How to Grow Garlic?


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Garlic has many uses and health benefits, including boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart-related problems, improving bone health, and elevating your cooking. But, beyond its intense flavor, culinary uses, and health benefits, garlic, also known as the stinking rose, is an effective insect repellent that has been used in gardens for centuries as a home remedy. So it’s not a shock you are looking to start growing it.

The good news is that garlic is ridiculously easy to grow and needs little care. And if you are wise enough to set aside a garlic head or two from every harvest for the next planting season, you’ll never have to repurchase garlic.

But while it’s easy to grow, you still need to get some steps and conditions before becoming the ‘garlic lord.’ So we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to take you through the steps and fill you in on everything you need to know, including fall gardening tips and ideas on how to grow garlic.

So without further ado, let’s hit the ground running.

What Type of Garlic Should You Grow?

The sheer number of garlic varieties can be confusing. To keep things simple, we classify them into two main categories; softneck and hardneck garlic. These groups are broken down further into eleven types. Though they vary slightly in color and flavor, they are genetically similar.

Hardneck Varieties

These types evolved from wild garlic and are considered the original cooking garlic. They produce larger cloves but fewer than soft neck varieties (usually between 2 and 10). You can easily identify them with their woody and stiff stalk.

When you purchase hard neck garlic, it’ll have about an inch of its central woody stem. These flower stems develop curled garlic greens, popularly known as scapes, when it grows. You should cut these off during their growth so the plant can focus all its energy on growing even bigger bulbs. However, the scapes don’t go to waste- you can use them to add flavor to your food.

Hardneck garlic varieties have a range of different colors than soft neck garlic. Also, they are hardier and tend to survive colder climates better. But on the other hand, they take longer to mature.

Note: They are the easiest type to peel and are flavor-packed. 

Softneck Varieties

Softneck garlic is the most frequently used garlic for culinary purposes and can easily be found in your local grocery store. With their extended shelf-life, easy-to-peel cloves, and long cultivation history from wild varieties, these types of garlic are a kitchen staple worth stocking up on! Unlike hardnecks, softnecks do not grow scapes (garlic greens) but have evolved to feature milder flavors with smaller cloves. Plus, they usually contain 8 to 12 individual bulbs per head – making them a great option if you want more bang for your buck!

It’s important to remember that softneck garlic bulbs aren’t as resilient in cold temperatures as hardneck varieties. For this reason, they should be planted when the weather starts warming up at the start of spring.


Asiatic (examples: Pyongyang, Asian tempest)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8
  • Mature size: 4 feet tall

Many Asiatic garlic varieties originate from Korea. They often produce medium-size bulbs. Each garlic bulb has between 4 and 8 cloves. Their flavors vary from spicy to hot and sweet. Because of their flavor, they are commonly used to make Asian delicacies. The cloves have a long shelf life and vibrant colors. For instance, the Asian Tempest is dark purple.

Creole (examples: Creole Red, Burgundy)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10
  • Mature size: 6 feet tall

These hardneck garlic types are a little different from the rest in that they survive better in warmer climates. They are most common in the US and don’t do well in cold regions. Creole garlic is commonly used to make gourmet cuisine courtesy of its nutty flavor that leaves sharp heat that fades fast. The cloves are either in purple or red.

Glazed Purple Stripe Hardneck (examples: Vekak, Red Rezan)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8
  • Mature size: 5 feet

These garlic types are common in Eastern Europe. Their name comes from their glossy papery covering that shines like a gem. They are beautiful in their red purple with silver stripes. However, their taste isn’t as flashy. They are somewhat mild and add a little heat to foods. The bulbs have a 5-7 months shelf life, and each bulb has between 6 and 12 cloves.

Marbled Purple Stripe Hardneck (example: Metechi, Siberian)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10
  • Mature size: 5 feet

These types of garlic are found in Eastern Europe and Russia. They are adapted to a range of climates and have a strong flavor. Every bulb has between 4 and 8 cloves. The garlic cloves are beautiful in striped shades of cream and red and have a shiny and smooth surface. Their sheaths are marbled purple and last for 7 months.

