How to Plant & Grow Garlic

Last updated 11/28/2020 | |

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It's easy to grow garlic! You can plant garlic in containers or in the garden and get a huge harvest. Learn the types of garlic, when to plant garlic, the best fertilizers to use, and more.

planting garlic

Garlic is amazingly easy to grow, and is one of the few crops that never fails me. I've grown it for several years in our backyard garden and always end up with a great harvest.

It's a good thing, too, because we LOVE garlic. It's a key player in my homemade pesto and is amazing in Honey-Garlic Chicken. And don't forget spaghetti sauce, stir-fry, roasted chicken...but I digress.

Homemade garlic and basil pesto is so easy to make! Use basil and garlic from your garden for the best flavor.

If you have a little patch of sunny garden, you absolutely need to grow your own garlic. Here's how easy it is.

purple striped garlic

Types of Garlic

Garlic’s species name is Allium sativum. If you studied Latin in high school, you’ll recognize that the allium name means that garlic is related to onions, shallots, leeks, and chives.

There are two major varieties of garlic, hardneck (ophioscorodon) and softneck (sativum). There are hundreds of varieties of garlic in existence—many more than the one plain type that you see at the grocery store.

Some unusual varieties I’ve seen are Transylvanian, Godfather’s Italian, Persian Star, Nootka Rose, and Georgian Fire. This is Purple Glazer. Isn't it beautiful?

purple glazer garlicHow do you know which type to buy and plant in your garden? Some varieties grow better in certain climates, and different types of garlic have different flavor. Learn more about the different types of garlic, and how to choose the best type of garlic to grow in your area.

planting garlic

Growing Garlic: Planting & Spacing

We're in California (Zone 9), so Grandpa says to plant garlic between Halloween and Thanksgiving (the earlier, the better). This year, I chose a spot between the raised beds and the birdbath in the backyard, pulled all the weeds, and mixed in a healthy dose of homemade compost.

Just like veggies, garlic needs to be spaced properly so it has room to grow. Because I plant so much garlic each fall, Hubby made me this plantermajigger from a piece of scrap wood and some dowels.

planting tool

planting tool side view

He attached a couple of old drawer handles on the top so I can easily press it into the soil and lift it out.

using garlic planting tool

Presto! Perfectly spaced planting holes, about three inches deep and three inches apart.

prep soil for planting garlic

If you don't have a plantermajigger, no worries. Just poke holes in the soil with a pencil or stick.

head of garlic on wood table

Prepare for Planting

Now it's time to prepare your seed garlic. I like the different varieties at Bradley Creek and Botanical Interests but you can use organic garlic from the farmers' market too.

Don't use the kind at the grocery store, because it's usually sprayed with chemicals and stuff that keeps it from sprouting.

This is Chesnok Red and Basque Turban.

garlic in hand

Take off the outside "paper" so you can see the individual cloves.

peeled garlic

Then pop the cloves off the base and get ready to plant. Note: don't plant the tiniest cloves, like the one in the lower left corner. Tiny cloves make tiny crops! Save those for cooking or adding to homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

garlic prepped for planting

You'll push one clove into each of the little holes you made. Be sure you're planting them right side up, like this.

garlic clove

Each individual clove will grow into an entire head of garlic! After you've put one clove in each hole, spread some soil over and pat it down gently. I like to give my seed garlic a drink of diluted kelp fertilizer to start 'em off right.

After a week or so, you'll see them sprouting (*cough* among the weeds *cough*).

garlic sprouting

Now it's time to do something that seems counterintuitive--we're going to cover the entire area with straw.

garlic patch covered in straw

Why on earth would we do that? If you've ever had garlic sprout on your counter, you know it will grow under the toughest conditions. The straw insulates the ground, keeps the soil moist, and prevents the weeds from growing. The garlic will grow right through the straw, and the weeds won't.

garlic growing in garden

Pests, Diseases, Companion Plants

Vampires aren't the only ones who dislike garlic! Most garden pests will leave your garlic alone, and you can even use garlic to make a natural garden pest spray.

There is a small chance you could see damage from onion thrips or onion maggots, but I've grown garlic for 20+ years and have never seen insect damage.

It's more likely that you'll see downy mildew or bulb rot from overwatering. Before watering, you want to move a bit of straw and see if the soil is moist. If it is, you don't need to water yet. Come back and check again in 2-3 days.

