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Garlic Plant Starting Tips

Seedling Garlic 1
Garlic planting
Garlic planting

Garlic is grown from cloves formed in bulbs. Cloves used to start new plants are called “seed cloves”. Seed clove size is important to yield.

The yield of a large clove is usually greater than a medium-size clove, which, in turn, is usually greater than a small-size clove. The largest cloves commonly produce the largest bulbs.

Garlic grows best if days are short and cool at the start of growth and long and warm nearer harvest.

Plant garlic in the cool of autumn or early spring to gain the chilling needed for bulb formation. Bulb growth accelerates as the days grow warmer and longer in mid- to late summer.

Grow garlic and other roots crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not become malformed.

Garlic matures in 90 to 100 after spring planting, about eight months after autumn planting.

Garlic Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Grow garlic from seed cloves. Cloves should be chilled in storage at 41°F (5°C) for several months before planting
  • Cloves are viable for about 1 year; papery, dehydrated cloves are not viable.
  • In cold-winter regions, sow cloves in early spring up to 6 weeks before the last expected frost; also plant in autumn about 6 weeks before the soil freezes.
  • In mild-winter regions, sow cloves very early in spring for harvest in late summer or sow in autumn for harvest the following mid- to late-summer.
  • Sow cloves 2 inches (5 cm) deep; cloves for larger “elephant” garlic (see below) should be set 4 inches (10 cm) deep.
  • Space cloves 4 to 8 inches (10-15 cm) apart in all directions; space elephant garlic 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Space rows of garlic 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Sow seed in loose, fertile soil. Adding aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing will feed the soil and aide moisture retention.
  • Seed cloves will germinate in 7 to 14 days at a temperature of 55°F (13°C) or thereabouts; germination will take longer in colder soil.
  • Optimum soil temperature to grow garlic is 45°F to 85°F (7-29°C).
  • Garlic prefers a soil pH range of 4.5 to 8.3.
  • Grow garlic in full sun for best yield.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist during growth—but do not saturate the soil; wet soil will cause bulbs to rot.
  • Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen; too much nitrogen will delay bulb formation.
  • Garlic grown in potassium-deficient soil will not store well; garlic grown in phosphorus-deficient soil will have thick necks and mature more slowly.
  • Keep planting beds free of weeds to avoid competition for moisture and nutrients.
  • Avoid planting garlic where onions or leeks have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common garlic pest enemies include aphids, nematodes, and thrips. Protect young plants from pests and cold for two to three weeks after planting with spun poly row covers.

Interplanting: Plant garlic with beets, celery, lettuce, spinach, and members of the cabbage family.

Container Growing Garlic: Choose a container 10 to 12 inches (25-30 cm) deep.

Garlic Planting Calendar

  • Cold-winter regions: sow cloves in early spring up to 6 weeks before the last expected frost; also plant in autumn about 6 weeks before the soil freezes for harvest the next summer.
  • Mild-winter regions: sow cloves in late winter or very early spring for harvest in late summer or sow in autumn for harvest the following mid- to late-summer.
Garlic cloves
Garlic cloves will germinate in 7 to 14 days at a temperature of 55°F.

Garlic Types and Classifications

There are three types of garlic to grow:

  • Softneck garlic including silverskin and artichoke garlic: necks are soft and pliable at maturity; bulbs produce medium-size cloves. These are the strongest-flavored garlic. They are less winter hardy than hardneck but store better.
  • Hardneck, stiffneck, or top-setting garlic, also called Spanish garlic: necks are stiff; stem curls in a loop at the top; mild-flavored and easy to peel.
  • Elephant garlic: large, fist-sized bulbs; mild and easy to peel; not as hardy as other types.

Botanical Name: Allium sativum

Garlic is a member of the Alliaceae also called Lilliaceae family; other members of this family include onions and leeks.

More tips: How to Grow Garlic.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. I had grown beautiful garlic for years in a 4×8 ft raised bed. Then all of a sudden, 2 years ago, it got infected with garlic rust. It has been terrible! I did notice on some St Johns Wart (the plant that has yellow flowers, but not the medicinal kind) that I had planted around the time I had the problem, that it looked like the leaves on that also had the problem. Do you think this could have been a carrier plant? or was it maybe just a coincidence. Where does garlic rust come from?

    • Garlic rust which leaves orange and black elliptical spots on garlic leaves and stems is caused by the fungus Puccinia allii. Garlic rust can infect members of the allium family including garlic, onion, chives and leeks. Infection occurs in cool moist conditions and the spores can easily infect nearby plants. The fungal spores can also survive in garden debris for months and infect new plants the next season. Infected plants and plant debris should be removed from the garden and is best either burned or set out with the trash. Do not plant garlic or other members of the onion family in the same planting bed for 2 to 3 years.

      The St. John’s wort you describe is Hypericum perforatum, a flowering plant in the family Hypericaceae. If that plant carried the garlic rust fungus then it could have spread to your garlic. Fungal spores can also be carried on the wind and in splashing drops of water and on the fur of animals or the clothes of gardeners.

    • A seed patent and a plant patent are much like a product patent. The government can grant a patent to the developer of a plant much like it can grant a patent to the inventor or developer of a new product. The patent allows the developer of the new product to exclusively sell or license the manufacturer and sale of the new product; the patent allows the product developer to recoup the cost in time and money of developing the new product. A plant or seed breeder–like any inventor– can be granted a patent if the invented (hybridized) plant meets the legal requirements. Seed patents are commonly granted for 20 years; some plant patents are for fewer than 20 years. New varieties of roses are among the most patented plants; new rose varieties come on the market every year. Here is a link to the government patent office and the legal code governing plant patents:

  2. I live along the East African coast, very coastoral dry hot climate yet I wish to grow my own vegetables mostly collards. Any advice regarding my region? Temparatures range between 23°C and 33°C but soil temparatures can hit 52°C in the mid-day sun.

    • Collards grow best in cool regions or in the cool time of the year. Time your seed sowing so that the plants mature in the coolest time of the year. That means you will want to start the seed about 50 to 80 days before. If the sun is intense even in the cool time of the year, protect the plants by placing a shade cloth over the planting area.

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