Middle Eastern Hardneck (example: Jomah, Syrian)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10
  • Mature size: 3 feet

As its name suggests, these garlic varieties are commonly found in the Middle East and love the warm climate. Their bulbs range in size, and they have a bumpy texture.

Porcelain Hardneck (example: Romanian Red, Georgian Crystal)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8
  • Mature size: 6 feet

These plants produce large bulbs and have between 2 and 6 cloves. They have a mild flavor with a rich garlicky scent. Their skin is thick, smooth, and purple. They have a shelf life of 8 months.

Purple Stripe Hardneck (example: Shatili, Chesnok Red)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8
  • Mature Size: 5 feet

These garlic types are common in Georgia and are rich in flavor without being extra strong. When baked, they become sweet. Because of this, they are often used to make garlic ice cream famous for being sweet. The plant grows between 3 and 5 feet and has upright and slender foliage. The bulbs have purple stripes and have tan-colored cloves between 8 and 16 in each.

Rocambole Hardneck (example: Phillips, Russian Red)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8

Farmers love growing this type at home. Its flavor is strong and has loose sheaths that are easy to peel off. To many, it has the best flavor. Their challenge is that they do well in cold winters. The cloves are red or tan and have hard skin. Moreover, they only store for 6 months.

Turban Hardneck (example: Tzan, Chinese purple)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10
  • Mature size: 3 feet

These types are less common and hail from different parts of the world, including Eastern Europe and Mexico. Their name comes from their stalk shape that forms a turban when it grows. Instead of being garlicky, they have unusual flavors. Some are mildly hot, while others are fiery. Their bulbs are flattened and have light purple streaks.

The bulbs can have between 6 and 12 chunky cloves. While this is great, they have a shorter shelf life.

Elephant Garlic

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Mature size: 3 feet

Although not a true garlic but is closely related to the leek, the gigantic elephant garlic behaves like a hard neck garlic variety. Despite having some of the largest bulbs, it has quite a mild flavor. This plump garlic variety produces huge bulbs that yield 4-7 cloves each.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic varieties were made from hard neck garlic (think of them as hard neck garlic 2.0). When you walk into a grocery store, you are most likely to pick soft-neck garlic. This is because they mature faster than hard neck garlic and are therefore better for commercial purposes. Moreover, they are more adaptable to different climates, and their plants produce more bulbs with little to no maintenance.

Though soft neck garlic types have more cloves, they are smaller. They are also harder to peel and have a spicier flavor. The bulb is multilayered, and the wrapping continues to the neck, transforming into a pliable stalk. The wrapping protects and increases their shelf life to 8 months.

Often grocery store owners braid the stalks to make decorative displays and easier to grab. On the other hand, hardneck garlic stems are stiff, so this isn’t an option.


1.    Artichoke Softneck (example: Red Toch, California Early)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10
  • Mature size: up to 2 feet

Compared to silver skin garlic (another soft neck garlic), they have fewer yet larger cloves). The number of cloves ranges from 12-25 and are non-symmetrical. The plant can adapt to different soil and climate conditions and tend to mature earlier, thus making them popular for commercial production.

The bulbs have a flatter shape, and the sheaths have light purple markings. They can be stored for up to 10 months.

2.    Silverskin Softneck (examples: Idaho Silver, Polish White)

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10
  • Mature size: 2 feet

These mature later compared to artichoke garlic types. Their exterior is rather dull and plain; they have small cloves covered in up to 5 layers. Each bulb can have between 8 and 40 cloves. They are harder to peel, and they arrive in irregular sizes. These types have the longest shelf life – 12 months.

Garlic Growth Stages

When growing garlic, probably the most challenging bit is knowing when to harvest garlic(we’ve dedicated an entire blog for this here). It’s made even more confusing because different parts can be harvested at different times during their life cycle. So to have a firm grasp of this, it only makes sense to read up on garlic growth stages.

