!! It is pretty unusual to have snow/hail this early (at least in the 12 yrs I have lived here!!) I am going to plant some in some containers on the front porch since I have all the supplies!

    10. Shawna says:

      Thank you for the kick in the pants that I needed! I have had garlic sitting on my counter for two weeks waiting to be planted. It’s now sprouting inside and I am getting up from my chair and heading out the door to plant it. Right now!

    11. Andrea says:

      I will plant today! YAY I finally have some information from someone I trust on planting garlic! I have a planter at my apartment, out on the balcony. Will this suffice for planting? Should I be getting a worm or two to live in there? And Should I be leaving the planter on the balcony over the winter or bringing it inside?

      Thank you for the amazing post! I was really stumped! REALLY!

      • Karen says:

        Hi Andrea – I’ve never grown garlic in a planter, but it shouldn’t be a problem, I don’t think. No you don’t need to get worms, LOL. Keep the planter outside. Don’t bring it in. Just plant the garlic the way I’ve shown you and hope for the best! ~ karen

        • Clare says:

          Hi there

          I have successfully grown garlic in a planter on a balcony. Just make sure it is a reasonable size (ie at least 12 inches/ 30 cm deep, use a reasonable quality potting mix, and make sure it gets enough sun.
          We grew fabulous elephant garlic year after year on in the same pot, keeping some back from each crop to start the next. Plus the flowers are really pretty while you wait for the garlic …

    12. Chrissy says:

      I just planted my garlic yesterday! I thought it was a little late in the season, but better late than never. I planted organic cloves from a farmer’s market the fall before, but nothing ever came up. I’m not at all sure why. Apparently there is something remarkable about me because I CAN”T grow garlic? I picked a different spot this year and got seed garlic. We’ll see.

    13. Claudine says:

      Both this and the scape post are thoroughly enjoyable! Thanks. But I hope no one reads this and comes and picks things out of my garden…

    14. Heather says:

      Wonderful! I love garlic, and I cannot get enough of it!

    15. Tricia Rose says:

      Boy oh boy your soil looks good.

      • Pam says:

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. “Dang, look at that soil!” Here in Oklahoma our garlic is likely to drown – our clay traps all the rain. Then, during the long, HOT summer, the rains stop and everything dries up and blows away.

        Can you tell I’ve given up on any sort of gardening here in OK?

        I do love looking at good gardening pictures, though, and isn’t it funny to be jealous of CANADA? When I lived in Montana, we thought the southern half of North America had it made garden-wise! :)

    16. Pam says:

      I have garlic in my perennial beds because the stalks and tops are very ornamental. And last a really long time… They’re my favorite!

      Pam

    17. Lorri-Ann says:

      Karen,
      How much sun do the garlic plants need. Is morning or afternoon OK or do they need a full dose of midday sun exposure? Do they tolerate any shade? Thanks,
      Lorri-Ann

      • Karen says:

        Lorri-Ann – Like most vegetables or herbs, garlic likes to get as much sun as possible. A little bit of shade at some point in the day is fine, but the more sun, the bigger and better the bulbs will be. ~ karen

    18. Sharmila says:

      Hi Karen, I live in MA, US. I am heading out right now with my daughter to plant GARLIC… I love your humor… every bit of it… When I finish this garlic project I will post the pics on my blog..She is only three has no clue but she hangs around with me a lot so she knows her garlic and onions… moms little girl… we have done some heavy bulb planting this fall… why not do some garlic… after hearing your adventures of GARLIC we want to give a try… Too bad I cannot plant the marinara suace…

    19. Jules says:

      SO Im really dumb when it comes to planting….like baking, I feel like I need a step by step..so my question it…does it matter WHAT dirt? any dirt? like just pick a spot in my yard and throw it in?- doesnt matter how deep?
      Im anal I know..(annoying)..I think thats why I cant grow anything..
      Ill try this though..TODAY!
      Thanks Karen
      Jules

      • Karen says:

        Jules – I mentioned in the post that you should plant them so the tip is covered by an inch or 2 of dirt. And any soil will do. Most vegetables and such like full sun and good drainage. ~ karen!

