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How To Plant, Grow, and Harvest Garlic

Garlic by robynejay on Flickr

When To Plant Garlic

You can plant from September through mid-January, as long as the soil is not frozen.  Fall planting, when the soil is around 60F, will yield the highest quality bulbs; and generally speaking, the later you plant the smaller the heads will be.  However, don’t worry too much if you plant it late – you can even plant it in late winter/early spring and still get a nice fall crop.

Types of Garlic

There are two types of garlic:  hardneck and softneck.

  • Hardneck Garlic tends to have dramatic and distinct flavors, is easy to peel, and has generally bigger cloves. These also produce edible garlic scapes at the beginning of the summer.  These are my favorite, but they generally don’t store for as long as softneck garlic.  Can be stored 3-6 months.

  • Softneck garlic is what you’ll find in most supermarkets – it generally has a milder flavor and smaller cloves.  However, it can be braided, and generally stores for much longer.  Can be stored for a year or more.

  • Elephant Garlic is actually a member of the leek family so it’s not really garlic, but tastes similarly.  It has much larger cloves, with a milder taste than garlic, and it keeps well.  Elephant Garlic is wonderful baked:  slice off the very top of the head so that you can see the tops of the cloves, pour a bit of olive oil on top, and bake until soft and browned.  Then you can eat it by scooping the cloves with a spoon, or adding the cloves to other dishes.




The looser the soil, the larger the garlic.  It will grow in most soils, but garlic prefers sandy loam (as most plants do).  Make sure any compost you use is well aged.


How To Plant & Grow Garlic

Simple, simple, simple, and so low maintenance!


  1. Separate the cloves (but you can leave the skin on, it doesn’t matter).
  2. Plant the cloves 1-2″ deep, 4-6″ apart.
  3. Water, and don’t water again until spring.
  4. Mulch – in warm winter areas, a light layer of mulch is enough; in colder winter areas, mulch with 8″ or more.  We mulch with straw, you can also mulch with leaves.
  5. Remove the mulch in spring, once danger of frost has passed.
  6. Water.  Continue to water whenever soil is dry.
  7. When the leaves begin to turn yellow (in the summer), stop watering for 2 weeks.
  8. Pull up the plant.
  9. Place the plant in a warm, shady spot to cure for 2-3 weeks (4 weeks for elephant garlic); if you have soft neck garlic, you can braid it and hang it in a dark place with good circulation.  (Ideal curing temperature is 70-75F.)
  10. Store in a cool, dark place (50F is ideal, with less than 60% humidity).


Where To Purchase Garlic Bulbs


You can grow organic garlic bought in a Farmer’s Market or natural foods store – anywhere that has well-stored, organic garlic.  Try to find out as much as you can about the garlic when you buy it, so you know how to store it the following year.  You can also buy certified disease-free garlic at an organic seed supply like Seeds of Change, Peaceful Valley, or Territorial Seed.  Generally these portions are large, so I highly recommend getting a few to try, and sharing them with a friend.

More Garlic Planting Tips?  Please Share!

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14 comments to How To Plant, Grow, and Harvest Garlic

  • [...] One Green Generation shows us how to plant garlic for next season. [...]

  • Just wanted to add the best (and most local to Seattle) organic garlic source, Filaree Farms

    The garlic that you purchase from a farmer’s market or local source is better suited to your climate than, say, Gilroy, California. Yet another reason to shop local. :-)

  • How did you know I was wanting to plant garlic but hadn’t yet read up on it! Thank you! This is great.

  • We do Egyptian walking onions. They are extremely frost hardy in the Midwest. You can get an onion harvest and bulbs for next year in the same plants. Great tips on garlic!

  • Believe it or not, some kind of animal likes to dig up and eat the garlic cloves after I plant them. So a couple of years ago I started attaching hardware cloth to the soil (with landscape pins) after I planted the cloves. Then I just pile the leaves as mulch on top of that. I remove the hardware cloth in the spring after the leaves start showing above the mulch. Does the trick!

  • Know that you are taking a risk if you buy garlic that isn’t certified and tell the person you are buying it from that you want to plant it. My mom was going to buy some garlic for seed from one of our vendors at our local market. She mentioned she wanted to plant it and the vendor told her not to, that she had whatever the disease is that causes problems with garlic (can’t remember right now what that disease is) in her soil. It’s fine for eating, but it will cause problems using the garlic as seed the next year.

    I usually have to lay some type of cage over my garlic bed for awhile. It’s a very tempting area for the neighborhood cats….

  • This was by far the most successful and easiest crop of the year for me – I planted last fall, cut scapes in the late spring, and harvested in late-summer, hanging them in my garage to cure.

    The interesting thing I found is that ants started nests in both beds where I planted garlic. The garlic closest to the epicenter of the nests didn’t fare as well as that on the fringes, but I still have enough to last us until next year’s crop comes in. Has anyone else had any trouble with ants in their garlic beds? If not, I’ll report next year on the year’s crop – I planted this summer’s largest and healthiest bulbs last weekend, so we’ll see whether the ants move in next spring…

  • Wow – this is great. Your post confirms what I did. This is my 1st year growing garlic. Every clove has sprouted. Excellent. I look forward to a bountiful harvest in a few months. Our family uses loads of garlic. I’ll plan a spaghetti sauce making event in our kitchen to celebrate my garlic success in the garden.

    By the way, garlic soup is heaven. Garlic, butter, and broth.

  • [...] Grocery Bags Simply! VIDEO!! Gardening 101: How To Hand-Pollinate Tomatoes & Peppers … Continue Reading /*Overall width, height, and table style*/ .ae_table_horiz { width:auto; height:auto; [...]

  • Awesome. I’m getting my garlic in this weekend. Can’t wait for harvesting time next year!

  • LOVE the garlic pictures at the beginning! Thanks for a common-sense article that gives the basics of growing garlic. As Kristi notes, I, too, have had good success with bulbs purchased from Filaree Farms. Ron Engeland, its founder, wrote a very thorough book on growing garlic: “Growing Great Garlic, The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers.” I would add that garlic adapts to the soil it is grown in. Buy your seed garlic as local as you can and then save your seed from year to year. If you buy it outside your region, it will often adapt to your locale over about 3 years (within reason – hardnecks do better in the North; softnecks in the South). I don’t remember where I first got my garlic, but I have been saving it for over 30 years, and over 20 years in the region I am now in. It has definitely adapted to our conditions. I call it the “Juan de Fuca Wonder” because the Strait of Juan de Fuca is out my back door, it’s a wonderful little bulb, and it’s a wonder it has survived all these years despite all my abuse! It is truly a survivor!

  • chaimae

    j’ai une plante que je viens de la planter mais malheureusement je crois qu’elle va mourir vous pouvez m’aider?

  • How do you knock the dirt off the garlic heads? I just harvested and don’t want to rinse the heads and undo any drying.

  • Danna

    What an informative article! But what really spurred me to comment is that lovely graphic you have at the top of the page.

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