Peppers, tomatoes, and multiple herbs often overshadow growing garlic in containers. Probably it’s because it grows below ground and takes some time to mature. Whichever the case, it’s time for garlic to start getting the love it deserves. After all, it’s easy to grow and needs little to no maintenance throughout its growing seasons.
Let’s see how you can grow garlic in containers successfully.
Compared to other garden plants, growing garlic is the easiest, and it’s pest resistant. With such qualities, you’ll water the plant and wait for harvest time. Although growing garlic is relatively painless, we need to cover some basics to ensure you are on the right path to producing quality garlic.
Well-draining and Fertile Soil
When growing garlic in containers, the potting mix is the most important consideration for high yields. Since garlic is a heavy feeder, you’ll have to ensure you plant garlic cloves in nutrient-rich soil and top up throughout the season. The best soil is well-composted, has bone mean and earthworm castings, and a perfect nutrient stream.
Aside from being fertile, the soil you choose should have great drainage. Garlic doesn’t do well in soggy soils and might rot. The best potting mix contains perlite.
To produce larger cloves, your garlic plants should get at least six hours of sunlight every day. Spots facing south are ideal as they receive strong sunlight for 6 hours every day. However, if the south side isn’t an option, west and east will do.
Long Growing Season
If you are great at planting tomatoes and other herbs, you cannot consider yourself a garlic planting pro – at least not yet. Why? Well, by the time tomatoes are ready for planting, you should have planted garlic a couple of months back. So if you need big garlic heads, you should plant them early enough.
Why Grow Garlic in a Container?
Why should you consider planting garlic in a container at all? Well, if you live in the city, container gardens might be your only option. But even if you have enough space for a traditional garden, growing garlic indoors is ideal because you get to move them around and save space.
Garlic’s long growing season means pests and diseases have a long window of opportunity to wreak havoc in an outdoor garden. However, when growing garlic indoors, you have more control over the growing environment. For example, you can keep the soil perfectly moist and loose without getting it too wet. Alternatively, you can move the plants to the rain or sun.
Moreover, you don’t have to worry about dealing with weeds or develop ways to deal with freezing ground during winter.
With simple care, you can have lots of fresh garlic to carry you to the next harvest season.
Pick the Right Container
To succeed, you’ll need to have a container that’s between 8 and 10 inches deep. Such a container provides just enough space for healthy root growth. Remember, garlic planted in pots or outside should be 4-6 inches apart. So choose a container with a large enough diameter based on the number of cloves you’ll plant.
Generally, a 24-inch wide and 8-inch deep container can hold 4-6 garlic plants and keep you well-stocked until the next harvest. Alternatively, you can opt for smaller containers and only plant 1 or 2 cloves in each. Having smaller containers makes the most sense, especially if you want to move them around in a small space.
You can pick plastic or terra cotta pots. Note that terra cotta planters tend to dry out faster than other materials, and the durable plastic pot is lighter. And if you live in a hot region, go with a light-colored container since black containers absorb a lot of heat and the soil overheats.
Regardless of the container you choose, drill drainage holes at the bottom of the garlic pot, and add a layer of gravel to help drainage.
Other materials you’ll come across include:
- Pressed paper – they breathe well and promote healthy root growth and aeration. Moreover, pressed paper insulates the roots from temperature changes that might stress the garlic bulb. They are biodegradable, which is great for saving the planet, but on the downside, it means you’ll have to replace your containers every planting season. Luckily, they are affordable.
- Coir- these are economical and ecological choices. They are made from coconut husks and are stronger than pressed paper pots.
- Ceramic – ceramic pots are carved from finely textured and lightly colored clay glazed to create a beautiful finish. They are hardened at high temperatures, which reduces the material’s porosity and vulnerability to elements. Unfortunately, when left in the cold, they crack. Moreover, they are expensive and heavy to move around.
- Fiberglass and resin – these are molded to look like terra cotta and stone pots. Some manufacturers add limestone or clay to the resin to achieve better textures. They are lightweight, durable, and beautiful.
