Growing Garlic – A Great Way To Get Started Gardening

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If you’re considering growing garlic, it’s definitely time to dive in. Learning how to grow garlic yourself is not a complicated process at all.

Plus, having fresh, homegrown minced garlic for all your recipes really will make them even more delicious. Garlic is such a versatile spice – you can use garlic on almost any meal.

Homegrown garlic, tomatoes, and pumpkin leaves (recipe)

Once you know how easy it is to grow garlic, you’re going to want to have some in your garden ever year. Plus, it stores for a long time so you can keep it in your pantry and use your homegrown garlic for months.

How To Grow Garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow. It’s very comfortable growing in containers as well as in-ground beds, and it requires very little maintenance during it’s growing season.

Let’s cover the nitty gritty of how to grow garlic first. Then we’ll talk about some tricks for getting the best crop, and I will answer some common questions.

Unlike many other plants, garlic is rarely grown from the seed. You can grow garlic from seed, but expect slow and inconsistent results.

garlic for planting
Shipment of Garlic from Seed Savers Exchange

The best garlic crop will come from bulbs purchased at a seed supplier or specialty shop. There are a few types of garlic to consider which we will discuss in a minute. But first, onto planting garlic….

When and where to plant garlic

The right time to plant garlic is in the fall. You’ll want to have garlic in the ground anywhere from 4-6 weeks before your area’s first big freeze (find out exactly when to plant garlic with this tool).

It is possible to grow garlic in the spring and harvest in the summertime, but expect smaller bulbs.

Choose an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun during the day. Garlic thrives best in a spot that is sunny and has good drainage. Ideally, the soil should be rich and loose.

If you have sandy soil, then you are in luck because that is the prime condition for a garlic crop to thrive in. Garlic also does pretty well in a clay soil environment too. Soften and improve clay and sandy soil with compost before planting.

How to prep garlic bulbs for planting

Garlic bulbs are composed of individual cloves. To plant garlic, separate your garlic bulbs into the individual cloves. Try not to remove that paper-like covering on the garlic cloves if possible.

If some does come off while planting, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s better to leave it intact when possible. Each clove will grow into a new bulb, and the bigger cloves grow bigger bulbs.

Planting Garlic Cloves

Push one clove 1-3 inches into the soil, root side down.

Every clove has a bottom and a top. The bottom side is flat and may have some roots. The top side is pointy, and this is where the stem will come up.

Technically, you don’t have to plant your garlic bottom side down. It will probably grow just fine if you get it backward, but we always push the root side down in first and get great results.

Space your cloves in rows or blocks about 6 inches apart.

Mulch and maintenance

After planting, water the garlic bulbs then cover with a layer of mulch. We prefer a nice thick layer of wheat straw, but you can use bark, leaves, or even grass clippings if that’s what you have.

Try to make the layer around 4 inches deep to give the garlic the most protection possible from elements.

If you have healthy soil, your garlic will grow just fine without the addition of fertilizer. But most of us will want to give our garlic bed a dose of organic fertilizer in early spring.

Choose a fertilizer with a higher middle number – that’s Phosphorous which encourages healthy root growth.

In the spring when your garlic sends up flower shoots, you’ll want to go out and cut them down. Letting your garlic make flowers will decrease the quality of bulbs, so make sure you get them cut before the flower begins to open.

Garlic scapes are flower shoots that come up from garlic bulbs in the spring. Be sure to clip them before they begin to bloom for better quality garlic bulbs at harvest.

Garlic flowers are called scapes that should be removed for the best tasting bulbs. However, don’t throw them away! They’re a great substitute for garlic in recipes and can be pickled whole or chopped and sauted into your regular recipes.

Where to purchase your garlic

Garlic bulbs for planting will generally go for sale in the fall. So look for online retailers as well as local garden centers to have bags of bulbs you can buy.

There are some good online retailers that sell garlic for growing, but you may also be able to buy some bulbs at the farmers market.

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Harvest Garlic?

Here’s where the most challenging part comes in—figuring out when it’s time to harvest garlic isn’t always the most straightforward task. You have to harvest it when it’s just right, so you will need to pay attention to figure out when it’s ready.

Before you start checking your garden daily, keep in mind that it takes around 8 months before the garlic is ready to harvest. I know this is a long time, but it’s completely worth the wait.

The most significant clue as to if your garlic harvest is ready or not will come from the plant’s leaves. If you notice that the leaves have mostly turned brown, then it’s time to check your crop.

Because the garlic has been in the ground for so long, the dirt around it will likely be pretty solid, so you will have to remove it carefully. The best way to do this is to dig around the bulbs and then carefully remove the soil.

If you wait too long to harvest, you will be able to tell. You will notice if they are in the ground too long that the bulbs will separate. This is a good indication that the bulbs won’t store well.

How To Harvest Garlic

To harvest the garlic, you will need to cure it by placing the garlic in bundles of 5 -6. Then tie the bundles with a string and keep them in a dark place. Make sure it ‘s dry and free of any extra moisture. Allow the bunches to hang for three weeks or so.

Another option is to place the garlic on a screen so it can air out. Once you notice the stalk is completely dried out, then the garlic is ready.

Can You Plant Garlic From Grocery Stores?

Yes. You can certainly plant garlic from the grocery store. However, some bulbs from the grocery store may not grow very well.

Crops grown for the grocery store can be treated with chemicals that prevent them from growing. They also use particular strains for the grocery store that may not be the best for your area.

Does Garlic Need Full Sun?

Garlic prefers a very sunny area to grow well. You can plant the garlic in a partially shady space but make sure the bulk of the time it’s spent in the sunlight. You will have the best crop and end up with the most garlic this way.

Have you grown garlic?

Now that you see how simple it is to grow garlic, it’s time to start your own crop! Remember, it takes months to grow, so it’s better to get started earlier.

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