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How to Plant Garlic – Step by Step

Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow in a home vegetable garden. Learn all the tips you need to know on how to plant garlic in fall or spring.

a handful of garlic scapes

Growing garlic is very low maintenance. Plant, ignore, and harvest? That is my favorite kind of crop! 

Garlic is the best, and a few of our favorite ways to enjoy it are by making Air Fryer Roasted Garlic, Garlic Butter Green Beans, and Instant Pot Roasted Garlic. Gimme all the garlic! Garlic is one of my favorite seasonings, so much so that I have a whole garlic section of recipes that you can find here.

What Kind of Garlic Should I Grow?

There are essentially two types of garlic – hardneck and softneck.  Hardneck “keeps” (stores) for a shorter amount of time, but is wicked easy to plant and gives you scapes in summer, which seems like bonus garlic to me.

Softneck stores better for longer periods of time, but can be a bit fussier. Confused about which to plant? Try both if you have enough space. And color me jealous if you do!

Where Do I Get Seed Garlic?

Farmer’s markets or online seed companies are great places to get great local seed garlic. Do try to find a variety adapted to your climate/zone.

Even better, when you save your best bulbs each year to plant, you are strengthening that variety and adapting it to grow in your region. No matter our weather, I have great results every year with our garlic because it is used to my growing conditions.

Do not use garlic from the grocery store as it is either bred to not allow for growth or has been sprayed to prevent growth. It makes inferior seed garlic.

When Is the Best Time to Plant Garlic?

Ideally, you’d get your seed garlic into the ground in fall, about four weeks before your first frost date. It gives the seed time to overwinter and establish bigger bulbs.

As this is such a long-growing crop, please keep in mind that where you plant the garlic will be out of commission for essentially the whole growing season.

A pile of garlic stalks

Can You Plant Garlic in Spring?

Yes, you can still plant garlic in spring if you weren’t able to get it in the ground last fall. You will want to plant it as soon as the ground is workable which will vary depending on your growing zone.
 
When you plant in spring, you’ll want to make sure the garlic will be growing in some of the sunniest spots in your garden. This garlic has some catching up to do and needs full sun as much as possible!

How Deep Should You Plant Garlic?

Create little slots about two inches deep, and two inches apart from each other.  I just use my pointer and middle finger.

a raised bed with holes in the soil

Can You Plant Garlic From a Clove?

Yes! For best results, choose the biggest and best cloves to plant.

heads of garlic

How To Plant Garlic – Step by Step

First, find out which growing zone you are located in. That will dictate your planting window.

Then, prepare your growing space. A few weeks before planting, break up the soil and add amendments (fertilizers) as needed. I use my pitchfork – aka the chicken crap scooper – to turn up the soil.

I add two wheelbarrows full of composted chicken manure, and two bags full of used coffee grounds and till it in with a pitchfork. Each garden will need different amendments based on your growing conditions.

Break apart the cloves, trying your best to keep them wrapped in their papery covers. You are going to leave the skin on the cloves when planting garlic. Hold the garlic so the pointy end is pointing towards the sky and the root end goes into the soil. Push down into the hole two inches deep.

planting a clove of garlic in the soil

 

a clove of garlic in the soil of a raised bed

Cover the cloves with soil, then cover the planting area with mulch of some sort. I use straw. The mulch keeps the weeds down over the fall, winter, spring, and until the summer harvest.  It also holds in the moisture if you live in a dry area. In my neck of the woods, it keeps the soil from washing away during the rainy months.
 
a raised bed with straw on top
 
If rain is expected during your planting time, or the soil is already saturated, you don’t need to water the newly planted garlic. If a dry streak is in the forecast, water the garlic beds once every few days until you see the first shoots poking through the soil. Water occasionally during the growing season as needed and don’t let the soil completely dry out.
 
And now, comes my favorite part about growing garlic – ignore those suckers for a few months. At that point, you’ll need to do a little weeding, and then you get to ignore them again until July/August!

When To and How to Harvest Garlic

Before hardneck garlic is ready to harvest, bright hard green “tubes” will start growing out of the middle of the stalk. Those are called scapes and they are edible and delicious!
 
Producing those scapes also takes energy away from the plant. I like to cut scapes off of 50% of the plants so that the plants can focus on making the bulbs under the soil as big as possible.
 
Garlic is ready to be harvested when at least five of the leaves at the base of the stalk have turned brown and it looks like it is dead. It’s like a nice big blinking sign that says “I’m ready”!
 
To harvest, some people prefer using a small shovel, but I find grasping the garlic from the base of the bulb and tugging always works great!
 
I recommend using a few heads of your newly harvested garlic for some Baked Brie and Roasted Garlic and Puff Pastry to celebrate. And then learn how to freeze garlic and all about dehydrating garlic so that your meal prep game can be on point.

How to Cure Garlic

If you intend to store garlic over the fall, winter, and spring, you’ll need to cure it first. Curing it is like an insurance policy against rot and it bolting (going to seed) too soon.
 
To cure, you’ll want to set the garlic up where it can get lots of air circulation but won’t be in direct sunlight. Lay the stalks in a single file to dry. If you don’t have a lot of space it is fine to stack them like Lincoln Logs as long as they all can have access to air.
 
After a few weeks, the skin around the heads of garlic should be dry and papery. Remove the head from the stalk using clean clippers. Store the heads in a bag with good air circulation (like an old mesh onion bag) and store the bag in a cool dark place in your house.
 
There you have it, you’re done. You’re now a garlic farmer/gardener. You’ve mastered how to plant garlic. For about one hour of work, you will get more garlic than you’ll know what to do with.

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23 comments on “How to Plant Garlic – Step by Step”

  1. We just discovered a bed of wild garlic in the lot we purchased over the winter. Surprise! Thanks for this info. 

  2. I’ve always planted my past prime for eating/sprouting garlic cloves from the store for years with excellent results. Just stuck them in the ground.. Never tried from seed.