    20. marilyn says:

      hey karen does it matter if the garlic is the chinese stuff? im pretty sure that is what is in the grocery stores these days? my bro in law grows amazing garlic but i ran out of it so will have to resort to planting the grocery store stuff. thanks for the tips.

      • Karen says:

        Marlyn – You have to make sure the garlic hasn’t been treated to keep it from sprouting. Just buy some organic garlic to plant and you should be fine! Barring that, you could go to a seed store and see i they have any garlic for planting there to sell. ~ karen

    21. Heather says:

      I love your blog and happen to be in the Garlic business. We get questions about planting garlic ALL THE TIME and I love your blog post and wonder if we might repost and link to you from our website… http://www.garlicfestival.com??

      Thanks Garlic Queen of Canada.. from a Garlic Princess in California :)

    22. karenagain says:

      I’ll give it a try tomorrow. I have nothing to lose. Thanks again. BTW, fresh garlic is my BF’s favorite snack (ewww). I buy it at the Farmer’s Market for him, but I would love to grow it myself. BTW, he NEVER gets sick.

    23. karenagain says:

      Today is the day for the latest snowfall day in Edmonton history ever (according to my Grade 2 boasty neice and her little sister). And no snow has fallen yet this year. But, I don’t live in Edmonton and I got snow on Thursday. Can I still plant garlic?

      Does one clove grow into a head/bulb that you unearth come summer? Please explain. Garlic should be easy but it confuses me. I bought bulbs in the spring, never planted them, because I didn’t know which end was up. You have explained that. Now I know. Thanks Karen!

      • Karen says:

        Karenagain – Yes, one clove of garlic will turn into one entire head of garlic. (hopefully) The odd time all you get is one big, stupid clove. It maybe be too late for garlic planting in Edmonton, I’m afraid. The roots need a chance to grow a bit before the hard frost hits and it stops growing. I’ve left planting my garlic too late for even Ontario, but it should be fine here. If you can still work the ground, you might as well give it a shot! What the hell. ~ karen

    24. alexandra says:

      Karen- I have a problem… well not a problem so much as an opportunity that could turn out terribly if I don’t do things right.
      My Dad has sent me some garlic, he got it from an old Italian man at work (not kidding). It’s gorgeous. I’m excited about growing garlic. I want to plant it right now. However- I’m moving. Specifically, I’m moving from NC to Buffalo. In December. Will garlic do alright in containers? Will it survive my move? I would assume so if I protect it…but should I transplant in the spring? Should I try to plant it at my mother’s on American Thanksgiving and then prune it while she’s out and steal it from her next year?

      What to do..What to do???

      p.s. I know you’re not The Garlic Queen of Canada but I figured you might have a little bit of advice…

      • Karen says:

        Alexandra – I actually happen to *be* the garlic queen of Canada. I have a sash and everything. You have a couple of choices here. If I were you I’d split the cloves in half (however many you have). Take half of the cloves and keep them in a dark, dry place. Not the fridge. They need a tiny bit of air circulation. A basement maybe. Something like that. In the spring, the very second you can work the soil, plant the garlic like I’ve shown you. The other cloves you can bring with you to Buffalo to try and plant, but knowing Buffalo the way I do, chances are in December you won’t be able to work the soil. However, it’s worth a shot. This way you should end up with garlic one way or another. The bulbs you store should last long enough to still be viable to plant in the spring, and the ones you try to plant in December in Buffalo, might just work out for you. Don’t try to plant them in a pot and grow them in the house. That won’t work. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a float to wave from and a parade to lead. ~ the garlic queen of canada

      • Emie says:

