As part of the onion family, garlic (Allium Sativum) is a famous staple in Mediterranean cooking. What’s great about it is that you can easily grow it provided you have a warm and sunny spot that has well-drained soil.
You can grow garlic from cloves that you have to plant during the late autumn so you can harvest it in the middle to late summer.
In This Article
Quick Facts About Garlic
Botanical name: Allium sativum
Type of plant: Herb
Soil type and pH: Loamy; slightly acidic to neutral pH level
Sun exposure: Full sunlight
When to plant: Varies but often in mid to late autumn
When to harvest: Mid to late summer
Hardiness zones: Zones 3 to 9
An Overview of the Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Garlic is a crop closely related to chives and onions. It is also an herb, which has several culinary and medicinal properties and purposes. As you can see in each garlic clove, there is a pinkish or white-purplish sheath covering it.
A fact about garlic is that it is one of those crops that anyone can easily grow. In several regions, it is possible to plant this crop during the fall. At that time, several of the summer crops were already harvested, which can provide more garden space.
Growing garlic is definitely an incredible idea, especially if you are in constant need of it. The good news is that it is easy to grow that you can attain success even with just one clove. With that, you will have constant access to it and enjoy its plenty of health benefits – among which are:
Reduced blood pressure
Cure for tick bites
Lower level of pre-meal blood sugar
Prevents prostate cancer and atherosclerosis, among many other diseases
Types of Garlic
If you are seriously thinking about growing your own garlic at home, then familiarizing yourself with its different types is necessary. By learning these types, you will know exactly the most suitable variety that will thrive in your garden.
The hardneck garlic comes with a stiff stem that you can expect to grow through the middle of the bulb. It only has a smaller number of cloves per bulb, often less than 10.
Compared to the other variety known as the softneck, the hardneck varieties are often hardier. With that, the hardneck is a fantastic choice in areas with cold weather.
It also has a sharper flavor compared to other varieties. Once you complete the harvest, the hardneck garlic bulb will have a shorter shelf life compared to the soft neck.
The softneck is one of the most popular garlic varieties you can find in many supermarkets. Unlike the hardneck varieties, this one is incapable of producing a stiff central stem. It is noticeable for its relatively mild flavor.
The softneck variety is also known for producing the highest number of cloves per garlic bulb. As a matter of fact, the number of plant cloves can go up to 18. This garlic type is also distinctive with its papery white skin and ability to store well.
One thing to note about the softneck varieties, though, is that they can’t tolerate prolonged exposure to cold temperatures that well. That said, it tends to thrive and grow better in countries and regions with mild winters.
You can also grow it anywhere else where there is sufficient winter protection.
The Best Time to Plant Garlic
To guarantee your success when growing garlic, you have to be aware of the exact time when you should plant it. In most cases, fall planting, usually around September to November, is advisable.
It is highly likely for the roots to develop during fall and cold winters, specifically prior to the time when the ground freezes. Once the early spring comes, it will start to produce foliage.
You can then begin harvest during the summer. You must provide the garlic with a cold period for around four to eight weeks after planting. This period should be a minimum of 40 degrees F.
Note, though, that growing garlic in spring is also allowed. This is especially true if there is a long growing season. If that’s the case, it is unlikely for the cloves to grow that large but you will still be able to love the garlic scapes. The reason is that these garlic scapes are tasty shoots that boast of mild flavor.
If your home is in the Southwest or the South, then it is highly recommended to plant cloves between the fall to early spring. Remember the importance of planting early as it will not do that well when the weather in the area is already too hot.
Where to Plant Garlic: Finding the Perfect Spot
For your planted garlic to thrive and survive, you need to look for a gardening area, which exposes the plants to around six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Ensure that the soil is well-prepared, too.
It should be free of weeds. Remove these weeds from the soil beforehand and add healthy compost. In case you choose to grow it during the spring, wait for a while until the prepared soil is already drained and thawed.
If you notice the soil easily crumbling apart, then it is the perfect time for you to plant the garlic. It is also highly recommended to grow it in a container or raised bed. One reason is that you can easily make loose enough soil in them for the proper spread and growth of every bulb.