- Wood – Wood planters look great in any space. The containers are often rectangular or square, although some are curved as well. Wood doesn’t crack in winter and dries slowly. So the only problem with wooden containers is rotting. But this can be prevented by lining the planter with plastic. Just remember to leave some holes at the bottom for drainage.
- Metal – these are durable and can be heavy. To combat the weight issue, most manufacturers prefer aluminum to iron. It’s lighter, doesn’t rust, and doesn’t need painting.
- Concrete – Pinterest has led to the increased popularity of these containers and pots as DIY projects. Though concrete containers last long, they will need some support.
Preparing the Container
Fill the container with the following:
- Loose potting soil mixed with 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer according to package instructions.
- Garden soil is run through a wire mesh or sieve to remove pebbles and clumps mixed with 50-50 well-rotted manure.
Potted garlic loves loose, rich, well-drained loamy soil with an acidic pH (6.0-7.5). You can confirm the pH using store-bought testing kits. However, these kits aren’t as accurate as we’d love them to be, but they are cheaper than sending a sample to the Cooperative Extension System.
Though the soil you tested last season was great and gave high yields, you should use it this season. Why? Well, because it predisposes your new garlic plants to fungi and pest attacks.
How to Grow Your Garlic in a Container
Most people use cloves to propagate garlic crops. However, you can also use bulbils and micro-cloves that grow from flowers and scapes. While planting garlic bulbils is similar to that of cloves, they take about two years to mature.
There’s also the option of using seed cloves (not bulbils) from a nursery. Some come per-vernalized or pre-chilled, which allows you to plant them immediately without throwing them into the refrigerator.
If you opt to use cloves to grow garlic indoors, you can buy some organic bulbs. These are your best bet because some supermarket garlic bulbs are sprayed with growth inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting. Also, most grocery stores only stock soft neck garlic, and they usually thrive in areas with USDA hardiness zones of 8+.
Hardneck garlic varieties have complex flavors and are usually larger, which means less hassle when cooking. They are perfect for those living below USDA Zones 7 since they need 6 – 8 weeks of cold temperatures until they sprout. The best way to afford them such temperatures is to plant the cloves from your local farmer’s market in the fall. If you don’t live in such areas but still want to get hard neck varieties, you’ll have to place the cloves in paper bags and freeze them for 8-12 weeks before planting.
The best time to grow garlic in many places is between September and October – right before winter starts or two weeks before the first frost. Luckily for you, since your plants will grow in containers, you don’t have to worry about the temperatures. Buy pre-chilled bulbs are you are set.
Grocery store bulbs or those that aren’t pre-chilled should be left in the freezer for 8 – 12 weeks before setting them out in the sun to grow. Softneck garlic can do well in cold climates, but it’s not mandatory. If it gets a little too hot outside, you can bring them indoors.
First, make sure the papery skin is left on when you break the bulb. This skin offers an extra layer of protection against infections. And since peeling garlic cloves can be a real hassle, leaving the papery layer on is a huge time saver.
Afterward, fill the container with potting soil as we’ve described. Dig some small holes in the soil about 1-2 inches deep and have them 4-inches apart. Drop one clove in every hold with the pointy side facing up. The shoot will come from this point part and the roots from the flat base. So you mustn’t mess this up.
Cover the cloves loosely and water away. For spring-planted garlic 9softneck variety), you can grow garlic indoors or place them outside at a spot that receives sunlight throughout the day, provided the air is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is important because this type of garlic has a short growing season – about 90 days from planting to harvesting. If you want, you can get your garlic bulbs sooner, but they’ll be smaller. For fall-planted hard neck and soft neck garlic, you should put the container outdoors immediately after planting. Be sure to pick a sunny spot since garlic needs 6+ hours of sunlight.
In a USDA Zone 7, soft neck garlic grows throughout winter into spring and simmer to produce heavy and flavorful bulbs in 240 after planting. On the other hand, hard neck garlic goes dormant during winter and resumes growth in spring.
Both varieties need between 6 and 9 months to mature, depending on the growth conditions and the type of garlic you plant.
It is easy to care for garlic once you plant it. But before you switch to autopilot, you should ensure the container’s location receives enough sunlight, and you can give them about an inch of water weekly.
