How to Grow Garlic
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Why would anyone want to learn how to grow garlic when it’s right there at the store? There are more reasons than you might think. And check out this month by month garden planning guide to help you know when to plant!
✔Here’s a link to a great vegetable garden planner you can print right out and use at home! So cute!
It might surprise you that they treat garlic with chemicals to keep it from sprouting. Do you know what those chemicals do to your body? Me either. No thanks.
Most of the garlic available for purchase comes from China, about 80%. Some store-bought garlic comes from California and other countries. Garlic from China is bleached and treated with many toxins for pesticide, fungicide, and growth-inhibiting purposes.
In addition, agriculture practices in China include fertilizing crops with raw sewage. We’re taking fresh humanure folks. Human feces. These practices are not allowed in food production in the U.S. but when food is imported, it is unknown how it is cultivated.
The bottom line is, growing your own food ensures your health and safety. You can grow a year’s supply of superfood garlic every year and know where your garlic is coming from.
You can grow your own garlic in pots or other containers easily as well as in the ground. It’s one of the easiest crops to grow. And it will grow in small garden spaces. You plant it in the fall and it grows throughout the winter and spring. In Oklahoma, we plant garlic in September or October. That is for zone 7.
What does a garlic plant look like?
To grow your own garlic, you need a head of garlic that is not from the produce aisle of your store. Store-bought garlic is treated with growth inhibitors to keep it from sprouting. That will prohibit you from having garlicy success.
Once you buy your seed garlic, you can just save garlic from that crop to use as seed the next year. I have only bought garlic seed once in 9 seasons and we are still growing it.
How long does it take to grow garlic?
When you grow garlic, plant it in the fall and harvest it in the late spring or early summer. It takes about 8 months to produce a nice head. You can harvest it earlier if you like and eat it smaller. If you harvest it late, you risk letting it rot in the ground.
Garlic is ready to harvest when the bottom three outer leaves have turned brown. Just keep an eye out when you see the very bottom one start to brown and you’ll see the next one and then number three. That’s the time to harvest your garlic crop.
If you are growing hard neck garlic, you can harvest the scapes and use them in recipes. Either way, you’ll need to cut them off before they flower because the garlic heads won’t grow as large or as flavorful if you let them bloom. As soon as the scapes, or hard stems in the middle of the leaves, start to come up from the clove, you can harvest and use them. The sooner the better.
How to harvest garlic
When you grow your own garlic and it’s ready to harvest, all you need to do is loosen up the soil around the heads. You can use a potato fork or shovel to carefully loosen the soil under the heads and then gently work them up through the soil by holding onto the top leaves.
Garlic, especially hard neck garlic will put off small seeds on the top of the neck. They actually look similar to a clove but are much smaller. They smell and taste like garlic. You can harvest these and use them or plant them for even more garlic crop.
When to plant garlic by zone
- Zones 0-3 (if no permafrost): Plant garlic in early to late September. Garlic can grow well in cold climates including some parts of Alaska.
- Zone 3-5: Plant garlic in late September to early October.
- Zones 5-7: Plant in mid to late October.
- Zones 7-9: Plant in late October into November.
- Zones 9-10: Plant from late October into December. Make sure to select garlic types (like softnecks) that need less cold vernalization to develop bulbs.
The storage life of garlic can vary depending on the variety and conditions it was grown in. I have had no problems using my garlic year-round and having good seed to start again with in the fall.
There are two types of garlic, hard neck and soft neck. This refers to the main stem that grows up through the garlic. Hard neck garlic produces a flower from the hard stem that grows up through the plant. If you want your garlic to grow nice and robust, you have to remove those stems (scapes) and not let the flower produce.
Soft neck garlic such as is shown here, stores a lot longer than the hard neck varieties. You can store it in a mesh bag or open basket after the stems and roots have been removed.
Another way to store your homegrown garlic is to braid the tops into a braid and hang it up. That’s how I prefer to store mine. I think it’s a beautiful work of art as well as a great way to keep it throughout the year. I hang multiple braids in my pantry and bring one out into the kitchen when the last one is used up.
