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How to Plant Garlic – Step by Step

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

a handful of garlic scapes

In 2011, I bought seed garlic and I have never paid for garlic since!

That garlic seed was pretty spendy ($16 for one pound), but the results were great!  I basically planted them and ignored them for 10 months, and they produced wonderful results. Plant, ignore, and harvest? That is my favorite kind of crop!

Since 2011, I have saved the largest of the bulbs from each harvest and used them as my seed garlic for the next year’s harvest. I hold my breath every year, but it has never let me down. What is gardening other than gambling every time you plant something in the ground?

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 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 seeds. 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.

How To Plant Garlic in the Fall – Step by Step

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

Prepare your space

A few weeks before planting, break up the soil and add amendments (fertilizers) as needed. I used my pitchfork – aka the chicken crap scooper – to turn up the soil. I added two wheelbarrows full of composted chicken manure, and two bags full of used coffee grounds.

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! Here is my “seed” garlic – the biggest and best from last year. And a photo of my disgusting six-year-old gardening/chicken boots. You’re welcome!
4 heads of garlic on a logBreak apart the cloves, trying your best to keep them wrapped in their papery covers. You are going to leave the skin on when planting garlic.

a hand holding a head of garlicHold the garlic so the pointy end is pointing towards the sky. Push down into the hole.

planting a clove of garlic in the soil

a clove of garlic in the soil of a raised bed

a raised bed with cloves of garlic
Cover with soil, then cover with mulch of some sort. I use straw. The mulch keeps the weeds down over the fall, winter, spring, and until harvesting next summer.  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
And now, comes my favorite part. Ignore those suckers until March or April of next year.  At that point, you’ll need to do a little weeding, and then you get to ignore them again until August!
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.

What About Planting 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.
You would follow the same steps as above for planting. But when you plant, 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!

When To and How to Harvest Garlic

Garlic is ready to be harvested when at least five of the leaves have turned brown and it looks like it is dead. It’s like a nice big blinking sign that says “I’m ready”!
Some people prefer using a small shovel, but I find grasping the garlic from the base of the bulb and tugging always works great!

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 see) 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 as long as they all can have access to air. I store mine on top of our covered wood pile on our front porch as it stays in the shade all day long and rain can’t get in there.
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.  Perhaps some Baked Brie and Roasted Garlic and Puff Pastry? Garlic is one of my favorite seasonings, so much so that I have a whole garlic section of recipes you can find here.

Don’t mind if I do.

Save this How to Plant Garlic post to your “Gardening” Pinterest board.

Let’s be friends on Pinterest. I’ll help you find loads of other recipes like this one!

Two years ago: If You Only Knew
Three years ago: Confessions, October
Five years ago: Homemade Breathmints – Suck it Starbucks
Six years ago: Taking Winter by Storm

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Homegrown garlic is one of the easiest things to grow in a vegetable garden. Learn all the tips you need to know how to plant garlic in fall or spring. #sustainablecooks #howtoplantgarlic #growinggarlic #garlic #gardening #homegrown

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

  1. I planted garlic for the first time last October and it grew beautifully. I used cloves (not seeds) and planted them like you described. I got lots of huge, healthy garlic by May-June. I planted more right before Christmas (I heard that there was something special about planting on winter solstice and harvesting on the 4th of July) but those didn’t grow nearly as well as the others. I’m getting ready to plant again this month.

  2. So… after you have tons of garlic to harvest, how do you store it long term?

    • Ah, very good question! You “cure” the heads of garlic after harvesting it. I laid mine on a window screen over saw horses in our garage for a month. It dried out the paper/peel and makes it ready for long-term storage.

      I’m being wicked lazy and the garlic remains on the screen. In my garage. I’m exploring ways to store them, and have seen some cool stuff about using pantyhose!

    • Thanks so much for the reply!

  3. Oh yeah baby, that’s my kinda farmin!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! Rock on sista!

  4. ! I’ve been dreaming of planting/harvesting my own garlic. I use it in just about everything. I’ve got to try it if it’s this easy!

  5. I’m afraid to plant garlic. The stuff I buy from the store doesn’t even last a month, so I’m afraid of planting and harvesting a ton of garlic and then having it all go bad.

    • This is my second year growing it, but the last time I grew it was a few years ago. It lasted about 9 months before sprouting! Make sure it’s properly cured and properly stored, and it should be ok.

  6. Hey Sarah – have you ever considered curing/storing your garlic by braiding and hanging it? My other favorite blog, The Art of Doing Stuff (I admit, I have cheated on you, but I still love you!!) had a great article on garlic. Here is the link:

    And once you read Karen’s blog you will understand why I am a two timing blog whore


    • Cathy, I plant hard neck which you can’t braid. We’re stuck with just stuffing them in old citrus sacks, or nylons. It’s not nearly as a pretty as a braid, but hardneck does have a more “garlicky” garlic flavor.

      And I’ll totally check out that website, since you are cheating on me with that hussy! HA!! I bet she is fantastic.

  7. Could I plant the garlic in a medium size pot?

    • Technically, yes. But you need to make sure the drainage is excellent and you’ll likely need to feed the soil a few times during the growing process. Make sure the fertilizer you use is suitable for both garlic and container gardening. Because garlic needs a pretty wide berth your yield will likely be low if you have limited planting space.

  8. if i will plant it on sunny days do i need to water it?

    • If there is rain in your forecast in the next day or so, then I wouldn’t worry about watering it. If you’re in a dry spell then yes give it a good soaking once a week.