How To Grow Garlic

Garlic is a Staple Ingredient in Many Cuisines and Is Easy to Grow

Garlic is a very easy plant to grow in the vegetable garden because it is hardy and will survive most winter weather. In fact, it needs a period of cold weather to guarantee a good harvest. It makes good use of space through the winter when very little else is growing, and garlic also stores well once harvested.

  1. Source your garlic. You can plant garlic cloves from bulbs you have bought to eat. However, they may have been grown in a climate different from yours, and so not crop well in your garden. You may also not know how fresh the bulbs are. When you first start growing garlic it is worth buying proper seed garlic from a seed merchant or garden center, so that you know it is suitable for your climate and planting time.
  2. Choose when to plant. Garlic gives the best results from a fall planting (October or November) in most situations. It will start growing a root system before the coldest weather sets in, and be able to grow away quickly in spring. Fall-planted garlic may not send up visible shoots until early spring of the following year, but you don't need to worry that it won't. If your garden is very wet or you live in a very cold climate, then you may want to plant one of the spring-planted varieties in early spring.
  3. Decide on hard- or soft-necked garlic. There are two types of garlic. Soft-necked garlic is common in Europe and stores for longer periods of time after harvest. Hard-necked garlic is well known in the USA and is said to have a superior flavor, but not to store as well. Soft-necked garlic will send up flowering shoots (scapes) in summer, which should be removed (and eaten!) to allow the bulbs to mature fully.
  4. Prepare your soil. Garlic is not too fussy about soil type, but likes good drainage. A light digging or a good mulch should be adequate preparation for existing vegetable beds. If you're making a new bed then you will need to be more thorough. Garlic also grows well in containers.
  5. Divide your bulb. Leave your bulb intact until you are ready to plant your garlic, as the cloves will begin to dry out once they have been separated.
  6. Plant your cloves. Plant each clove so that it is just under the surface of the soil. The size of the bulbs you harvest will depend in part on the spacing you use. Planting in a grid with cloves 6 inches apart each way will give a good harvest of medium-sized bulbs. If you want larger bulbs, give the plants more space.
  7. Weed. Garlic doesn't need much in the way of care, but it does need to be kept weeded while it establishes. This is usually not too much of a chore because the garlic will be growing when very little else does!
  8. Remove scapes. If flowering shoots appear in the summer, then they should be cut off. They make a delicious addition to a stir-fry or quiche.
  9. Don't over-water. Garlic does not like to be watered once the bulbs start to swell. Over-watering encourages rot, so don't water the plants unless the weather is very dry.
  10. Wait for the tops to die back. You can harvest your garlic and use it as soon as the bulbs are a reasonable size. The bulk of the harvest is ready when the leaves start to die back. You don't need to bend the tops over; this will happen naturally.
  11. Cure your bulbs. Fork up the bulbs and leave them on the soil surface for a few days to dry in the sun. In a wet climate, you may need to lift the bulbs and bring them inside to dry out. When the skins rustle like paper, they are ready for storage - see if you can plait them into a string!
  12. Save some bulbs to replant. You can save some of your harvested garlic bulbs to use as seed garlic in the fall.
  13. Find a new spot for next year. Garlic is subject to the same range of diseases as leeks and onions and to prevent the build-up of diseases in the soil, it is best to plant it in a new spot each year, and not return to the same spot for at least 3 years.


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I would like to find out how to grow garlic in an inside environment. Any authors with advice?

By Kathy Steinemann