Another tip when you grow your own garlic is to save the largest heads for planting. If you save the larger cloves for planting every year, you will get bigger cloves from your harvest. I love bigger cloves as the smaller ones are harder to peel and use.
Elephant garlic grows just the same way as other garlics, you start with a bulb of it. The only difference is it grows larger, tastes less strong of garlic flavor, more oniony, and it doesn’t store as long. It’s great fun to grow and impressive when you see the huge heads come out of the ground. It can grow even bigger than a baseball some years.
If you have thought about growing your own garlic at home, I would totally suggest you do it as soon as fall arrives. It’s so much fun and really easy to do. I love the feeling of knowing the food I feed my kids and my family is safe and deliciously full of flavor.
Try to grow your own garlic and let me know how it goes!
For more info about growing garlic, check these out:
If you are a beginner and need help getting started gardening, click here.
For more how to grow articles click here: 5 Secrets to growing great tomatoes, how to grow potatoes, how to grow sweet potatoes, how to grow carrots, how to grow radishes, how to grow lavender. Or click on the gardening category above for even more things to grow and tips for growing them.
There are some crops that are easier to grow and are more nutrient and calorie dense that will save you the most money on your food budget as money gets tighter and tighter. Check out the essential crops to grow for a survival garden here.
And you can grow your own spices at home too!
I stopped buying store garlic after I learned how to tell when garlic comes from outside the US and then realized how much of it is in our stores! If you look at the bottom of the bulb where the roots would be, you will see they are “shaved” off. This is required on garlic from outside the USA so no pests come in and destroy our harvests! Makes you wonder what else there is to worry about with that kind of garlic. Now I buy at the local farmers markets or grow my own
Yes, and it’s not grown in a safe manner outside the U.S!
Thanks for this great information! I must not be curing mine properly because it gets soft and is then no good to use. I have grown the hard neck variety. Any tips on curing? One year it did just fine and then two years no good.
YES! The hard neck garlic will not store, it has to be soft neck. To store hard neck, you can mince it and store it in olive oil in the fridge for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for long term.
I just want to say that I only grow hard neck garlic. Zone 3/4.
When properly cured it lasts in my cold room a full year. I hang it to dry in a well ventilated area out of the weather (ie. breezeway or wood shed.) until all of the green fades out of the leaves and stock. Then I trim off the leaves about 2” from the bulb and the bulk of the roots. Then I just load them into mesh bags and hang them in my cold room.
That’s awesome that you have a cold room! What a blessing! Thank you for sharing.
I have garlic growing at the end of my flower bed. How do I know when to harvest it? One of the plants looks like it has a bud at the top?
If you get a bud on the end, it’s probably hard necked, and you need to cut that out. If it flowers, it takes away energy from the bulb forming, so keep them trimmed down as far as you can without cutting leaves. You’ll know it’s ready when three of the outer leaves have turned brown. 🙂
Great and innovative ideas. Good work. Thanks.
We bought hard and soft garlic from a supply company, not realizing we had to plant in the fall. Can we plant in February? We are 30 mi. North of NY city.
I’m not sure about planting in new york. I do know that it can be planted at different times, just not sure how the weather would affect that. Here’s an article about it. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene568b.html If you do wait until fall to plant, the seed will be just fine to store in a well ventilated area, cool and dark. Even if it sprouts, you can still plant it. 🙂
I really enjoyed this post. I eat garlic quite a bit and it was very informative! Thank you for this!
You are so welcome!
How deep should you plant the bulbs?
We plant 4 inches deep.
got my cloves…can’t wait to see how it turns out!
It’s so much fun. Yay! Keep me posted!
Yeiks, I never knew that about bought garlic. I guess I will have another few pots sitting on the window sill soon! I doubt garlic can withstand our winters here.
Hopefully you can grow some in your window. How fun!
We live near Calgary Alberta….we see as cold as -35C in the winter..this year I will be harvesting 225 garlic plants…garlic doesn’t mind cold winters…regards…Brent
Good information! Thanks!
I love fresh garlic! It’s so cool that you grow your own all year round. Thanks for all this helpful information!
THanks so much for reading it. I love fresh garlic too!