Garlic is a wonderful companion plant! Companion plants are plants that help other plants grow better, or keep pests away. I learned this from Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, which is a must-read for vegetable gardeners.

Snow peas are easy to grow and fun to eat. Here’s everything you need to know about planting and growing snow peas in your garden.

Garlic is a great companion plant for fruit trees and roses. You don't want to plant garlic near peas or beans, since the garlic will inhibit their growth.

Harvesting Garlic

Your garlic will grow all through the winter and spring and will be ready to harvest in June or July. You can get some gigantic garlic when you grow your own!

This picture is from several years ago...my garden helper is a teenager now. 🙂 Learn more about how to harvest and cure garlic.

garlic harvest

Read more about Growing Garlic

Next >

heads of garlic

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49 Comments

  1. Kim on June 27, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I see several people asking when to plant in central Florida, but no replies. When should I plant in central Florida?? And thanks for the article.

    • Pam on June 28, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      You can plant garlic as early as September. I would definitely plant by December to be sure you get a good harvest.

  2. Sydney on May 25, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    How do you preserve all that garlic to use year round?

  3. Dianne Lucario on July 23, 2019 at 6:32 am

    What other ground cover could I use than straw?

    • Pam on July 27, 2019 at 10:22 am

      Dried leaves could work, you’d just want to make sure they don’t get matted together if they get too wet. That’s one of the advantages of using straw–less surface area to stick together.

  4. sj on July 4, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Yes, just like your daffodil and tulip bulbs!

  5. Kat Atomik on March 10, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    John, you only water enough that it gets wet to the roots ONCE. Make certain it is well drained soil, then, when you check the surface of the soil beneath it’s insulation, if it is dry – water. If not, don’t or you will be overwatering. That is all I know.

  6. Pam on March 2, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Bill, the folks at your local nursery can absolutely suggest the right garlic for your climate. You can also ask the local Cooperative Extension–they’ll have great info. Good luck!

  7. Bill on February 27, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Hi young lady, enjoyed your garlic write-up, what I didn’t see, do I have to go to a nursery to find the ones that will grow best in my area? or do you have another suggestion
    Thanks for any help that can get this old mans garlic garden going
    Bill

  8. Angela on February 18, 2019 at 11:43 am

    That’s what I’d like that know too

  9. Dee on January 20, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Is there s certain month to plant the garlic in central Florida?

  10. Patti on January 20, 2019 at 7:27 am

    For very early spring onions, I plant them in oct/nov and can harvest in feb/March. I plant more onions as soon as I harvest the winter onions in a different site. Rotation of crops is important for disease and pest resistance.

  11. Bill dugger on December 25, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I grow garlic year round. I grow type of garlic that give me the standard in ground garlic head ton the top of the stalk is a bloom that produces small reddish balls as an additiona seed. I was told it is an Ilatian garlic. A fantastic producer.

  12. James Norling on December 15, 2018 at 10:30 am

    I live in Southern California and am just putting my garlic in ground now. December 14, How often does it need to be watered?

  13. John on December 8, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    I am planting garlic for the first time. I live in the pacific northwest and will be planting in my green house. How often do i need to water?

  14. John Wagner on December 8, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    I am planting garlic for the first time. I am in the pacific northwest and will be putting in a green house. How often should i water it?

  15. Karen on December 1, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    I ‘m not sure about ‘growing’ in the winter, but I just let mine alone in the fall; it freezes and dies down over the winter, then one of the first things up in the spring.

  16. Denis on November 23, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    That plantermajigger thing is so badass whoaaa, and hell yeah thanks for the tips =)

  17. Peggy on October 10, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Yes it will. I live in Canada and it grows very well. I plant in September and dig it up the following August.

  18. Rubie Morin on October 7, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Love your site . . . only wish your tutorials were set up for easy printing! I have binders that I set up and I print up articles and put them in there for easy reference when I am actually out in the garden, doin’ my thing!

  19. Leonard Yamniuk on September 27, 2018 at 8:09 am

    yes it will. I plant my garlic in Oct. and hope I get a good snow cover. if you don’t get much put a straw cover to insulate.
    Good luck

  20. Nancy Lusby on August 23, 2018 at 3:56 am

    The article says 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. 🙂

  21. Vickie on June 30, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    It has for me! I’ve left in ground for at least 2 winters here in southern Pennsylvania and I just harvested it this month!