To check moisture levels, dig 4-inches into the soil and 2-inches away from the growing garlic plant. If the soil is still moist, then there’s no need for water. But if it’s bone dry, it needs some deep watering.
If there’s heavy rainfall, don’t water your plants for a week. If you do, you predispose them to too much water and rotting. However, if you live in a region where the ground gets waterlogged after raining, container garlic growing will do you some good. You can move the containers indoors for a couple of days during the rain. During this time, you can use grow lights to keep the growth going and then take them back outside when the rain subsides.
You can stop watering the hard neck varieties at the first sign of winter. While water in your containers will not freeze, it will be cold to vernalization, a time when garlic plants don’t need watering.
You should also proceed to cover the garlic plants in your container with an inch of mulch and, if you wish, keep the moisture locked in. Then, you can resume water the garlic plant in spring, two weeks after the last frost.
Now, this is a great time to mix 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer on your soil according to the instructions it comes with. You might also have to add some mulch, especially straw mulch, to reflect heat during summer. Keeping the soil cool is important for the success of the garlic bulbs.
The plant will start forming bulbs when the soil starts warming up. But when it gets too hot, they may stop growing, and you’ll end up with small bulbs. As spring blooms, you will have to trip the curling scapes off the plant. This makes sure the plant directs all of its energy to grow the bulb instead of flowering the seed. If you trim garlic sprouts, you can sauté or roast them. You can even try making garlic pesto.
How and When to Harvest Scapes
Unfortunately, harvesting garlic isn’t as easy as it is to harvest other plants. You have to be careful about the period between maturity and when they split and rot. To help you out, below are some quick rules to remember:
- It would help if you harvested your garlic when the leaves turned yellow. This is a good way to know, but the sure-fire way is to dig out the bulb and check if it’s ready.
- Don’t pull garlic bulbs from the stem. Instead, dig each bulb out individually, being cautious not to damage it.
- After harvesting, brush off the dirt from the bulb and leaves. Afterward, you can bundle the garlic together and hang them to cure. Alternatively, you can spread them out individually for some time.
- The curing process takes between 2 and 4 weeks. At this time, the skin will get papery – a signal that it’s time to chop off the roots and bulb.
- Garlic bulbs are to be stored in a cool and dry spot
The curing process is essential after harvesting and before storage. It works to release the moisture from the stalks and the leaves. It also prevents the garlic from spoiling as you store them. Any uncured garlic can fall prey to viruses, fungi, and mold.
Common Diseases and Pests to Watch Out for
Growing garlic in a container means not worrying about diseases and pests since you control your environment.
With this fungal disease, you might come across some grey-purple growth on the leaves. Over time, the leaves will turn pale and will eventually turn yellow. This mildew often appears in winter and when it’s wet.
To avoid downy mildew, we suggest rotating crops. This means not using the same area of garlic in three years. It would be best if you kept your bulbs in a well-drained container and never overcrowd the plant. You can try to use a foliar fungicide to get rid of it. But to be effective, you’ll have to destroy infected crop debris in many cases.
You might find some water-soaked lesions on the stalk and leaves of your garlic plants. With time, these small lesions will grow bigger, change to brown, then purple until the tissue between the leaf tip and the lesions die. In severe cases, the fungal infection leads to severe infections on plants and foliage.
To control this disease, you should rotate your crops and ensure you are using well-drained soil. Some fungicides are also effective at eliminating purple blotch, but no guarantees are given.
Over time, you will come across older leaves on the garlic sprout turning yellow and having stunted growth. As the fungal infection worsens, the leaves die, and you might find white growth near the bulb. Unfortunately, when the white-rot appears, it means that the soil is unusable for garlic planting because it can survive for 20 years.
White rot is one of the prevalent and most dangerous garlic diseases. Unfortunately, fungicides aren’t always effective, and you should treat the seeds with hot water before you plant and adhere to long-term crop rotation with non-allium plants.
A bulb mite infestation leads to stunted growth and bulb rotting below the ground. Bulb mites are 1mm long and are cream-white. They look a lot like pearls with legs.
The plants damage pests and also create secondary problems, including pathogens. So ensure you don’t plant crops from the allium family in the same location. On the bright side, you can treat seeds with hot water to reduce the mite population.
