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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Garlic

Garlic sprouts1
How to grow garlic

Garlic can be planted in spring or in fall. Spring planted garlic is harvested late in the summer or early autumn. Fall planted garlic is harvested in mid-summer, the summer after fall planting. Fall-planted garlic will produce larger bulbs and cloves than spring-planted garlic.

Here is your complete guide to growing garlic!

Garlic Quick Growing Tips

  • Plant garlic in spring 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost date.
  • Fall-planted garlic should be set in the ground in mid-October; plant a couple of weeks earlier in very cold winter regions; plant a couple of weeks later in mild-winter regions.
  • Fall planted garlic should be in the ground 6 to 8 weeks before the first expected frost.

Wherever you plant, keep in mind garlic requires cool temperatures of 32° to 50°F (0-10°C) during its first two months of growth. Cool temperatures at planting time are important for garlic to establish its extensive root system.

Where to Plant Garlic

  • Plant garlic in full sun
  • Plant garlic in loose, humus-rich soil that is well-drained.
  • Plant in a raised or mounded bed if you live where the ground will freeze in winter.
  • Garlic prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Garlic planting in row
Garlic requires cool temperatures of 32° to 50°F during its first two months of growth.

Garlic Planting Time

  • Garlic requires cool air temperatures of 32° to 50°F (0-10°C) during its first two months of growth when roots are established and bulbs begin to form. Garlic is not affected by hot weather as it matures.
  • Plant garlic in spring while the soil is still cool. You can plant 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost or as soon as the soil has thawed and is workable. Spring planting will come to harvest at the end of the growing season, about 120-150 days after planting.
  • Plant garlic in late summer or autumn as the soil again begins to cool. Plant about 6 weeks before the first freeze. Autumn planting will come to harvest about the middle of the following summer.

Planting tips: Planting Garlic.

Garlic cloves to plant
Plant large cloves to harvest large bulbs.

Planting and Spacing Garlic

  • Grow garlic from cloves or bulblets. Set cloves in the ground plump side down (that is the root side) and pointed side up.
  • Set cloves 1 to 2 inches (2.5-10cm) deep and 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) apart.
  • Space rows 12 inches (30cm) apart.
  • Add a tablespoon of 5-10-10 fertilizer or bone meal or fish meal to the bottom of the hole at planting time. Sprinkle a bit of soil over the fertilizer before setting the clove in place.
  • Plant only firm, healthy-looking bulbs or cloves that are insect and disease-free.
  • Separate cloves carefully to avoid bruising and to keep the skins intact (do not remove the skins). Plant the largest cloves; use small cloves for cooking.
  • Plant garlic purchased from seed catalogs, a garden center, or that you have grown yourself. Garlic from a grocery store may have been treated with a growth inhibitor.
  • Garlic from a local or nearby grower is likely to be a cultivar that will grow well in your area.
  • If you are using bulbs harvested from your garden the season before, plant the plump outer cloves; use small center cloves for cooking. (The average garlic bulb weighs 2-3 ounces and yields 6 to 8 plantable cloves.)
  • Plant 12 to 16 plants per person.
  • Autumn planted cloves will establish their root system before the first freeze. Roots and shoots will resume growth in early autumn.

More tips: Garlic Plant Starting Tips.

Garlic in planting beds
Keep the soil moist during the growing time but not wet. Reduce water as bulbs near maturity.

Watering Garlic

  • Keep the soil moist but not wet after planting. If the soil freezes in winter, roots will resume growth in spring; resume watering in spring as well. Keep the soil moist during the growing time but not wet.
  • Reduce water as bulbs near maturity. Allow the soil to go just dry soil 3 to 4 weeks before harvest; this will improve the flavor of garlic.

Feeding Garlic

  • Add well-aged compost or a commercial organic planting mix to planting beds twice a year.
  • Mist-spray garlic leaves every two weeks with fish emulsion or kelp extract. Side dress plants with a light application of blood meal.
  • Begin feeding garlic that has been in the ground over the winter in spring as the days begin to lengthen.
  • Heavy applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizers will decrease the flavor of garlic bulbs; use a 5-10-10 formula if you apply fertilizer.

Companion Plants for Garlic

  • Plant garlic with beets, lettuce, strawberries, summer savory, and tomatoes.
Weed-free garlic planting bed
Weeds will compete with garlic plants for moisture and nutrients. Keep the planting bed weed-free.

Caring for Garlic

  • Keep planting beds weed-free.
  • Mulch around plants with aged compost to keep down weeds and to feed the plants.
  • Pinch away blossom if you are growing hard-neck garlic to focus a plant’s efforts on bulb formation rather than foliage. Flowers will appear in early summer. (Flower stalks can be added to stir-frys.)
  • Mulch planting beds heavily with straw or hay before the first hard freeze if garlic is staying in the ground over the winter.
  • Avoid planting garlic where onions or garlic have recently grown.

