To grow garlic, start by preparing your growing area. Garlic requires fertile, well-draining soil and a full sun (6+ hours) location. We recommend amending soil with compost or worm castings. If you are growing in soil that is quick to dry out, consider adding some retain or perlite along with coco coir. This combination is also available as Minute Soil+ Water Retention Mix. This combination will increase soil organic matter, improve water retention (Soil remains well-draining), and allow for healthy pore space promoting root development. Also planting in a location that gets good airflow will help prevent common pest and disease issues.
Plant garlic during the fall season. Anytime near your first fall frost date and before December, but before the arrival of snow, is recommended. Pull the individual cloves apart and sow 2-4 inches deep and 6 inches apart. If sowing multiple rows, space rows 18-24 inches apart. Cover the soil with a 3-4 inch layer of straw, leaves, or grass clippings. A thick layer of straw is especially favored for protecting early sprouting starts.
Garlic may also be planted in the spring; however, smaller bulbs should be expected. Spring-planted garlic is commonly used for their greens. If growing hardneck (stiffneck) garlic in the south, a cold treatment is required. Refrigerate your starts in a paper bag for 10-12 weeks before planting. Zones that experience winter temperatures consistently below 40-50F will naturally experience the required cold treatment when fall planted.
Harvest your garlic in the summer season when the bottom 3-4 leaves start to yellow. Don’t leave your garlic in the ground past August. Leaving it in the ground for too long can lead to rotting or separating bulbs. Use a hand fork to loosen the soil around the bulb without bruising it. Remove them from the ground and brush off the soil. Be sure to cure for better storage.
How to Cure and Store Garlic
Curing is the process of allowing the bulbs to dry properly in a dry, shady, and airy location. It is best to use a wire rack or hand them upside down in bumches of 4-6. This will take about 2-4 weeks. The leaves will dry out completely and can be used to weave the garlic together to hang for storage. For the best results, store at room temperature in a location that has some airflow.
Types of Garlic
Hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon)
At maturity, the necks are stiff because of the flower stalks (scapes) that develop 1-2 months after the first leaves. These bulbs develop one outer layer of cloves. They are somewhat more intense in flavor and winter-hardy than softneck types. They require exposure to cold temperatures making this type favored for northern climates. For growing in warm zones, use a cold treatment before planting. To encourage bulb development, cut the scape when it reaches half to full curl. The scapes are edible and can be used in recipes requiring garlic.
Softneck (Allium sativum)
At maturity, the necks are soft and able to be braided for storage. Softneck varieties develop medium outer cloves with 2-4 layers of small cloves on the inner layers. The smaller inner cloves may develop smaller bulbs than the outer layer. Preferred for southern climates. They can be stored for 6 months or more.
Can You Plant Store-Bought Garlic?
This is not recommended as most store-bought garlic was treated during the growing process and comes from a climate that is likely different from yours.