Raised beds also have the advantage of having soil that drains better. This is a good thing as your planted garlic requires loose and well-draining soil for proper growth.
Also, note that regardless of the garden location, amending the soil or ground is important. You have to make sure that it ends up loose, loamy, and well-drained.
Growing Garlic from Cloves
The most basic method of growing garlic in your garden is by using individual cloves. Here’s how you can do that:
Get hold of cloves from a local nursery or seed company
Avoid using those that you purchase from a grocery store when planning to plant. The reason is that these varieties may not be suitable in your area. Also, most of them were already treated to increase their shelf life, so they are kind of difficult to grow.
Choose healthy and large cloves
Make sure that they are healthy, too. Note that larger cloves also have a higher chance of growing healthier and bigger bulbs the next summer.
Break cloves apart from their bulb several days prior to planting. When doing so, ensure that you keep each clove’s papery husk.
Begin planting the cloves
Put them in holes that are around 2 inches deep and provide a space of two to four inches between each one. The cloves also have to be in upright positions.
The recommendation is that the pointed end should be facing up while the side where the wide roots are should be facing down.
Plant them in rows, too
Make sure that there are several inches of space in between each row. A wise advice is that each row should be around 10 to 14 inches apart.
Growing Garlic in Pots
You can also grow garlic successfully in pots or containers. Just make sure that you have a standard growing medium. As for the size of pot or container you need, use the following as a guide:
6-inch pot or container for 3 cloves
8-inch pot for 6 cloves
10-inch pot for 8 to 10 cloves
Also, the pot or container you will be using should have a minimum depth of 6 inches. This is necessary for giving the roots sufficient freedom for proper growth.
One thing you should remember when you decide to grow garlic in a container or pot is that it requires highly fertile soil. In that case, you may want to integrate compost or organic matter into the soil.
As a guide, stick to a mixture composed of 40% compost or organic matter and 60% normal loose soil. The pot also needs to have a proper drainage system.
Once you already have the right pot and you fill it up with healthy and rich soil, start planting the cloves there. The holes should also be 2 inches deep and the cloves have to be spaced by around 4 t0 5 inches apart. This space is enough for the proper growth of the cloves.
Growing Large Garlic Bulbs
Apart from the mentioned steps above, it is also crucial to keep these pointers in mind to guarantee the successful growth and bountiful harvest of large and healthy bulbs.
Pick large cloves
You have an assurance that the bulbs you will be harvesting soon will also be large enough if you are extra careful in choosing the cloves.
As much as possible, avoid planting cloves of various sizes as this may also produce various results. A wise advice is to pick the biggest ones.
Plant the cloves in proper soil
Aside from being well-draining, the soil should also be moist enough. It helps to apply the right fertilizer when the late spring comes, too.
Get rid of scapes
Scapes often become visible in your garlic plants once they begin to mature. These are the flower stalks produced by the garlic. Note that these scapes won’t be of much help to proper growth, so removing them is advisable.
Harvest at the proper time
Note that for you to be satisfied with growing and harvesting garlic, you have to do both at the appropriate times. If you don’t, you will only be at risk of harvesting green garlic, which signifies that it is premature.
The ideal time for harvest will greatly depend on the cultivar and climate. However, if the cloves were planted during the fall, the bulbs’ harvest period is usually around June to July. It is also possible for you to harvest the soft collars at an earlier time due to their rapid growth.
One sign that the bulbs are ready for harvest is when their leaves turn yellow or brown. Also, almost half of them, around 3-4 leaves, remain green. Scheduling the harvest when you can still find some green leaves will ensure that the bulbs’ leaf cover will stay.
When harvesting, avoid pulling the bulbs from the ground. What you should do, instead, is digging around 5-inch-long bulbs then using a fork to pry them off.
During the right harvest period, the softneck varieties will most likely weigh 5 to 8 times their original weight. Also, you will love your harvested garlic as you have an assurance of their freshness, making them less pungent and sweeter compared to preserved ones.