Luckily for you, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking it all down.

How Long Garlic Takes to Mature

Garlic maturity depends on the type of garlic you plant. Generally, it takes about 9 months from planting when grown from cloves. But if you are in a region whose climate supports soft neck garlic growth, you can plant cloves in the spring and have them ready for harvest in 3 months. The downside is that the cloves will be smaller.

With that said, it’s better to plant garlic in the fall. You should complete the planting process a few weeks before the ground freezes. Garlic planted in the fall will continue growing throughout winter. However, hard neck garlic tends to go into dormancy and resume growth in early spring. It might seem odd, but dormancy is necessary for the development of larger plants. Depending on your region, you can harvest both softneck and hardneck garlic in spring or summer.

As a gardener, you can also grow your garlic from seeds (not to be confused with ‘seed garlic’). Garlic seeds are actual garlic plant seeds that take longer to grow to mature cloves. If you take this route, you’ll have to wait between 1 and 2 years before you can harvest.

Below are the six main growth stages to watch out for:


Like any plant, the first stage of seed planting is germination (when the seed sprouts). During this period, the plant should establish strong garlic roots. This stage takes between 1 and 2 months. You should see some small green fronds sticking out of the mulch or soil by the end of this stage.

Spring Garlic

Seven months after planting, your garlic plants will have long and slender green leaves. Then, if you wish, you can harvest by pulling the cloves out of the ground.

However, you should know that the cloves aren’t fully matured at this stage and won’t have formed into recognizable shapes. Instead, they’ll be super fresh, and because their skin will be soft, they’ll need to be frozen or eaten within a week.

You can cut off the roots and leaves and use the garlic and the bulb’s pale green, white parts. The leaves can be used in making great stock.

Garlic Scapes

After another month or in early spring, small curly tendrils should appear. If you don’t trim these garlic greens, they’ll flower and produce bulbils. The decision to leave the scapes untrimmed depends on your goals. Some leave them to flower and produce seed stock, while others prefer letting that energy go into producing larger cloves and bulbs.

Scapes are as good as cloves and are used the same way – that’s why they are known as green garlic. You should eat them within a week as well or freeze them. One way to enjoy scapes is through stir-frying, just like you would green beans.

Young Bulbs

Commonly called fresh garlic can be harvested at the 8-month mark after the planting date. They are smaller, and their skin isn’t dry like in mature garlic. However, they are juicy, crisp, and add rich flavor to foods. These, too, should be eaten or frozen within a week.

Mature Bulb

In nine months, you should be getting ready for your garlic harvest. But before you start harvesting, you should sample by harvesting one bulb to see if it is ready to harvest. Then, you can pull the entire plant from the ground to reveal a large bulb that’s ready for drying.

To cure the cloves, you should lay them on a ventilated rack for a week or two. Though by the 9th month, garlic skin will have started to dry from the ground, the curing process helps to improve shelf life.


As the garlic plant nears its maturity, any scapes that weren’t trimmed will start to straighten and form a flower stalk. So as a beginner, it makes sense to leave a couple of garlic greens untrimmed. Then, when they start to flower, you’ll know it’s time to harvest. But if your goal is a seed production, you can leave all scapes untrimmed.

If the plant gets to this stage and still doesn’t harvest, it will die and regrow from the bulbs below ground. Sure the bulbs will be smaller, but they’ll be rich in flavor.

Different Ways to Plant Garlic Bulbs

Now that you understand how garlic grows, it’s time to learn of the different ways you can grow it.

How to Grow Garlic in a Garden

In most parts of the world, garlic is grown in outside gardens. Such gardens offer gardeners a lot of space to work with and offer plants a lot of sunlight. Garlic needs between 6 and 10 hours of full sun each day. Therefore, it’s great if you plant your garlic in a sunny spot on your garden bed.

