How to Grow Garlic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting, Caring for, and Harvesting Your Own Garlic Bulbs

  • By: admin
  • Date: July 16, 2023
  • Time to read: 9 min.
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Sideway view of hands repotting a garlic plant in fresh soil

Garlic is a staple ingredient in many kitchens around the world, known for its pungent aroma and flavorful taste. If you’re a garlic lover, why not try growing your own garlic at home? It’s easier than you might think, and you’ll be rewarded with fresh, flavorful garlic bulbs that you can use in your cooking.

Choosing Garlic Varieties

Garlic bulbs and cloves on wooden table background Garlic bulbs and cloves on wooden table background growing garlic stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Before you start growing garlic, you’ll need to choose which variety of garlic to plant. There are two main types of garlic: hardneck and softneck.

Types of Garlic: Hardneck vs Softneck

Hardneck garlic has a hard central stem, which produces a scape (a curly stem with a flower at the end) in the spring. Hardneck garlic is generally more flavorful than softneck garlic, but it doesn’t store as well.

Softneck garlic, on the other hand, has a soft stem and does not produce a scape. Softneck garlic is generally milder in flavor than hardneck garlic, but it stores well and is often used for braiding.

Popular Garlic Varieties and Their Characteristics

Some popular garlic varieties include:

  • Rocambole: a hardneck garlic with a rich, complex flavor
  • Porcelain: a hardneck garlic with a mild, sweet flavor
  • Artichoke: a softneck garlic with a mild, nutty flavor
  • Silverskin: a softneck garlic with a strong, pungent flavor

When choosing a garlic variety, consider factors such as flavor, storage life, and climate suitability.

Preparing the Soil

Planting garlic. The dumped soil, a bulb of garlic and the hand of a young man. Planting garlic. The dumped soil, a bulb of garlic and the hand of a young man. growing garlic stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Garlic is a popular herb that is easy to grow in your garden. The key to successful garlic cultivation is to start with good soil preparation. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your soil for growing garlic:

  1. Choose the right location: Garlic prefers well-draining soil and full sun. Choose a spot in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
  2. Test your soil: Test your soil to determine its pH level and nutrient content. Garlic prefers a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH. If it’s too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH.
  3. Clear the area: Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. Garlic does not compete well with weeds, so it’s important to remove them before planting.
  4. Add organic matter: Garlic thrives in soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost, aged manure, or other organic matter to your soil to improve its texture and fertility.
  5. Till the soil: Use a garden tiller or fork to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. This will improve soil drainage and aeration.
  6. Add fertilizer: Garlic needs a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10. Apply the fertilizer to the soil before planting, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Mulch the soil: Cover the soil with a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or leaves. This will help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.

By following these steps, you can prepare your soil for growing healthy and flavorful garlic

Planting Garlic

Organic Garlic Harvesting Organic farmer holding some of his crop of organic garlic. growing garlic stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Growing garlic is a simple and rewarding process that can be done in a garden or even in containers. The first step is to choose the right time to plant, which is typically in the fall or early winter. Next, select healthy seed stock and prepare the soil by adding organic matter and fertilizer.

To plant the garlic, separate the individual cloves and plant them pointed side up, 2-3 inches deep, and 4-6 inches apart. Cover with soil and mulch, and water gently to settle the soil around the cloves. Care for the garlic by watering regularly, removing weeds, and monitoring for pests and diseases.

In the spring, side-dress the garlic with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Garlic is typically ready to harvest in mid to late summer when the leaves begin to yellow and wither.

Garlic loves sunlight, so pick a site that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunshine daily. Prepare the soil a couple of weeks before planting by adding compost or aged manure. Raised beds, heavily mulched, are an excellent solution for soils with poor drainage or high clay content.

Fall is the perfect time for planting garlic, particularly 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost date. Garlic needs a dormancy period of colder weather—about 40˚F (4°C)—lasting 4 to 8 weeks. If planted in the fall, the bulbs will establish healthy roots before the temperatures drop, and then start producing foliage and bulbs rapidly by early spring.

If you live in a milder climate, planting garlic cloves as late as February or March is possible, though the resulting bulbs might be smaller.

Caring for Garlic Plants

Garlic requires attention and care during the growing phase. If you’re in an area where the ground freezes, heavily mulch the garlic beds with straw or leaves for proper overwintering. Remove the mulch in the spring after the frost threat has passed.

As warmer temperatures arrive in spring, shoots will emerge. Cut off any flower shoots that appear as they may decrease bulb size.

Garlic is a heavy feeder. In early spring, side-dress with blood meal, pelleted chicken manure, or a synthetic source of nitrogen such as a pelleted fertilizer. Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing (mid-May through June), and keep the planting site well-weeded.

Watering and Fertilizing Garlic

Watering and fertilizing are important aspects of garlic cultivation as they can directly affect the growth and productivity of the plant. Here are some guidelines for watering and fertilizing garlic:


Garlic needs consistent moisture, but it’s important not to overwater. Too much water can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. Water the garlic deeply once a week, or more frequently in hot, dry weather. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged. In the weeks leading up to harvest, reduce watering to allow the soil to dry out slightly, which can help to improve bulb quality.


Garlic is a heavy feeder and requires regular fertilization to promote healthy growth. Before planting, add a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 to the soil according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the garlic has sprouted, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer such as blood meal or fish emulsion. Repeat the application of the nitrogen fertilizer every 3-4 weeks until 2-3 weeks before harvest.

