How To Grow The Best Garlic

Growing garlic is a snap and you will be richly rewarded for your efforts. Garlic is an easy to grow plant that does not require much work. In fact it spends most of its season under the cold damp winter ground.

Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested the next spring and summer. The exception to this is if you live in the deep south. You will want to plant in the spring and harvest in August.

Garlic is a member of the onion family and should be put in your rotation plan. I typically plant mine after spring greens since this gives me a free space for summer preparation.

Garlic is a great addition to many dishes and comes in many flavors.  Depending on the variety there are mild, hot or spicy options.

What Does Garlic Need To Grow The Best?

·         Garlic grows in Zones 3 – 9 . What is your agricultural zone?

·         pH 6.0-7.0

·         Full sun


3 Ways To Plant The Best Garlic

There are three ways to grow garlic. Directly in the ground, in raised beds, and in containers. Each has advantages and disadvantages so keep reading and figure out which is best for you.

In The Ground

Garlic likes loose loamy soil that drains well. If you are planting directly in garden soil make sure you till or better yet double dig trenches.

If you have clay soil you will want to dig down at least ten inches to provide drainage. Mix in some well-rotted compost and even some sand.

Don’t underestimate the importance of drainage. In the past, I merely tilled the soil six inches and put in my garlic. One particularly wet winter I lost 2/3 of my cloves. They just rotted in the wet cold ground.

Raised Beds

Since that time that my garlic rotted in the ground, I have planted them in raised beds. This has produced much larger bulbs and healthier plants.

Most of my raised beds are framed with untreated timber and are 2 x 12 feet. This makes them easy to reach across. I also have a couple that are 3x3 which is also a workable size since I can move around them.

I plan ahead what raised bed I will be planting in for fall. After my spring crop is harvested I dig in some aged manure and cover with straw. I let that sit for a couple months until its time to plant my cloves.


Garlic grows well in containers as long as you have a container that is at least ten inches deep to give the roots plenty of room.

Containers are great because they are flexible. You can move them to the best location and even bring them with you if you move.

The biggest disadvantage to a container is that you are limited in space. This may be fine for you if you just want a few bulbs.

Containers also need regular watering as they dry out quickly. Just make watering your container garden part of your daily routine.


Garlic comes in many varieties from a very mild, eat it raw flavor to the hot hot spicy, flavor which resembles a hot pepper.

Wondering What Type of Garlic to Plant?

Read my article My 4 Favorite Varieties of Garlic

How Much Garlic Do I Need?

Garlic is very productive. For example, if you plant one pound of artichoke garlic you can expect a yield of ten pounds. That is more than enough for most families.

One pound of a porcelain variety, such as Music, produces less – about five pounds per pound planted. Still a good yield.

A pound of garlic is about seven to ten bulbs. Exact amounts vary with variety.

Photo By Christian Ries

Photo By Christian Ries

Steps To Planting Garlic

No matter which method you use to plant your garlic you will follow these basic steps.

  1. Plant in fall two to four weeks before ground freezes

  2. Prepare soil so that it is loose and will drain well. Add plenty of aged compost.

  3. Divide bulb into individual cloves.

  4. Plant cloves 5 – 8 inches apart. If you are using rows, place the rows twelve inches apart.

  5. Push the blunt end down into the soil about two inches.

  6. Firm the soil around each bulb.

  7. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet.

  8. Place a layer of mulch over your garlic. I use about four inches of straw but in northern states you might need more.

Spring Care

Your garlic has made it through the dreary winter weather and is pushing up green tops. Once the nights have stopped dipping below freezing you can pull back the mulch a little to give it more room.

In early spring give your garlic some fertilizer. Fish emulsion is great for creating healthy plants. My favorite fish emulsion is Alaska Fish Emulsion.

Hello, World!

Keep your garlic bed well weeded as garlic does not like competition.


If you are growing hardnecks, at some point in late spring, you will be blessed with scapes.

Cooking scapes is only limited by your imagination. For fast and simple - sautéed in butter, cut and add to egg dishes or add to a soup for a garlicky flavor.

More complicated? Scapes make a great pesto.

For a delicious garlic pesto recipe see the Prairie Homestead site

Garlic Pests and Diseases

Garlic does not have to many enemies and is often used to repel things such as vampires, mosquitoes, cabbage moths and fleas.

Root rot and white rot are your garlic’s biggest enemies. The fungus attacks the roots during cold wet winter weather. The best prevention is having good drainage.

Harvest Your Garlic

Garlic harvest usually occurs mid-July to mid-August during the dry hot summer. Stop watering your plants and let them dry out a little.

Garlic will dry from the bottom up. Harvest when the bottom leaves have turned brown but you still have a couple green leaves on the top.

Your garlic needs to dry for two weeks in a cool, shady location that has plenty of air circulation. I place mine on a screen door in my three sided shed.

Keep the bulbs together. If you break the cloves apart it will not store as well.


Store garlic in a cool (45 – 55 degrees F) place with humidity around 60%. A basement, shed or garage will work well.

Don’t store garlic in the refrigerator. The higher humidity will cause it to sprout.

Saving Garlic Seed

Garlic is a fabulous plant for seed saving. Choose the biggest and healthiest bulbs. Cure them as you would for eating and store in a cool dry place. Plant them in the fall.

Seed saving helps you become a more self sufficient gardener. The plants you save will become adapted to your growing climate, giving you better and better crops.

Looking for some great ways to use your garlic? Read my article Garlic Uses For Health and Cooking.