How to grow garlic from cloves?

Growing garlic is a rewarding experience that adds flavor to meals and brings health benefits. Whether you're new to gardening or have experience, cultivating garlic is enjoyable. Each step, from choosing the right type to planting, caring, and harvesting, is important for a good harvest. The journey from planting to storage is exciting, with the promise of plenty of garlic to come. This detailed guide will help you through each stage of garlic growing, so you can grow, care for, and store this important ingredient with confidence.

Life cycle of garlic
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Getting your garlic planting beds ready

Preparing garlic planting beds is a straightforward process that can lead to a bountiful harvest of this flavorful and healthful crop. Garlic thrives in well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0 to 7.5. To start, choose a sunny location for your raised beds. Before planting, test the soil's pH and amend it if necessary to reach the optimal range. Remove any weeds and debris, and loosen the soil to a depth of about 6 inches. This helps the roots to penetrate and spread out easily.

Next, enrich the soil by adding organic matter such as compost or aged animal manure. This step is crucial as it improves soil structure and fertility, ensuring your garlic has all the nutrients it needs to grow. Plant the garlic cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, with the pointy end facing upward. If you're planting multiple rows, space them 1 foot apart. The best time to plant garlic is in the fall, ideally 8 weeks before the last frost. This timing allows the garlic to establish strong roots before the winter.

Remember, garlic is a hardy plant that, once established, requires minimal care. However, getting the bed preparation right sets the stage for a successful garlic crop. With these steps, you'll be on your way to growing your own organic, freshly-picked garlic right in your garden.

When to Plant Your Garlic

When to Plant Your Garlic
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Timing your garlic planting is key to ensuring a healthy and productive crop. Garlic is typically planted in the fall, which allows the cloves to establish strong roots before the winter chill sets in. The ideal planting time can vary depending on your geographic location, but a good rule of thumb is to plant garlic a few weeks before the first frost of the season. This timing gives the garlic enough time to develop a robust root system without the shoots emerging too soon and being damaged by the cold.

In regions with milder winters, you can plant garlic in the late fall or early winter. For those in very cold winter regions, it's best to plant a couple of weeks earlier than the general recommendation. Conversely, in areas with mild winters, you can afford to plant a little later. Regardless of your climate, the goal is to allow the garlic to root without significant top growth that could be harmed by freezing temperatures.

You can also plant garlic in spring, especially if you have softneck garlic types and live in a warmer place. When planting in spring, do it when the ground isn't frozen and you can work it easily. But most people prefer planting garlic in fall because it makes bigger bulbs and tastier garlic. If you follow these tips, you can plant garlic at the right time and get the best harvest from your garden.

Selecting Your Garlic Variety

Deciding which garlic to grow depends on two main kinds: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a stiff stalk and a strong flavor, similar to wild garlic. It usually has fewer but bigger cloves grouped around the center stalk and is good for cold places. Popular kinds of hardneck garlic include Purple Stripe, Rocambole, and Porcelain.

Softneck garlic, unlike hardneck garlic, is what you often see in stores. It has a flexible stalk that can be braided. Softneck garlic usually has more cloves per bulb, but they're smaller and sometimes trickier to peel than hardneck ones. Softneck garlic tastes milder and lasts longer, making it perfect for storing. Artichoke and Silverskin are popular kinds of softneck garlic.

When picking garlic, think about your climate. Hardneck kinds need cold weather to grow well, but softneck types can handle different conditions. Also, consider what flavor you like and how you'll use the garlic—whether for cooking, storing, or braiding. Each kind has its own taste and storage abilities, so choose the one that suits you best.

Planting Garlic

Planting garlic is a rewarding gardening activity that yields a flavorful addition to many dishes. To begin, select a planting sit with full sun and well-drained soil. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 8 inche and mix in some compost or organic fertilizer to enrich it. When it comes to planting time, fall is ideal, about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. However, if you have heavy soil, early spring planting may be more successful.

Separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves, keeping the papery skin on, and choose the largest cloves for planting. Plant the cloves 2 to 3 inches deep, with the flat root side down and the pointy end up. Space the cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart. If planting in rows, maintain a distance of 12 to 18 inches between rows. After planting, cover the cloves with soil and pat gently.

In regions with harsh winters, mulch the planting area with straw to protect the garlic during the cold months. With proper care, your garlic will grow slowly over the next nine months and will be ready for harvest by mid-spring or summer. By following these steps, you can enjoy the process of growing garlic and the taste of fresh, home-grown bulbs in your cooking.

