Garlic is a staple in the kitchen and a breeze in the garden. This easy-to-grow perennial bulb is highly adaptable to growing conditions of all kinds and exceptionally hardy in USDA zones 4-9. Growing about 8-12 inches tall, garlic’s spicy bulbs are a source of exceptional flavor, nutrition, and even healing.
This garlic growing guide covers the basics — how to plant, nurture, and harvest garlic — to take you from bulb to exceptional harvest with zero stress.
When to Plant Garlic
Determine when to plant garlic based on your location. In zones 8 and up, garlic can be grown year-round, either planting in the fall or the spring. In zones 7 and under, garlic needs to mature through the winter and you must plant in the fall.
Pro Tip: To learn if you are a candidate for growing garlic today simply visit our vegetable garden kits and enter your zip code! You’ll get an immediate answer whether you can grow this incredible vegetable.
Planting Garlic in Fall
For beginner gardeners, we recommend planting garlic in the fall. Fall planting results in larger bulbs with more complex flavors. Aim to plant in September or October. Do not plant after the end of November.
When planted in the fall, garlic grows roots until the ground freezes. During the summer, its growth halts but your garlic has a head start, prepping it for explosive growth once the spring temperatures arrive. When sown during the fall, garlic requires about 240 days to reach maturity.
Planting Garlic in Spring
Planting garlic in spring is possible, but not recommended — especially for beginners. Garlic has a fairly long growing period and hot temperatures entirely halt bulb formation; therefore, it is difficult to plant in spring and reach maturity before the hot temperatures arrive.
However, there is a small window of time in early spring — usually March (depending on your local climate) — that can produce robust garlic harvests. When sown during the spring, garlic requires about 90 days to reach maturity.
To learn whether you are a candidate for growing garlic now, use Gardenuity Match.
How Do You Plant Garlic?
Once you have determined whether or not you can plant garlic successfully, it’s time to figure out how to plant garlic.
Planting Garlic Cloves or Seed
It is possible to grow garlic from seed, but it is a highly difficult process. Most commercial growers and home gardeners grow from garlic cloves instead. Cloves are the individual bulb pieces. Use the larger bulbs for replanting and the smaller ones for cooking.
We recommend that you do not buy your planting bulb from the grocery store. Cloves in the supermarket are often sprayed with chemicals to prevent bulbs from sprouting.
Instead, buy from the local garden center or an online garden store. Look for large, firm bulbs that lack soft spots, brown spots, or shriveling and have the exterior paper tunic intact.
How to Plant Garlic
First, till the soil and amend with compost. For best results, grow garlic in well-draining, loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 – 7.5. Excessive moisture is the leading cause of disease in garlic, so ideally, aplenty in a raised bed or container.
Separate bulbs into individual cloves and place in the soil. Fill rows with loose soil and firmly pat down, being very careful to not compact the soil.
How Deep to Plant Garlic
Plant cloves about 2 inches deep into the soil. Place so that the flat end is pointed down and the pointed tip is placed 1-2 inches beneath the soil surface.
Space cloves 4-6 inches apart.
If heavy rains or frosts might expose the cloves, plant deeper. If you have heavy soils or are using mulch, plant shallower.
Planting Garlic in Pots
Growing garlic in a container garden is a great option for those without a backyard — or those looking for an easier option. Garlic varieties will grow successfully on patios, fire escapes, or rooftops and do not require a full garden bed to thrive.
The key to a successful container garden is to choose the right container and the right soil. Be sure to choose a pot that breathes well, drains, and is deep enough. Then, choose a soilless potting mix and a spot that receives enough sunlight. To plant garlic in pots, fill your container with potting soil about three inches from the top of your container.
Find the complete guide to container gardening here to get a complete step by step guide to growing garlic in pots.
Soil is the home of your garden. It’s imperative that it contains the right consistency and nutrients so your garlic can thrive. Garlic grows best in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Add plenty of amendments to the soil to keep it nutrient-dense.
Pro Tip: Add lime if necessary before planting to keep the pH levels in the right place.
How to Care for a Garlic Garden
Garlic is an exceptionally hardy and low-maintenance crop.
However, it still has growing preferences and will thrive in certain circumstances. Providing this environment for your garlic increases your chances of a big harvest with big flavor.
Garlic requires full sun (6-8 hours of sunlight per day).
Garlic needs a sparing watering routine. Thanks to natural rainfall, watering garlic is generally not necessary. If there is a drought, water deeply once a week. As temperatures warm, reduce the water gradually — this will create a prime environment for the bulbs to mature.
Garlic Planting Tips
When growing garlic there are a couple easy to-do tips & tricks that help greatly in the overall grow & harvest of your garlic crop. These can be found below!
Mulch your garden.
Mulch your garden with put to 6 inches of dry mulch. Clean straw, evergreen boughs, or fern fronds will work well. During the winter months, this will provide protection and protect against dry winds or low temperatures.
During the summer months, mulch will help retain moisture and keep the soil from heating up too fast.
Garlic tends to struggle in tropical and sub-tropical zones.
If this is your local climate, grow very very carefully and do your best to avoid too much moisture.
Refrigerate before spring planting garlic
Garlic does best when it receives a period of vernalization (cold winter exposure) before or after exposure. When you plant in the fall, this occurs naturally.
If you intend to plant in the spring (or if you are growing in mild mild winters), store the garlic bulbs you will plant within the fridge to get the temperatures needed. It’s best if you buy bulbs that have been in the pre-chilled nursery.
Garlic Companion Plants
Because of its natural insect and fungus repellent superpowers, garlic is a great companion plant — or a plant to grow alongside other crops. Grow alongside these vegetables for great results
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Kitchen herbs
Avoid growing alongside asparagus, beans, and peas. These vegetables are known to stunt garlic’s growth.
How to Harvest Garlic
Your garlic is ready to be harvested when the lower leaves have yellowed, withered, and died. As hot summer temperatures trigger maturation, garlic is typically ready to harvest a few weeks after summer begins.
To harvest, loosen the soil around and under the roots. Grasp the neck of the garlic and work it out of the soil. If the garlic is resistant to coming up, don’t yank on the leaves. Instead, work fingers under the base of the bulb and gently lift.
Harvesting Garlic Tips
- Check on your garlic mid-summer. Dig up bulbs in mid-July and check the size! If they’re as big as you wanted, pull them out. Otherwise, wait a few weeks and try again.
- In September, it’s time to pull your garlic up no matter what. It will no longer grow.
- Removes garlic scapes before the plant flowers. This concentrates energy in the bulb. Plus, the scapes taste delicious- stir-fried or sauteed.
Not sold on growing garlic? Here are 4 reasons you absolutely should grow garlic.