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How I Grow Garlic

Okay before I jump in, I am not an expert in anything, this is just how I do things and what works for me!


Fall is approaching, which means it is time to plant garlic! Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow so let's get started!


First, when do you plant? They say you should plant 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost. So, to start if you don't know your first frost date for the year, google it! Mine is mid-November, so I will be planting in early to mid-October.


Where do I get garlic seeds? Well, any clove of garlic can be seed garlic. Each clove of garlic produces a head of garlic. Seed garlic can be purchased online BUT you usually have to buy a ton and it can be a little pricey. The other option is grocery store garlic. If you are going to grow garlic from a grocery store, try to get organic if you can. Even better, check out your local farmer's market. You already know the garlic from a local farmer's market grows well in your area and is most likely organic. It will probably be a bit more expensive than grocery store garlic, but will likely yield better results and you will be supporting local farmers which is a win-win in my book.


This is the garlic I planted last year, I planted 3 heads and it was about 30 to 35 cloves. I planted 2 cloves of hardneck and 1 softneck. The hardneck tasted SO MUCH BETTER than the softneck, but the softneck was much bigger than the hardneck.

Seed garlic

Hardneck vs. softneck garlic, which should I get?


For me, the softneck variety does better, meaning gets bigger. That doesn't stop me from trying hardneck as well because I think the hardneck varieties taste a lot better.


Hardneck varieties have a stalk in the middle that will form a scape, which will eventually turn into a flower, about a month before it is time to harvest. Scapes are so delicious and can be used in a variety of dishes, and even made into pesto, so that is the bonus of growing hardneck garlic. These varieties tend to do better in harsher climates will lower winter temperatures.


Below (left) is a scape on the garlic, and (right) some in a basket that I had harvested.

Softneck varieties tend to be bigger, and store better, but that does not mean they taste better. This variety tends to do better in places with a milder winter.


Okay, now you know when to plant and what to plant, next is where do you plant? I plant my garlic in my raised beds about 2 inches deep with 3 inches on all sides. The soil in my beds consists of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 whatever the cheapest potting soil was at the time. I have never grown garlic in containers but I have heard it can be done, you just want to make sure you have a deep enough pot, my guess would be 12 inches.


When you plant your garlic, plant the entire clove. Each clove of garlic will become a head to be harvested the following summer. You do not need to peel the skin off the clove just plant it as is.


Once you have planted your garlic you should cover it with some sort of mulch. I use leaves from my yard but you can use other yard clippings, or even straw. You want to put a layer of at least 4 inches, 6 inches would be even better to keep your garlic protected all winter long.

My garlic right after planting

Garlic does not need much care once it is planted and covered. If you are getting consistent rain there is no need to water it until it stops raining in the spring/summer. If you do not get a lot of rain/snow in the winter, water ever 2 weeks or so. You do not want to over water because you risk rotting your garlic. I just move the mulch and check periodically with my finger to see if it is wet since we do not get a whole lot of rain where I live.


Your garlic may start to grow throughout the winter but if it doesn't don't worry. Depending on your winter, it may not start sprouting until spring.

Garlic sprouting over the winter

Once spring hits you may need to start watering more, but I am going to say it again, DO NOT OVER WATER.


Garlic is usually harvested around July. For me, my softneck garlic was ready about a month before the hardneck. You should harvest garlic when 3 or 4 leaves begins to yellow closest to the ground, it may even begin to fall over. Hardneck garlic is usually ready about a month after it produces scapes. Don't be afraid to move some of the dirt and look to see if you have nice heads formed before harvesting, just do your best not to disturb the roots.

The garlic in the center is almost ready to harvest.

You can see in the photos above and below how the lower leaves have started to yellow and dry up, indicating they are ready to harvest.

Once you have pulled your garlic it needs to cure for two to three weeks. Now, if you want to eat the garlic immediately, GO FOR IT! Curing is for long term storage purposes only. It essentially just dries the garlic out. You want to cure your garlic in a cool, dry space, that is relatively dark. I cured my garlic on my back porch in a shady spot and it did fine. All you want to do before you cure your garlic is brush the dirt off. Do not get it wet, peel any of the skin off, or cut any of the foliage or roots off, just let it be.


The photo below is of my first batch of softneck garlic curing on my sons old crib.

I do not do any of the fancy braiding that some people do, maybe next year ha.


After your garlic has cured, that is when you will trim the roots and stems. You can tell your garlic is done curing, if when you cut the stem off, the inside is completely dry and white.

Beautiful, delicious garlic!

Fun tip to save some money, save a few of your garlic heads after you harvest so you don't have to buy seed garlic ever again! I harvested about 30 heads of garlic this summer from 3 heads of seed garlic. This year I am saving 5 heads to plant next month. I did also buy a couple more varieties to try, and will be sure to let you know what I think of them next year.


If you have never tried to grow garlic before, I encourage you to give it a shot. It is so easy and low maintenance there is nothing to lose!


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