  22. Julia on September 12, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Muy bien explicad, lo practicaré,gracias!

  23. Jenn LA on September 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I love Papa’s plantermajigger! Great instructions! Thanks!

  24. Kay on September 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

    i remember grandma growing winter onions but dont remember how she did it. do I plant my onion bulbs the same as garlic or do I have to get winter onion variety?

  25. Nicki on February 21, 2014 at 9:05 am

    How long would your crop last after you harvest it? How long does it remain fresh and edible? Do you harvest them all at once, or just as you are using them? Also, how do you recognize that it’s ready to harvest? Thanks!

    • Pam on February 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Good questions! I harvest them all at once, when the tops turn brown (usually mid-summer). I harvest them all at once and let them cure or dry in the shade for a few weeks. I keep half to use fresh (lasts for about 6 months) and I freeze the rest: https://brownthumbmama.com/2013/11/how-to-freeze-garlic.html

  26. Andrea on October 25, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Thank you! That was wonderful!

  27. bellavistafarm on October 22, 2013 at 8:06 am

    I started having problems in sex buy I’m still a young man. My wife does not say anything but I feel that she wants more time for sex. I read reviews on the Canadian drugstore and stopped on Cialis. The result of taking Cialis pills did not take long time to wait and now we both enjoy my hard erection.

    • Darlene on May 26, 2020 at 3:35 pm

      What?? How is that relevant?….

  28. bellavistafarm on October 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Love the tutorial and the plantermajigger! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday!

  29. Terry Southard on October 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Why did you plant it in the ground vs. the planter box?

    • Pam on October 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

      I tried growing garlic in containers a few years ago and they just didn’t grow well. Since I have the space to plant them in the ground, I’m saving the garden boxes for other winter crops.

    • Ken Vanden Bloomer on October 12, 2020 at 10:50 am

      Can I plant garlic where I planted potatoes?

      • Pam on October 12, 2020 at 8:54 pm

        You can, but you’ll definitely want to amend the soil with some compost or worm castings. Potatoes are heavy feeders!

  30. Mantis on October 21, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Can I plant these indoors? or do they need the cold months in the ground?

    • Pam on October 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

      I suspect that they need to be outdoors, but have never tried them inside. If you do, let us know how it goes!

      • Annaliese on October 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

        I grow garlic indoors during the winter under a grow light with several other veggies, it’s never failed me to produce an awesome crop every year.

  31. Holly on October 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    What time of year do you put them in the ground? You should market the planter thingamajigger 🙂

    • Leanne on October 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

      That’s what I would like to know! What time of the year do you plant it? I live in Michigan. Plant in fall and harvest in summer?

      • Wes on September 17, 2014 at 7:59 pm

        In Michigan plant early to mid October and harvest mid July when the stalks start to turn a little gold. Stop watering first of July. Pull plants a gently knock off most soil. Place in low light area so tops dry. When tops dry cur off stalk. Clean rest of soil off but don’t fuss too much. Leave paper in tact. Store in mesh cloth or clean sock and hang in dark area with low humidity. Low humidity is very important. Under 60% is best and 40 is better. Higher humidity causes it to sprout… you don’t want that. Enjoy. If you can make it to the Howell Farm Market there is a guy selling hard neck that I grow. Great crop! He is from Pinckney.

        • Colene Mixon on September 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

          What about Texas? When should I plant? Just north of Houston so usually lots of moisture, fairly mild winter.

  32. Valery on October 20, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Can I grow garlic in south florida

    • Margaret on June 17, 2015 at 7:12 am

      I just planted some in central florida and they are growing great!!

  33. Brenda on October 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    How deep did you plant the cloves? Thanks! Love the plantermajigger….might have to talk the hubby into one of those! 😉

  34. John on October 18, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I don’t have a plantermajigger, but I do enjoy doing up my own garlic. I don’t even wait for it to pop up, I plant it and cover with a nice, thick layer of straw as soon as it’s in the ground. Definitely keeps the weeds suppressed and supposedly insulates the bulbs a bit as well.

  35. Ruthie on October 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Will garlic grow over the winter if the ground freezes?

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