Also, when planting garlic in your own garden, make sure you choose a variety that’s ideal for your hardiness zone. For example, many soft-neck garlic varieties thrive in warmer climates, so they are great for zones 8+. On the other hand, hard neck garlic varieties prefer colder weather between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, they do well in zones 7 and under.

Another pro of growing garlic in large gardens is that you’ll have more control over the drainage in the area. Poorly drained soil will retain a lot of moisture, predisposing your crops to white rot. To prevent this, you can create mounds to plant garlic and help with the drainage.

How To Grow Garlic in a Greenhouse

This is a great way too. Greenhouses are especially ideal for soft-neck garlic varieties because of the warmer greenhouse conditions. However, if the greenhouse is well ventilated, hardneck varieties can do great too.

Garlic grows naturally through fall and winter and might stop growing when the temperatures get too hot. For hard neck garlic, the temperatures need to be between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and for soft neck garlic, it should be between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Provided the temperatures remain within these ranges, there’ll be healthy growth.

Aside from the above, greenhouses also help to keep away animals. They also afford gardeners more control over the amount of water the plants get.

Remember, too much water isn’t great. So water delivery should be about 1-inch every week, and the soil closest to the bulb should be given time to dry before re-watering.

How To Grow Garlic in Containers

Because garlic is a large plant, containers are a great option. Moreover, cloves don’t need much space between them to do well – 3 inches apart is enough.

Many people prefer containers because they can control soil and fertilizer mix and consistency easily. They also allow you to control soil drainage through drainage holes. There’s also the option of starting sprouts in containers and transferring them to outside gardens or greenhouses. This technique helps to protect garlic in its most delicate stage.

With a container, you can also move the plant around to areas with sunlight and good air circulation if need be. Alternatively, you can keep your plants indoors to protect them from harsh weather and animals. But as you do this, bear in mind that garlic plants have a strong smell just like cloves and bulbs do. As such, you should consider placing the containers in a greenhouse, the porch, or a shed.

Note: If there isn’t enough sunlight on your premises, you can supplement it with grow light

How to Grow Garlic in Water

We’ve said over and over that too much water could damage your plant. But be it as it may, you can start clove growth in water. Here’s how:

  • Put a clove in a jar, cup, or glass with the root side facing down.
  • Submerge the other body in water
  • A clear container will allow you to watch as it sprouts and the roots grow longer

You cannot leave garlic completely submerged in water all its life. After the roots sprout and grow a couple of inches long, remove the plant from the water and transfer it to a garden or a pot.

From the looks of things, garlic is a versatile plant. You can choose your best option depending on your situation. Just be sure to get the growth conditions right.

Speaking of which…

General Homegrown Garlic Care

  • Light

This might be surprising for a plant that grows underground, but garlic loves the light. To ensure that your garlic plant has the best chances of success, plant them in an area that receives a lot of light for the better part of the day.

  • Soil

The most important factor of garlic plant success is soil rich in nutrients. The soil should also be well-drained and have a pH level of between 6.0 and 7.0. It’s a good idea to add a layer of mulch over the soil for winter protection to prevent weed growth and conserve moisture (more on soil requirements in the next section).

  • Water

Garlic doesn’t need a lot of water. Provided you water the soil with an inch of water each week (slightly increase this if it’s warm), the plants should be good. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the first growing season for best results but allow time for the soil to dry (typically between two or three weeks) before harvesting. If the soil is too moist close to harvest time, you might have a mold problem in your hands.

  • Humidity and Temperature

Garlic is hardy and grows best in cold seasons. With that said, plant garlic seeds a couple of weeks before frost in fall. Also, garlic doesn’t have strict requirements on humidity.

  • Fertilizer

Using fertilizer is beneficial when you grow garlic. You can opt to mix slow-release fertilizer into the soil when you plant, and then when the leaves start to sprout in spring, you can feed the soil surrounding the plants with fertilizer blends rich in nitrogen. Fertilize your crops by side-dressing with a blood meal in the early spring.