Onion maggots lead to wilted or stunted seedlings. They often lead to plant breaks and soil lines when you try to pull out the bulb. The bulbs are often deformed and susceptible to other diseases.
You must remove all bulbs at the end of the planting season. Also, you can spray insecticides to protect the plants from the maggots and prevent the females from laying eggs.
The infestation can cause distortion and discoloration of garlic plants with a silvery hue/appearance. Thrips are tiny and measure about 1.5mm. They are either light-brown or pale yellow.
If you have a thrip problem, you can introduce a natural enemy to deal with it, including predatory mites of lace wigs or pirate bugs. You can also spray insecticides like Neem oil and avoid overhead irrigation, which often increases thrip numbers.
How to Use Homegrown Garlic
At this point, you probably know many ways to use garlic cloves. But do you know how to use garlic leaves? When growing garlic in a container, this is something you’ll have to learn.
A favorite for many people is using the leaves to make pesto. Pesto uses many leaves and can be frozen in small portions for use throughout the year.
Another favorite is making pancakes. Follow any pancake recipe available online and use garlic leaves instead of scallions.
You can use immature garlic-like scallions and preserve them by drying or freezing. It takes time to peel garlic bulbs, but they are tasteful and worth the extra effort. If you end up having a lot of garlic bulbs or need to use cured garlic, then you can make garlic powder by dehydrating individual cloves in an oven and grinding it into a fine powder with a grinder or food processor.
Preserving garlic cloves by freezing and chopping them into small portions is a great option because you can use them over time on a need basis.
While freezing stores container-grown garlic for a long time, it does affect its taste. And unfortunately, other methods that don’t affect taste and texture will only last for so long before you have to deplete your stock.
For gardeners, learning how to grow garlic in a pot is simple. However, you have to pay attention to some basics to get a good yield. And while it takes a long time to grow, in the end, it’s all worth your while.
What Are Garlic Greens?
Garlic greens make the perfect addition to any dish – they look similar to chives and contain a subtle garlicky flavor. Not only are garlic greens delicious, but they can also be used as decorative garnishes or for medicinal purposes!
For a bountiful garlic harvest, it is essential to cut off the stalks or snip off the leaves before the bulbs form. This practice not only supports a strong yield of bulbous garlic but also makes harvesting them even simpler when they are fully matured.
Incorporate garlic greens into your diet; you will be delighted by their versatility! Whether it’s a salad, soup, stir-fry, or sauce – they can all benefit from the unique flavor of these flavorful greens. For wellness seekers, why not prepare them as tea or add to smoothies for an extra boost? The possibilities are endless!
People Also Ask Questions
Does Garlic Grow Well in Pots?
Yes, it does. However, there are several things you ought to keep in mind as you grow your garlic in containers, including the soil mix. First, it needs to be nutrient-rich and well-draining soil, and you should place the container in a spot that receives a lot of sunlight.
Can You Grow Garlic in a 5-gallon Bucket?
Yes, you can. These buckets often hold two or three mature garlic plants. Adding more will have them too crowded. Always use a large pot if you intend to plant more garlic.
How Long Do You Soak Garlic Before Planting?
You can soak garlic cloves for 12-16 hours. After that, soaked garlic bulbs start producing roots. However, the longer they soak, the higher chances of the roots breaking when you plant them.
How Long Does Garlic Take to Grow in a Container?
Garlic in containers takes between 8 and 9 months to grow to maturity. This means you could grow an entire human being the time it takes to grow mature bulbs.
Do Garlic Plants Need Full Sun?
Yes, it does. Garlic plants need between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight every day. As such, the spot you choose should receive ample direct sunlight.
What Kind of Soil Does Garlic-like?
Potted garlic plants need nutrient-rich and free draining and loose potting soil. Also, it would help if you didn’t bury cloves too deep as the shoot might have a hard time breaking through.
Can You Grow Garlic in Grow Bags?
Yes, it’s possible to grow garlic in a grow bag. First, fill the grow bag with the right potting soil and bury organic cloves accordingly. Then, add slow-release fertilizer after a couple of months and place the bag in a sunny spot.