Taking Care of Growing Garlic

Taking Care of Growing Garlic
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Caring for garlic as it grows involves a few key steps to ensure a healthy crop. Regular watering is essential, especially during the spring and early summer, as the bulbs are developing. However, be careful not to overwater, as garlic does not like to sit in wet soil. Using mulch can keep moisture in the soil and stop weeds from growing. Speaking of weeds, keeping your garlic bed weed-free is important because garlic doesn't compete well with them.

Fertilization is another aspect of garlic care. A balanced fertilizer applied at planting and again in the spring can promote strong growth. As your garlic plants grow, you may notice flower stalks, known as scapes, emerging. For hardneck varieties, it's a good practice to remove these scapes so the plant's energy goes into bulb development rather than flowers.

As the growing season progresses, watch for signs that the garlic is ready to harvest, typically when the lower leaves start to brown. At this point, reduce watering to allow the bulbs to firm up before harvesting. With these care tips, your garlic plants should thrive and produce a flavorful harvest.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Harvesting and storing garlic properly is crucial for enjoying your crop long after it's been picked. Garlic is typically ready for harvest when the lower leaves start to yellow and dry, usually around June or July. A good indicator is when the lower two leaves turn brown; at this point, you can dig up a few bulbs to check if the cloves have filled out the skins. If they have, it's time to harvest.

Once harvested, curing is the next step. Lay the garlic bulbs in a dry, warm, and well-ventilated area with their tops still attached for about 1 to 2 days if the weather is sunny. After this initial drying, move them out of direct sunlight to continue curing. This can take a few weeks, during which the outer skin will dry out and the flavor will intensify.

For storage, keep the cured garlic in a cool, dry place. You can store them in mesh bags or even braid softneck garlic for hanging. Properly cured and stored garlic can last for 8 months or more, ensuring you have a supply of garlic long into the winter months. Remember, don't wash the bulbs before curing, as moisture can promote rot. With these steps, you'll be able to preserve the freshness and flavor of your home-grown garlic.

Signs of spoiled garlic during storage

When storing garlic, it's important to know the signs of spoilage to ensure you're using fresh, healthy cloves. Here are some clear indicators that garlic has gone bad:

Mold: If you notice white, dark brown, or black mold on the garlic, especially if it appears furry or wet, it's a sign of spoilage. Mold can develop when garlic is stored in a moist environment, and such garlic should be discarded.

Soft Spots: Garlic that has mushy or soft areas, possibly with a brown or black discoloration, is rotting and should not be used. Small spots can be cut away, but if most of the bulb is affected, it's best to throw it out.

Sprouting: Garlic cloves that have begun to sprout have passed their prime. While small sprouts can be removed and the garlic used as normal, large sprouts may compromise the taste and texture of the garlic.

Smell: A strong, acrid, or ammonia-like smell is a clear indication that garlic is no longer good to eat. This off-putting odor suggests that the garlic may be molding and should not be consumed.
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Color Change: Fresh garlic is typically white or off-white. If you notice your garlic turning yellow or brown, or if the cloves lose their whiteness, this is a sign of aging and potential spoilage.

To prevent problems, keep garlic in a cool, dry, dark spot with good airflow, and don't refrigerate whole bulbs. Storing garlic this way can make it last much longer, so it stays fresh and tasty for cooking.


Growing garlic requires attention to detail and patience, but the rewards are plentiful. Recognizing the signs of spoilage during storage is the final step in the cycle of garlic cultivation, ensuring that the fruits of your labor are enjoyed to their fullest. With the right knowledge and care, your garlic can thrive, providing you with a fresh supply for your cooking needs. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or trying your hand at growing garlic for the first time, the process is a gratifying one that connects you to the earth and the food you eat. May your garlic bulbs be as robust and flavorful as your gardening journey is enriching.

References & Resources

(1) How to Grow and Care for Garlic -

(2) Planting Garlic in Raised Garden Beds - Garlic Store

(3) An Easy Guide to Plant Garlic in Raised Beds | VEGEGA

(4) Best Time To Plant Garlic - Optimal Planting Time And Seasonal

(6) 38 Types Of Garlic And How To Use Them (With Photos!) - Live Eat Learn

(7) 12 Types of Garlic You Can Grow in Your Vegetable Garden - Gardening Chores

(8) How to Plant Garlic: 13 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

(9) How to Plant and Grow Garlic | Gardener's Supply

(10) When to Harvest Garlic in Australia | Ultimate Backyard

(11) How To Harvest, Cure & Store Garlic So It Lasts 8+ Months - Rural Sprout

(12) How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad - 4 Easy Signs And Storage Tip

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