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Gardening 101: How To Plant Garlic

Farm Mom's Beautiful Garlic

It’s time to plant garlic in the Northern Hemisphere!  I encourage you all to try this as it is so easy, and extremely rewarding. There are all sorts of lovely types of garlic to try – some mild, some spicy, some long keepers, some beautiful braiders, and some just mouthwatering!

We had a lovely crop of garlic this year.  And let me tell you that garlic is pretty darn resilient.  We planted our garlic in mid- and late November.  It sprouted and looked lovely.  Then we moved at the end of April and brought some of the garlic with us, transported in a garbage bag placed inside a box with its own dirt and mulch.  

It was in a hot moving truck for 2 days, and then remained inside the box for -ahem- at least 2 weeks.  It also went through heavy rain without any drainage, so it was extremely muddy at times. Finally, we transplanted the garlic into the ground in late May.  We harvested it in mid-summer, and… we had full heads of scrumptious, full-flavored garlic!

So, do try to plant garlic at the right time and under the right conditions.  But if you muddle it a bit, garlic is fairly forgiving.

Types of Garlic 

There are two types of garlic:  hardneck and soft neck.  

  • 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.

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.  But again, don’t worry too much if you plant it late – you can even plant it in late winter/early spring and still get a fall crop.

How To Plant Garlic

Well I was going to write about how to plant garlic, when I came across an article from Farm Mom that says everything that needs to be said about it!  So go purchase some beautiful heads of organic garlic – either at the farmer’s market or at an organic seed supply like Seeds of Change, Peaceful Valley, or Territorial Seed.  And then follow Farm Mom’s excellent instructions here.  For more information, Peaceful Valley has some great companion instructions here.  Enjoy!

Have Any Other Garlic Planting Tips To Share?

Please tell us in the comments!

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16 comments to Gardening 101: How To Plant Garlic

  • Great info – and perfect timing. I just got garlic and onion starts from Southern Seed Exchange and need to set them out in my garden soon! Thanks.

  • Corinne

    I wish I’d read this half an hour sooner!! I just ordered some lovely hardneck garlic, planning on storing it. Guess I’m going to have to eat lots of lovely garlic-woo hoo!!

  • I did an experimental planting in a container on my balcony in September. I took one clove from a soft head garlic that I had in my kitchen, the just plunged it into the soil filled container that I was also using to grow potatoes from a russet potato.

    The potato vine grew to four feet tall in three weeks and got so top heavy it collapsed! The garlic sprouted in the space just over where I planted it and then two more sprouts came up six inches on either side of the first sprout. Forgiving, for sure!

    I water it every three days, even in the heat of autumn in Arizona. Can’t wait to see how they turn out! Don’t think the potato will be a success, as it grew faster than I could keep up with. Bought stuff to make a potato condo, but it grew faster than I could build!
    Its warm here, so I can try again with the potatoes, making sure the condo is in place FIRST.

  • Thanks for the timely post – I need to get my garlic in the ground this weekend… I didn’t know that hardnecks don’t produce scapes – that will come in handy when I harvest them next year.

  • I planted garlic for the first time ever last fall, & harvested a nice bunch around the end of July. (Photos on my blog) I planted some of those cloves (about 40) last weekend & covered with pine needles for mulch. I also tried garlic scapes when they were ready & found them to be quite yummy. I also put some in the freezer to use in soups, etc. during the coming winter. I bought my original garlic at the Farmer’s Market last year – it’s called ‘Killarney Red’ – an Idaho “breed” :P

  • mazzajo

    Wow, thanks for this post! I wandered over here from crunchy chicken. Just this morning I was looking at my garlic plants (it’s spring in australia) and wondering what the pointy things were – scapes! And, I can pick and eat them! I’ve never heard of this before. I thought they were drooping from the heat, but they’re sposed to be curling up like that! Cool!

  • Thanks for the great post! I have been referring to Farm Mom’s post a lot lately but every place I checked was already sold out of garlic. I have Peaceful Valley’s catalog for supplies but never thought to look for seed garlic there. I just placed my order and can hardly wait to get it.

    Thanks again, very helpful!

  • I planted garlic this year (two weeks ago) for the very first time. It all started with your Growing Challenge! After sining up, I went directly to the seed catalogue and went crazy ordering stuff for my “dream” garden. Garlic was just one of my “must-haves”.

    Through this challenge (and a couple of others) I’ve learned SO MUCH – and the changes to the way we eat (and live) have been positive and ongoing.

    Thank you for the inspiration that you’ve provided (and continue to provide)!

  • Rob

    I planted garlic in an “Earthtainer” and it is doing fantastic! At least the “scapes” are!

  • JessTrev, You’re welcome! Good to hear from you!

    Corrine, Oh no! Oh well, they will still last at least a couple of months. And they will taste so yummy!

    Young Snowbird, That’s a wonderful story – great companion planting! I bet you’ll have some tasty potatoes, just not as many as you would have with the potato condo. It’s all a learning process, eh? ; ) And good to know the condo must go in first!

    Lori, You’re welcome – have fun planting the garlic! Yum.

    Carla, Beautiful garlic and potatoes you have there. How nice it will be to have some lovely scapes to add to dishes in the winter.

    Mazzajo, Glad you found us here – I hope you return soon! The scapes are lovely – this is the first year I’d really heard of them. I think they’re growing in popularity.

    Jena, Glad I could help! Peaceful Valley has lovely seeds, too. It’s one of my (several) favorite seed suppliers. All 3 places I listed still had garlic as of the time I wrote the post – I noticed several places were sold out, too!

    Late Bloomer, Yay! I’m so happy to hear The Growing Challenge has pushed you to grow!! You’re so very welcome!

    Rob, Awesome. Does it have drainage at the bottom? I don’t know what an Earthtainer is…!

  • Hi! Thanks for the shout out! :) Glad you enjoyed the garlic post. Just did a horseradish one for the challenge yesterday. Things are slowing down for the season here, it may be my last Growing Challenge post. Thank you so much for doing it, it was geat fun! :)

  • Farm Mom, You’re welcome – thanks for the great post. Loved the horseradish post, too. I’m going to miss your wonderful Growing Challenge posts!!!

  • Good to know you can plant the stuff from the farmer’s market. In some combination of laziness/curiosity/forgetting I left two heads in the ground that we started from cloves a year ago, and they sent up new shoots last month. (My excuse is that they were buried under the cucumber vines.) So we’ll see next spring whether they’re too crowded or if they’ll just keep getting bigger. Thanks for the great post.

  • Hi, Melinda, thank you so much for posting this. I have never planted garlic and would love to…

    I really want to plant a fall garden but I’m not sure if I’m going to have time. What with work, the child, and all this activity around the election.

    I just signed up to be the team captain (or something) for NO ON PROP 8 at my polling place on election day. I am not sure what that means exactly but I think it means I’m going to help to make sure nothing fishy goes on at the polling place… Anyway, it’s the least I can do to help. I have a lot of friends who would be negatively impacted if PROP 8 passes.

    Thanks for your post today about local elections. So important!

  • Oooh! I just read in your post that I can plant as late as mid-January.

    That settles it. I will plant my garden. But only after the election. :-)

  • Audrey, You’re welcome, and I can’t wait to hear what happens with the forgotten cloves!! Will there be several heads, all bunched together? Very interesting.

    Cheeseslave/Ann Marie, You’re welcome, too! That’s great that you’re getting involved in your local election! Have fun settling down after these long, crazy, stressful elections… it will be a good time to go slow and spend time in the garden. You will LOVE having fresh garlic!!

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