        I live in Rochester, NY and I’ve been growing garlic for over 20 years. I’ve forgotten to plant it on occasion…. plant the garlic as soon as yo can work the soil… when you get to Buffalo or when Spring arrives. If you plant in spring you’ll still get garlic… the heads will just be smaller. Also.. I learned early on (from and old Italian man) to save the largest heads of garlic from your harvest. Keep it aside and use those heads to replant in the Fall…. if you do this your heads of garlic will keep getting larger. And, an added benefit, you don’t need to buy it each year to plant. Alexandra…. there’s a winery in the Finger Lakes that has a Garlic Festival every year… they sell many different varieties of garlic… I always get some to plant for the following year.
        HTH, Emie

        • Bonny says:

          Hi Emie, I saw your post on a “garlic” site and you mentioned about a Garlic Festival at a winery on the Finger Lakes. Could you send me the name of the winery/lake. Thanks, Bonny

      • brenda says:

        Alexandra-

        I live in Utah and have been planting garlic every year. One year I waited too long and the ground had froze. New years, there was a slight thaw, maybe you’ll get lucky. If you wait till spring, I have found the heads don’t get very big. Like Karen said keep in the basement, let the air flow. Keep in a paper bag, not in plastic. I eat my smaller cloves, sell some at a local farmer’s market and keep the biggest to plant. I grow mine in a zig zag pattern, still 4 inches apart; but you’ll get more in less space.

        Good luck,

        Brenda

    25. Marti says:

      So by “scape,” you mean the main body as opposed to the leaves. (I don’t know any of this technical garlic growing jargon, so accept my apologies in advance, please?)

      And if I wanted to grow elephant garlic, I could do it this way? I am so tempted to buy some just for planting a few cloves. That would be so incredibly cool!

      • Karen says:

        Marti – Take a look at the scapes I used in a flower arrangement this summer. It’ll give you an idea of what a scape is. Basically it’s the forming flower and attached stem of the garlic plant. https://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/flower-of-the-weekscapes/ ~ karen!

        • Steve Evans says:

          Hi Karen,

          I am trying to grow soft neck garlic and it doesn’t want to clove. It put up nice leaves and they stay all season, come June or July and I harvest I get one pretty large bulb with no cloves or indication any were started and several small bulbs about the size of a dime attached to the bottom. What is it I am not doing and need to do? Also, what about watering? I have read that after the leaves come to full height they no longer like to be watered. Any truth in that. I live in north central Florida.

          Thanks,

          Steve

        • Karen says:

          Hi Steve – I’m not completely familiar with southern garlic growing but it sounds like it just didn’t grow enough. I know that sounds stupid, but this could be due to a couple of things. Not a long enough growing season. Did you plant it in October or November? Not enough water. Or a fast, long hot spell that had the plant mature too fast. Did you wait to harvest it until the lower leaves went brown? ~ karen!

        • Steve Evans says:

          Hi Karen,

          Thanks for the prompt reply. I planted in mid Oct. and when I pulled the plant (which I thought was early) the leaves had all browned out and fallen. This is not the first time it’s happened though. They are planted in a 1/2 tub and I have no problems growing other plants in them. Watering could be an issue though, I sometimes do get lazy and forget to water but try to give them a good soaking at least once a week. I had read somewhere that garlic does not like much water after the leaves have reached maturity and I don’t know if that is true or not. I think I will put it in the ground again in Sept. and see what happens. I might even try planting the bulbs from this year (some I have not harvested yet). What about the bulblets that were attached to the large bulb?

          Thanks for taking the time to address my issue.

          Steve

        • Karen says:

          Hi Steve – If I were you I’d start fresh with good garlic. See if you can buy some from an actual garlic farm. Not grocery store garlic, and not the bulbs you have now. For one thing the small bulbs you have now will produce small garlic. The bigger the clove you plant, the bigger the garlic you will get. That’s what I’d do anyway. Good luck! ~ karen!

        • Josh says:

          Garlic needs winter just like a tulip to form a cloved bulb

        • Kathleen says:

          Can we plant garlic that has growth, the top has some growth…..like a plant.
          Is that safe to grow???

          Thanks for any help, First timers with Garlic.

          Kathy

      • Karen says:

        Oh! And elephant garlic would be planted exactly the same, although a lot of cooks prefer to use regular silver skinned garlic because of the taste. ~ karen!

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