Container Growing Garlic

  • Garlic is not a great candidate for growing in containers. Choose a container that is at least 15 inches (38cm) wide and deep.

Garlic Pests

  • Onion thrips may attack garlic. Spray them away with a heavy stream of water.

How to protect garlic: Onion Family Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Garlic Diseases

  • Mildew may occur in a warm moist environment. Keep plants dry.
  • Destroy bulbs with any sign of disease—mold, mildew, wilted leaves, or soft spots.
  • Do not plant garlic or other onion family crops in the same bed more than once every three years.
  • In onion maggots or wireworms have been a problem in the past, apply parasitic nematodes to the soil at planting time.
Harvesting garlic
The skins of garlic bulbs should be thick, dry, and papery at harvest time.

Harvesting Garlic

  • Harvest bulbs when the tops start to dry and turn brown. About 75 percent of the top growth should be brown at harvest time.
  • To know if bulbs are ready for harvest, lift one or two and break them apart. If bulbs are unsegmented and difficult to separate, it is too early. Check again in a week or two.
  • Ripe bulbs should easily pull away from the stems.
  • The skins of bulbs just right for harvest will be thick, dry, and papery.
  • The skins of bulbs left in the ground too long will be loose and deteriorate; these bulbs will be inferior and not keep well. It is better to harvest a bit early than too late.
  • Lift garlic bulbs with a garden fork being careful not to bruise or cut the skins.
  • Allow bulbs to dry in an airy place for 3 to 4 weeks after harvest until the outer skins turn papery.
  • Save the largest bulbs to replant next season.

Harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Garlic.

Cure garlic bulbs
Cure garlic in a hot, dry, dark place with good air circulation. Cure bulbs for two to three weeks.

Storing and Preserving Garlic

  • Use garlic fresh or cure it for storage.
  • Cure garlic in a hot, dry, dark place with good air circulation. Cure bulbs for two to three weeks.
  • You can hang garlic in loose bunches to cure. Braid the tops of the plants together with twine and hang them to dry.
  • Cure garlic at 60° to 90°F (15-32°C).
  • Trim away the leaves and roots after the garlic has cured.
  • Store mature bulbs in a cool, dry location in a mesh or net bag.
  • Garlic can be stored for 5 to 8 months at 35° to 40°F (1.7-4.4°C).
  • Peeled cloves can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer.
  • Peeled garlic cloves can be canned or frozen.
  • Fresh garlic leaves can be snipped and used like chives.
Garlic grows a flower stalk
Hard-neck garlic will set bulblets at the top of twisted flower stalks in addition to the underground bulbs.

Garlic Types and Varieties

There are three types of garlic: hard-neck, soft-neck, and elephant.

Hard-neck garlic

Hard neck garlic (also known as top-setting garlic, serpent garlic, or rocambole) will grow one ring of cloves around the stem. Hard-neck garlic is very cold hardy but does not store well. The flavor of hard-neck garlic is mild compared to soft-neck garlic. Hard-neck garlic will set bulblets at the top of twisted flower stalks in addition to the underground bulbs. The green stems are called scapes. Scapes can be harvested and stir-fried without harming the bulbs in the ground.

  • Hard-neck varieties include ‘Spanish Rojo’, ‘German Red’, Korean Red’, ‘Chesnok Red’,

Soft neck garlic

Soft neck garlic (also known as silverskin or artichoke garlic) commonly grows larger bulbs than hard-neck garlic. The neck or stem is soft compared to hard-neck varieties. The flavor of soft-neck garlic is strong and intense.

  • Soft-neck varieties include: ‘Silverskin’, ‘California Early’, ‘California Late’, ‘California White’, ‘Lorz Italian’, ‘New York White’, ‘Polish White’, and ‘Inchelium Red’.

Elephant garlic

Elephant garlic is also called great-headed garlic. Elephant garlic is not true garlic; it is more closely related to leeks. Elephant garlic has large bulbs and about 4 cloves for each bulb.

About Garlic

  • Garlic is a hardy perennial bulb plant grown for its papery white bulbs that contain clusters of individual cloves.
  • Cloves are strong-flavored eaten raw and mild-tasting cooked. Garlic grows to maturity in about 90 days.
  • The botanical name of soft-neck garlic is Allium sativum sativum. The botanical name of hard-neck garlic is A. sativum subsp. ophioscorodon.
  • Origin: South Europe

More tips: Fall and Spring-Planted Garlic.

Grow 80 tasty vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

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. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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