Garlic Planting Guide

Delicious. Fresh. Flavorful. Rich. Pungent. Mellow. Choose the words that best describe the garlic you’ve selected. All are a notable step up from the grocery store options. And really, if you’re going to take the time to make something scrumptious from scratch, doesn’t your creation warrant fresh ingredients?

Choosing a Growing Site

Garlic plants grow strongest in full sun. Scout out a site that drains well, where water doesn't puddle after a rain.

Soil Prep for Garlic

Loosen the soil in your garlic patch or row to 6” deep. Dig in a few shovels full of compost or well-rotted manure. We like to add some time released 10-10-10 fertilizer to provide plenty of nutrients for strong growth, but this is optional. Garlic produces the biggest and best heads in fairly rich soil with consistent moisture.

When to Plant Garlic

The garlic we offer is for fall planting. This timing allows the cloves to develop a good root network in the cool autumn soil and then take off strongly when spring arrives. For best root development, plant your garlic 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes hard, if that occurs, in your area. If your soil doesn’t freeze, allow for a bit of cooling from summer’s heat before planting; any time from September in cooler regions through November in warm regions is fine. There ae two advantages to planting as soon as your soil begins to cool: your garlic has more time to root in and the seed will be fresher as it is harvested in the summer. 

Seed garlic stored at room temperature tends to dry and brown so plant soon after receipt. If you must store the garlic for a short period, find a spot with 50-55 degree tmperatures and moderate humidity. Storing in the refrigerator is not recommended.

How to Plant Garlic

Plant in rows. Space the individual cloves 4-6” apart and leave a foot between rows.

Separate the cloves from the bulb’s bottom plate being careful not to tear off or damage the hard end of each clove; this is where your garlic plants' roots will originate. Leave the protective papery skin on each clove and push down into the loose soil 1-2” with the pointed end facing up. Pat the soil to eliminate air pockets and water well to settle the soil around the bulb. If you live in an area with freezing winter temperatures, mulch your garlic with 3-4” of straw, chopped leaves or fine bark mulch. This helps limit soil freezing and thawing, which can cause frost heave. In warmer regions, a light mulch blanket helps hold moisture and reduce weeds. Green shoots may appear in the fall; that’s fine.

During the Growing Season

In the spring, when your garlic has sprouted and is about a foot tall, give the plants some nitrogen to support the top growth. Fertilizers in the 5-1-1 or 6-1-1 ranges are ideal. Make sure your plants get about 1” of water a week from rain, irrigation or a combination of the two. Garlic does best when it doesn’t dry out. About a month after the first fertilizer application, repeat with a second application. About 4-6 weeks later your garlic will have formed nice heads; you can pull back the soil with a finger and peek.

Hardneck garlic develops a tall flower stalk or scape. Snipping these off redirects the plants’ energies into bulb development, so that’s recommended when the scape has made 1 to 2 loops (they grow in fun curls.) The scapes can be eaten sauteed in butter, added to scrambled eggs and stir-fries, or used like green onion tops.

When and How to Harvest Your Garlic

Garlic plants mature from late May to early August, depending on your growing region. Observe your garlic’s growth for clues. When the plants stop developing new foliage and the bottom leaves begin to brown, withhold any supplemental water. Your plants are maturing. Check bulb development by pulling back the soil and inspecting; if the bulbs are large and you can feel the bumps of individual cloves through the wrapper layers, it's time to harvest. (Waiting too long can result in wrappers that deteriorate, and bulbs that split and don’t store well.)

Loosen the soil around your garlic plants with a garden fork or shovel being careful not to cut the bulbs. Pull up each plant, gently shake off the soil and let the plants dry for two to three weeks on sheets of newspaper in a garage or other dark, well-ventilated spot.

Softneck garlics can be braided for decorative storage. For hardneck garlics, cut the stems 1-2” from the bulbs and store in a cool, dry, dark place.

Insider Tips

  1. If you’re planting more than one kind of garlic, label them. It’s very easy to forget which is which and many types look similar.
  2. Sometime bulbs include a small clove or two. Eat these, rather than planting them, as they're unlikely to produce a full size bulb.
  3. Split your bulb into planting cloves within a few hours of when you tuck them into the soil. Cloves that have been freshly snapped off the basal plate/bottom plate of the bulb tend to root best.
  4. Discard the foliage of the garlic plants, rather than composting it. Like tomato foliage, garlic foliage can harbor disease spores.
  5. Rotate your garlic patch every year to keep the soil free of disease. Experts recommend planting garlic in the same site every fourth year.
  6. Need to hold your garlic for a week or two before planting? Ideal conditions are: temperatures of 55-60 degrees and 65-70% humidity. Refrigerated storage isn't recommended for garlic that's going to be planted, but is fine for culinary garlic.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average soil

Depth: Cover with 1-2” of soil

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Best in garden soil, not containers

Tip: Plant in fall for great root development

GUIDE: Garlic Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This:

Helpful Garlic Links:

Hardneck vs Softneck Garlic

Seed vs Culinary Garlic

3 Things to Know Before Buying Garden Garlic