It is also advisable to watch out for signs indicating the readiness for the harvest of stiff neck bulbs. One sign is the presence of cloves that tend to split apart but without leaving the entire plant.
Caring for the Garlic
As mentioned earlier, garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow, care for, and maintain. Once you have successfully planted the cloves, garlic care comes next, which usually consists of the following:
Make it a part of your routine to get rid of mulch after you are sure that frost has already passed. As a guide, remove the mulch in the spring following the passing of the frost’s threat.
Also, note that young shoots will be incapable of surviving temperatures that are lower than 20 degrees F so ensure that you put them under a cover.
Cutting of the flowers
When it comes to your decision to have garlic planted in your garden, there is a high chance for you to see the bulbs blooming during the spring. In most cases, these blooms are characterized by flowers developing on top of the garlic’s stems.
Once you find these flowers, cut them. You have to cut and remove the flowers to ensure that the bulbs will not put more energy into them. With the flowers around, only minimal amounts of nutrients and energy will be distributed to the bulbs, thereby resulting in a smaller number of harvests.
Get rid of the weeds
Run your fingers in between the bulbs so you can pull at the weeds gently. Avoid pulling the weeds too hard as doing so may only disturb each bulb.
You need to keep the area weed-free to ensure that there will be no competition in the distribution of nutrients. All nutrients will, therefore, get to the garlic, instead of to the weeds.
Monitor the level of nitrogen
Just like other plants, garlic is fond of nitrogen, too. Ensure that you monitor the level of this nutrient in the soil. You can ensure that your planted garlic receives enough nitrogen by applying fertilizer every two months or so.
Also, monitor the color of the stems. If they start yellowing, then it could be because it is deficient in nitrogen. Add fertilizer when this happens and find out if there is an improvement.
Provide adequate water
For your garlic plants to thrive and survive, you have to water them deeply once every week. This can assure you that the plants will receive around one-half to one inch of water weekly until May and June come.
Note that both months are the times when your garlic plants will begin taking off. Expect the bulbs to grow bigger by this time, which also translates to the need for more water.
The months of May and June, therefore, should also be the times when you have to increase the watering frequency to around thrice weekly.
How to Store the Garlic?
Properly storing garlic should also be one of the things you have to know if you want to grow this plant. After the curing process, you may be able to store the softneck garlic by hanging it in braids or bundles.
Also, note that all garlic variations allow storing in a mesh sack. In case you choose to keep and store the garlic you harvested in sacks, do not forget to cut off their stalks, around half an inch over the bulb.
Use a soft bristle brush to clean them gently, too. Be extra careful during the cleaning process to avoid stripping off their papery skin.
After that, you should start hanging the garlic bulb in a sack made of mesh material. Ensure that all sides of the mesh have pretty good air circulation. You may also want to hang braids or bunches of the softneck varieties.
As for the storage condition, the guideline is putting your harvested garlic in areas that are around 45 to 55 degrees F. Avoid storage areas with temperatures that are lower than 40 degrees F as they may only cause the sprouting of the garlic.
Generally, the process of growing garlic is often trouble-free. However, it is still not immune to pests, problems, and diseases. Unfavorable growth conditions for the garlic may also cause the following issues:
Cloves that form on the stem
Also known as the top sets, this problem is not that serious as you can still use the individual cloves formed on the stem as you normally would. In most cases, such cloves appear on the stem because of adverse weather, like fluctuating temperatures during the spring season.
Presence of flower stocks
Some hardneck varieties produce flower stalks readily that you have to remove right after they start appearing. You can actually use these stalks in the hardneck in your stir-fries.
Meanwhile, it is only rare for softneck garlic to produce flower stalks. However, if you see them, note that the stalks result from adverse growing conditions, like prolonged drought and high temperatures.
Green-colored cloves often appear because of late harvesting or shallow planting. You can use them normally but they seem to be incapable of storing that well.
This is one threat that you will most likely deal with when growing garlic. It’s actually a kind of fungus that tends to attack the bulbs when the cold season comes.
