If you think you love garlic now, just wait until you try homegrown! It’s so much more flavorful and potent. Plus, garlic is a perfect crop for beginner gardeners. Today I’ll walk you through the complete guide on how to grow garlic at home.
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Before we get into the specifics of how to grow garlic, let’s talk varieties. Garlic comes in two main types: hardneck and softneck.
This hardy variety is your best choice in colder climates. Traditionally they have fewer cloves, but those cloves are larger in size, and easier to peel. Many folks agree that hardnecks are more flavorful than softneck varieties. However, the downside is that they don’t store as long as their softneck counterparts, typically beginning to shrivel with 4 to 6 months of harvest. Lastly, this is the variety that will give you delicious garlic scapes, but more about that later.
This is the most commonly known variety. It’s what you see in the produce section of your local grocery store. This is also the variety that you see in those lovely pictures of braided garlic hanging in a rustic, country kitchen. Traditionally they have more cloves and those cloves are smaller in size. However, this variety is best for storage, often lasting for 9 to 12 months, under the correct conditions. You will not get garlic scapes with softneck varieties.
Where to Buy Your Seed Garlic
You can order your garlic online from a reputable seed company. This is typically done early in the year for Autumn planting. You can also purchase garlic at your local farmer’s market. That’s what we did our first year of growing garlic before we decided we loved it and ordered a cart-full from a seed company the following year. You may also have some luck finding garlic bulbs at your local gardening store.
Do not use garlic bought at the grocery store. These are sprayed with a grow inhibitor to maximize shelf life. This prevents them from sprouting. Great for the grocery store, not so great for you. If you plant these, you may see a little growth, but most likely they’ll just rot in the ground.
Hopefully, after your first year of growing garlic, you’ll be able to use your garlic from the previous year to plant next years crop. Sustainable gardening at it’s best!
Choosing Your Cloves for Planting
Regardless of how you get your garlic, be sure to choose the biggest cloves for planting. Starting with big cloves gives you the best chance of growing big beautiful heads of garlic. That may mean that you start with three heads of garlic and only plant about half the cloves from each head. That’s fine, just eat the rest!
Time of Year to Plant Garlic
Garlic can be planted at two different times, either in Fall or Spring, depending on your climate.
We typically plant garlic in Fall (Late Sept – Nov). A good time frame is after the Autumnal Equinox, yet still with enough time for the plant to develop roots, but not greenery, before the first freeze.
This works well in colder climates where the ground may take longer to thaw in Spring. It also works well in warmer climates when you want to give your garlic the maximum amount of time for growth.
Learn more about planting garlic in fall here.
In warmer climates, you also have the option to plant in Late Winter/Early Spring (Feb-March). For this option, you can plant garlic as soon as the ground is able to be worked, right around the time you plant your onions.
Garlic Placement and Garden Planning
Garlic and onions are both great pest and fungal deterrents. We’ve grown them both for years and not a single bug or critter has taken an interest.
For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to plant garlic sporadically around your garden. It will work as a natural pest deterrent and mutually benefit the rest of your plants. Just keep them away from sage, parsley, beans, peas, and asparagus, as it can stunt their growth.
How to Plant Garlic
Once you’ve got your heads of garlic in hand and a plan for the garden, you’ll want to separate the individual cloves, again selecting the biggest cloves for planting. Don’t peel the garlic. You want to keep their papery skins on as protection.
Garlic is planted 1-2″ deep, with cloves 4-6″ apart, in rows that are 1-2′ apart. You plant one clove per hole, with the pointy tip facing up and the root tip down. Cover with dirt.
If you’re planting in the Fall, it’s also time to mulch. Mulching is very important to ensure proper overwintering.
For locations with harsh winters, you can mulch up to 6″, but the standard that we use in the PNW is 1-2″ of mulch.
Now you can now set it and forget it! You won’t need to touch them again all Winter long. Come Spring, after the threat of frost has passed, you’ll want to pull batch the mulch and begin watering regularly.
If you’re planting in Spring, you can plant them after the threat of last frost has passed. There’s no need to mulch to protect from the elements. You can just begin watering regularly and watch your garlic grow.
You’ll want to water every 3-5 days while the bulb is developing, from your first action in Spring up until mid-June. At that point, you can start tapering off with the watering, as they’re preparing to be harvested.
Also, you may need to periodically weed around your garlic, so it’s not competing with other plants for nutrients
Garlic is a heavy feeder and it just loves nitrogen. In early Spring, when leaves begin growing, you’ll want to apply a top dressing of a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, like a store-bought pellet fertilizer or blood meal. We suggest then fertilizing every few months, up until June.
If you plant a hardneck variety, you’ll get an extra bonus come Spring. Garlic scapes grow out of the center, flowering stalk of your garlic. They are essentially your garlic bulbs trying to go to seed.
They put out long curly-Q stems with little bulbils on the end, but they never flower. These bulbils rob energy from the development of your garlic bulbs, so they should be removed in early Summer.
Don’t leave them on the plant too long or you may wind up with small bulbs and the scapes will become tough.
The garlic scapes have a delicious, delicate garlic flavor. We enjoy them thrown on the grill, eaten fresh, lacto-fermented, and pickled. You really can’t go wrong!
Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Your Garlic
In late June to September, once half the leaves on your garlic have turned yellow, it’s time to consider harvesting, curing, and storing your garlic.
For these next steps in this process, please refer to this post: How to Harvest, Cure, and Store Garlic
What do you think? Are you ready to grow your own delicious garlic? It’s perfect for beginner gardeners & you really can’t go wrong!
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Did you give garlic a try in your garden this year? How did everything turn out? Do you have any garlic growing questions? Send us an email or leave a comment below! You can also let us know on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest pages.
Be sure to check out these helpful articles for more gardening ideas…
- How to Harvest, Cure, and Store Garlic
- How to Harvest & Use Garlic Scapes
- Grow These Plants Side-by-Side for a Thriving Garden
- How to Grow Onions From Seed
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