Over-fertilization can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of bulb development, so it’s important not to apply too much fertilizer.

It’s important to note that garlic does not tolerate high levels of salt, so avoid using fertilizers that are high in salt content. Additionally, if you are using organic fertilizers, be sure to choose ones that are labeled as suitable for garlic.

Overall, proper watering and fertilization are key to growing healthy and productive garlic. By following these guidelines, you can help your garlic plants thrive and produce flavorful and nutritious bulbs.

Mulching Garlic

Mulching is an important step in growing garlic as it can provide numerous benefits for the crop. A layer of organic mulch such as straw, leaves, or grass clippings can help to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature.

Mulching also helps to protect the garlic bulbs from extreme temperature fluctuations and frost heaving during the winter months.

After planting the garlic, apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch on top of the soil. This will help to insulate the soil and keep the garlic bulbs warm during the colder months.

It’s important to avoid applying too much mulch as it can lead to excessive moisture retention and potentially cause the garlic to rot. Additionally, be sure to keep the mulch away from the base of the garlic plants to prevent fungal diseases from developing.

As the garlic grows, monitor the moisture levels of the soil beneath the mulch. If the soil becomes too dry, water the garlic and replenish the mulch as needed.

If weeds begin to grow through the mulch, pull them out by hand or use a hoe to remove them. In the spring, as the garlic begins to emerge from the soil, pull back the mulch to allow for air circulation and prevent excessive moisture buildup around the plants.

Overall, mulching is a simple and effective technique that can help to improve the health and productivity of your garlic crop. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of flavorful and nutritious garlic bulbs.

Harvesting Garlic

Organic garlic gathered at ecological farm in farmer's hands Organic garlic bulbs gathered at ecological farm in old farmer's dirty hands. Harvest at agricultural production business. Natural healthy food outdoors in field. Soft toning growing garlic stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Harvesting garlic is an exciting time for gardeners and garlic enthusiasts alike. Garlic bulbs are typically ready to be harvested in mid to late summer, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Harvesting garlic at the right time is crucial for ensuring that the bulbs are mature and flavorful. Here’s how to harvest garlic:

  1. Watch for the signs of readiness: When the garlic leaves start to yellow and dry out, it’s a sign that the bulbs are almost ready to be harvested. You can also gently dig around the base of the plants to check the size and maturity of the bulbs.
  2. Use a garden fork: When the garlic bulbs are ready to be harvested, use a garden fork to carefully lift them out of the soil. Be careful not to pierce the bulbs with the fork, as this can damage them.
  3. Shake off excess soil: Once you’ve lifted the garlic bulbs out of the soil, gently shake off any excess soil or debris. Be sure to handle the bulbs carefully to avoid bruising or damaging them.
  4. Cut off the roots and stems: Use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to trim off the roots and stems of the garlic bulbs. Leave about an inch of stem attached to the bulb, as this can help to keep the bulbs dry during the curing process.
  5. Cure the garlic bulbs: Curing is the process of drying out the garlic bulbs to improve their flavor and storage life. Hang the garlic bulbs in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area (such as a covered porch or garage) for several weeks. Be sure to keep the bulbs out of direct sunlight, as this can cause them to become discolored.
  6. Store the garlic bulbs: Once the garlic bulbs are fully cured, store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. You can store them in a mesh bag or basket, or braid the stems of softneck garlic and hang them up. Be sure to check on the bulbs periodically to make sure they are still fresh and dry.

By following these simple steps, you can harvest and cure your own garlic bulbs and enjoy their delicious flavor in your cooking. Harvesting garlic is a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to connect with the earth and grow your own food

Harvesting garlic in the garden. Young garlic is lying on the ground. The harvest season of onions. Harvesting garlic in the garden. Young garlic is lying on the ground. The harvest season of onions. growing garlic stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Dealing with Common Garlic Pests and Diseases

Garlic is a relatively low-maintenance crop, but like any plant, it can be susceptible to pests and diseases. Here are some common garlic pests and diseases and how to deal with them:

Onion thrips:

These tiny insects can cause significant damage to garlic by feeding on the leaves, causing them to turn yellow and wither. To control thrips, try using insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can also try introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs or lacewings to your garden.

White rot:

This fungal disease can be devastating to garlic plants and can persist in the soil for up to 20 years. Symptoms include yellowing leaves and a soft, white rot on the bulbs. Unfortunately, there are no effective chemical treatments for white rot. The best approach is to prevent it by rotating crops, avoiding planting garlic in infected soil, and using clean seed stock.


Rust is a fungal disease that appears as reddish-brown spots on the leaves. It can cause the leaves to wither and die, reducing the garlic’s overall productivity. To prevent rust, ensure that your garlic plants are well-spaced and receive adequate air circulation. You can also try using a fungicide, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.


These microscopic roundworms can cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and reduced bulb size. To control nematodes, try adding beneficial nematodes to your soil or using organic soil amendments such as compost or aged manure.


These caterpillars can cut off young garlic plants at the soil line, causing them to die. To prevent cutworms, try using physical barriers such as cardboard collars around the base of the plants. You can also try using organic insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).

In general, the best approach to dealing with garlic pests and diseases is to maintain healthy plants by providing them with adequate water, nutrients, and sunlight. By keeping a close eye on your garlic plants and taking swift action when problems arise, you can ensure a successful and productive harvest.


Growing garlic is a fun and rewarding experience that can yield delicious results. With the right preparation and care, you can grow your own garlic bulbs at home and enjoy their flavorful taste in your cooking.

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