The Unabridged Guide to Growing Garlic

growing garlic

All you need is one clove of garlic to produce a lot more garlic. Garlic grows best in slightly acidic, fertile, and well-drained soil. Although the plant needs a fair amount of water to produce healthy bulbs and cloves, you want to be sure not to give it too much water.

Difficulty

Not difficult

Type of Plant

Vegetable

Sunlight

Lots of sunlight

Soil Type & pH

Loamy soil, midly acidic to neutral pH

Hardiness Zones

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Buy Supplies

seeds, soil, trellises, pruners, pots.

Quick Tip: When growing garlic in the springtime, you might notice some flower shoots popping up. It's best to remove them, since they can affect the size of your garlic bulbs.

Too much moisture will cause it to rot. You can grow the bulbs in the ground or in a container. In fact, growing in a container might be the easiest way to get a big harvest of healthy, tasty garlic cloves.

SOIL REQUIREMENTS


Although some vegetables have very specific soil pH requirements, garlic is a bit more flexible. It does best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, according to the University of Minnesota. But it is able to grow in soils that are slightly more acidic than that. If the soil pH is less than 5.8, you might want to add a bit of lime to make it more hospitable to garlic.

garlic gardening

Photo by PublicDomainPictures licensed under CC0

Garlic also prefers well-drained, very fertile soil. The bulk of the plant grows under the ground, so it needs to be able to pull moisture and food from the soil. Before you plant the garlic in the soil, it's a good idea to mix in lots of compost and organic matter, to add more nutrients. Burpee also recommends add a bit of 10-10-10 fertilizer before planting.

Ideally, the soil you plant garlic in will be loose and free of any rocks or other debris. Rocks in the soil can disrupt the growth of the bulbs, so that you end up with misshapen cloves. The plant will have difficulty growing in soil that is very compacted.

If you are growing in the ground, you might need to till the soil before planting to fluff it up and to remove any stones. Often, planting garlic in a raised bed or container is ideal, since the soil will be loose.

The video above from PodGardening not only shows you how to plant garlic in your garden. The gardener also gives you a tip to keep your body weight from compacting the soil.

WATER REQUIREMENTS


How much water garlic needs depends on where it is in the growing process. Generally speaking, you want provide garlic with adequate water when it is in the process of growing and forming bulbs. Stop watering a few weeks before you plan on harvesting the bulbs.

If you continue to water during those weeks, you risk having the bulbs rot. They will also be more susceptible to disease.

Too little water is much more preferable for garlic than too much water. You can mulch the soil above the plant if you wish, but should keep in mind that adding mulch can make the soil too wet, causing the bulbs to rot. If you do mulch, remove it during the last two weeks before harvesting, to keep the bulbs from becoming too wet.

Depending on where you live, you might plant garlic just before the soil freezes in your area. If you're starting garlic in the fall, there's no need to water it throughout the winter. The bulbs will be dormant during those months and any water you give them will just increase the risk for disease or rotting.

Although you don't want to give the plant too much water, too little water will also negatively affect its growth. As a general rule, try to give your garlic about one inch of water per week during the growing period. A deep soak every few days is preferable to a light, daily watering.

SUNLIGHT NEEDS


The bulbs of garlic might grow underground, but the plant still needs lots of sunlight to thrive. The leafy green stalks that appear above the soil absorb the energy from the sun and convert into energy that helps the garlic cloves develop.

For that reason, you want to find a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily. Avoid any shaded or partly shaded areas. If you're going to grow garlic indoors, either place the container in a sunny, south-facing window or place it under a grow light.

HARDINESS ZONES


Garlic is hardy in zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

When to plant garlic and what type of garlic is best to grow depends on where you live. There are two main types of garlic, softneck and hardneck.

Hardneck varieties are best suited for growing in cooler areas, typically in zones 6 and lower, according to Mother Earth News. Hardneck garlic varieties typically produce larger cloves and a single, sturdy flower stem, known as a scape.

Softneck garlic varieties are better suited for milder areas, usually between zones 5 and 8. You won't get a stem or scape from a softneck variety, but you will get lots of cloves on a single bulb. Often, softneck varieties are better suited for storage than hardneck varieties.

You have two options when it's time to plant garlic. In colder areas, the cloves are typically planted in the soil in the late fall. Usually, it's best to plant them just after the first frost, but before the soil is completely frozen.

If you live in an area with mild winters, such as the Southeastern US, it can be better to wait to plant garlic until the late winter, such as February or March. Planting garlic later usually means getting fewer cloves than if you were to plant in the fall.

COMPANION PLANTS


Thanks to its strong scent and ability to deter insect pests, garlic makes a great garden companion for a number of other vegetables. For example, it is a good companion for tomatoes, peppers, and members of the cabbage family. Garlic is also a good companion for a number of herbs, including dill and chamomile.

One very common companion planting is roses and garlic. Garlic is often known as the "stinking rose," and it turns out that its scent helps protect roses from a number of common pests, according to Rodale's Organic Life.

WHERE TO GROW


Garlic can be tricky to grow indoors, as it often needs a period of dormancy to purpose a full head of cloves. If you can, it is preferable to grow the plant outdoors.

You don't need to have a lot of in-ground space to successfully grow garlic. In fact, the plant might better off growing in containers. In a container, the soil is likely to loose and free of debris that would interfere with the bulb's growth.

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/qpCu2h3VV1s

In the video from Growing Wisdom, gardener David Epstein walks you through planting garlic in a container, including the type of container that works best and how to position the clove so that the plant actually grows.

LEARN MORE


Want to learn more about growing garlic? You're in the right place. Over on the right sidebar, you'll find a lot of fun and informative articles, covering topics such as garlic types, growing garlic indoors, and growing garlic in a container. If you're looking for the basics about growing and harvesting garlic, you'll find articles telling you all that you need to know.

Photo by NY Photographic licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Garlic fact source: MapsOfWorld.

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