To prevent white rot from penetrating your garden, maintain the cleanliness of the area. Make sure to rotate the crops regularly, too. The reason is that the spores of this fungus can live in the soil for several years.
In case white rot penetrates the soil, make it a point to sterilize it first prior to planting garlic once again.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you grow garlic from a clove?
The first thing to do is to break the cloves out of the garlic’s head. Make sure that you do not damage the base.
Create a hole in the soil, around 2-inch deep, then put the clove there with its tip side facing up.
Cover the planted clove with dirt. Lightly pack it then begin watering. You can plant more garlic cloves by repeating the process and giving each one space of around 8 inches apart. Use mulch to cover the area.
How long does garlic take to grow?
The length of time it takes for the garlic to mature and grow will greatly depend on the time when you decided to plant the cloves. One fact about it, though, is that it tends to grow best once it goes through the period of chilling.
That said, the ideal time to plant the garlic is during the fall. By planting the garlic during that season, you can expect it to mature in around 8 months. You may also plant it during the spring.
In that case, it is highly likely for it to mature in less than 8 months. However, remember that planting it during the spring may cause difficulties in creating bulbs. Garlic also tends to grow naturally in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9.
Does garlic come back every year?
Garlic can be classified as a perennial, which is frequently grown as an annual. It is capable of coming back every year, but in most cases, you can do a complete harvest during the early fall or late summer.
It also commonly acts as an annual crop. In case you have plans of ensuring the perennial status of your garlic, leaving the tiniest bulbs in the soil or ground is advisable. That way, you can guarantee their regrowth once the winter ends.
Is it fine to plant garlic bulbs bought from grocery stores?
The answer to this actually depends on the situation. Of course, it is highly likely for the bulbs you purchased from your favorite grocery store to grow and survive if you stick to the right planting techniques.
However, it would still be much better for you to use certain garlic bulbs specifically designed for planting. It should be appropriate for your area or region, too.
If possible, use grocery store garlic as a last resort only as such does not provide you with a way of determining its overall quality. You will also have no idea of the garlic’s origin and if it is appropriate for your location or region.
Keep in mind that the bulbs are often weather-sensitive. That said, it is necessary to use the right type of bulb that is suitable for your area or region.
How to cure the garlic?
To cure the garlic, you may want to tie the plant using its stalks or leaves. A good rule of thumb is to do this method in loose bundles composed of 8 to 12 plants. Hanging them beneath a cover should then come next.
Another method is spreading the plants in one layer on slatted shelves, drying racks, or screens. Also, note that garlic can store for an even longer time if you cure it with some leaves or its stalk attached.
It is also crucial to have good air circulation for curing. Expect this plant to cure for around three weeks to two months. This will depend on the level of humidity as well as the air circulation.
Is the elephant garlic variety a true garlic?
Elephant garlic may seem like another type of garlic because of its name, but the truth is it is a leek. It has a mild and lightly sweet taste while also having some hints of the taste of onion and garlic. The elephant garlic has large bulbs with each one producing five yellowish plant cloves.
These are also among those plants that produce plant bulbs. They are easy to grow and maintain and similar to the true garlic needs, the elephant garlic also needs a rich and well-draining soil and full sunlight.
Do you have to fertilize these plants?
Yes, the reason is that it requires several months for the garlic to be completely ready to harvest. The lengthy growing season requires you to use a fertilizer so you can nourish them. What you should do is to incorporate a lot of compost, well-rotted manure, blood meal, or all-purpose fertilizer (10-10-10 formula) into the garden soil.
Fertilize once again during the spring if the planting happens during the fall. You just have to broadcast or side dress your garden with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Fertilize once more during the middle of May when the bulbs start swelling. However, avoid using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer at this time as it may only cause the size of the bulb to get stunted.
By following everything that’s covered in this article, you will realize how easy and manageable it is to grow garlic (Allium Sativum). Start your journey towards having your own garlic in your garden by fall or spring planting them.
Ensure that you also provide all the garlic needs, too. By doing that, you will surely have easy access to this kitchen staple anytime you need it.