Gardening

How to Grow Garlic | An Essential Guide to Successfully Planting Garlic

Garlic can be one of those things you can grow year after year and can easily become a plant-it-and forget-it kind of gardening technique.

Garlic in a red bushel basket

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After years of experimenting with many different growing areas and making tons of mistakes like planting the garlic bulbs in the spring :/ I have finally fine-tuned my garlic planting skills. Read on to streamline your garlic growing experience!

hearty sol sitting on the edge of my raised bed, holding a red bushel basket of garlic cloves

Why didn't my Garlic Grow this year?

I have had tons of people come up and ask me, recently 'how come my garlic didn't grow this year when I planted it in the spring with my daffodils and tulips?' I say, there's your first mistake.

Many big box stores get garlic bulbs in with tulips, rhubarb plants and horse radish root in the spring and this sends the wrong message about planting garlic. Garlic needs a long growing season, so planting it in the spring just doesn't give it enough time in the ground.

Somethings are better not grown next to this Bulb

There are only few things you should not grow next to garlic because it tends to compete for the same resources.

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Sage
garlic in a vintage basket

Companion Plants

A companion plant is a great way for plants to mutually benefit from each others natural traits to support each others' growth.

Basically speaking, this means that planting things intentionally in the same raised bed or nearby so that the surrounding vegetation will thrive or offer some mutual benefits.

  • Dill
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant

A Neighborly Bulb

Here are the 3 main roles that garlic and its companions can play when planted together:

  • Pest repellents: the strong garlic aroma can repel many insect pests.
  • Fungal repellents: the sulfur in the bulb is know to repel many types of soil-born fungi.
  • Ground cover providers: some low growing plants ground cover to keep garlic free from weeds.

The bulb also attracts predatory and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, wasps and lacewings.

If you love chamomile, try planting it next to your garlic, it is said to improve the flavor of the aromatic bulb!

garlic with dirt on it

Making Space for Friends

Some of the plants that are most beneficial to the bulb, are planted in the spring, so you'll want to plan and space out your plot accordingly.

If you plant your cloves in the fall, leave room to add spring-planted companions in March, April and May. We love growing spring spinach, radishes and spring onions.

Here in growing zone 4B, we plant garlic in the fall and harvest in mid-July.

Why You'll Love Planting Garlic

  • Garlic is a quick and simple bulb to grow.
  • It a great plant-it-and-forget it kinda plant. Plant it in the fall go hibernate in your house and watch it magically appear in the spring!
  • Garlic is a super food there are so many health benefits to eating and consuming it.
garlic curing on table

Seed-Saving

I have had years of reusing/ seed-saving my own bulbs. Ten years ago, when I started growing garlic, my only intent was to double my seed production for the following year. The next year, I sold/used ¼ of my crop and saved the rest for seed.

At most I was putting in about 100 cloves, selling or braiding 50 bulbs. I love that this method leaves me feeling completely self-sustaining.

When to Plant

Here in zone 4B we plant in late fall. I like to plant just before I can start to see frost in the forecast. Don't worry, though, if you have had a frost or two, you are still good to go to get those babies in the ground safely.

Garlic needs about 9 months to grow, just like a little baby!

holding 1 clove between my fingers

Where to Plant

Full sun, well-drained soil.

Like most bulbs, these bulbs don't like getting too wet. Plant them somewhere where they can't be disturbed for nine months. Think about where you'll be tilling in the spring and mark your area.

I decided this past few years to grow mine in our raised beds for several different reasons, but mostly because I may or may not be the one working up the gardens in the spring and I wanted to protect my garlic babies.

Which Variety of Garlic Should I Plant?

There are two types of garlic.

Hardneck are better for cold Northern places. The bulbs are typically larger with smaller cloves plus you get scapes!

Softneck is better for mild climates, for braiding or for larger cloves in a smaller bulb.

We grow hardneck here, but I still braid it!

planting cloves

How to Plant

Separate all the cloves from the bulb and discard the center stem. There's no need to remove the papery outside before pushing the clove in pointy end up into the dirt about 1". Cover lightly and tamp down with your hand.

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Questions People are Asking about Garlic:

Where do I purchase garlic seed?

When I first started out, I purchased some garlic from a neighbor. I would try to source locally first. Try a neighbor who gardens or a local farmers market. Remember you don't have to start with a ton in order to grow seed for next year. One bulb may give you 5-8 cloves a piece. Seed Savers has always been a reliable source for garlic seed. You can also purchase it from Country Creek Store on Amazon too.

How will I know when the right time to harvest is?

Here in zone 4B we generally harvest in mid July, but make sure you can identify the signs of this crop being ready. This post discusses all the things you need to know about harvesting garlic.

What do I do to store my garlic to last the longest?

If you are like us and love to enjoy garlic throughout the fall and winter months, you can either braid your garlic or store it in a breathable basket or mesh bag in a darker part of your home. Keeping garlic out of direct sunlight is important as the

A Few Tips for Success!

  • The larger the clove, the larger your bulb will be.
  • Some folks, like my friend Martha (Stewart) swear by soaking your cloves overnight in fish emulsion before planting. I have never done this and have had success, but just in case you've struggled with growth- give this a try!
  • If your soil needs a boost of nitrogen, fertilizing in the spring with dry manure or blood meal can help grow your bulbs.
  • Stop watering 1 month before harvest and use grass clipping to decrease weed growth.
  • If you are growing the hardneck type, harvest your scapes mid spring so they don't steal development away from your bulbs.

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This post may contain affiliate links from a paid sponsor, Amazon or other program. When you use these links to make a purchase I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to continue creating the content that you love. The content in this article is created for information only and based on my research and/or opinion. 

Emily T.

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