More Details on Soil Requirements for Growing Garlic

The journey to obtaining the best soil for garlic growth starts with a soil test. A soil test helps you determine if your soil is good and, if it’s not, what it’s lacking.

Luckily, garlic is pretty forgiving and can survive even in not-so-perfect soils, albeit with varying yields. Also, you can opt to feed the soil with organic fertilizers and use cover crops to improve the soil.

Below are some tips to help you achieve the best soil possible.

Get the Right Texture

Garlic thrives in well-drained loose soil. This makes sandy loam perfect for this. However, some gardeners also use clay soil. However, clay is heavy soil, meaning it has poor drainage and can retain moisture; it’ll give you a headache if you have too much of it. To solve the drainage problem, you can try growing garlic in raised beds or increase sand and organic matter in your soil.

Another problem with clay soil is that it leaves garlic bulbs too dirty and makes it even harder to harvest – clay sticks to garlic skin. Also, when the ground is dry, as it should be a couple of weeks to harvesting, it hardens and makes the harvesting process even harder.

To get the loose soil needed, till your soil or plant some cover crops. Cover crops will add nutrients to the soil and will also loosen it with their roots. Good cover crops include hairy vetch, buckwheat, winter rye, and sorghum-sudangrass.

Nail Down Soil Nutrients

We’ve heard people say garlic is like onions. While this is true, from a soil nutrient point of view, it’s more like potatoes. Typically, garlic loves soil pH of between 6 and 7. Also, garlic needs nitrogen which is essential for the first stage of growth.

On the other hand, phosphorus helps in root management, and potassium is perfect for leaf growth and healthy bulb formation. Finally, it needs sulfur because it greatly impacts garlic flavor and health benefits. After the sprouting, gardeners should sprinkle some gypsum over their garden to add sulfur to the soil.

  • Add Manure

When you add manure to the soil, you should pay attention to the timing – it shouldn’t be done close to harvesting, preferably in early summer. Most organic certifications require that it’s done 120 days before harvesting. This is because drugs, GMOs, and antibiotic residue from an animal feed need time to break down.

When amending soil with manure, there are several options – they all have their pros and instructions.

  • Cow Manure

This is the most popular option. Three weeks before you plant garlic, spread well-rotted manure. Then, when planting time comes, the smell will have dissipated enough not to make the planting process a pain. Moreover, this time frame will allow the nitrogen to settle so that it doesn’t shock cloves after planting.

Turn the cow manure after you spread it to avoid nutrient evaporation.

  • Poultry Manure

Poultry manure, like chicken manure, is rich in nitrogen. Therefore, using organic manure is ideal only if you know how to manage it. Usually, poultry manure doesn’t evaporate as cow manure does. Also, you don’t need to turn it as fast. However, you must mix it into the soil before planting it since it’s highly concentrated with nitrogen.

  • Horse Manure

This manure is also a great option. However, before you use it, ensure you know the drugs the horse is on. Whatever the horse is on will pass to the manure and later your soil.

The basics of growing garlic aren’t difficult to get especially if you follow the fall gardening tips. But, most importantly, you need to get the planting and harvesting right. The great thing is that almost every part is edible at different stages. To learn how to plant and harvest garlic properly, read our dedicated posts.

People Also Ask

Can I Grow Garlic From a Clove?

Absolutely, you can yield garlic from a single clove. Select healthy cloves and plant them 2 inches deep with the pointed end upwards. Make sure to leave adequate spacing of 4-6 inches between each individual clove for optimal growth!

How Long Does Garlic Take to Grow?

Depending on its variety, garlic may take from 6 to 8 months to fully mature. After planting it, you’ll spot the first green shoots in about a month; then for several more months your bulbs will develop. When the leaves start yellowing and wilting, that’s usually an indication that harvesting time has arrived.

What is the Best Month to Plant Garlic?

For the best results, garlic should ideally be planted in late autumn or early winter (October/November). This allows for plenty of time to fully develop and gather energy before spring and summer. If you’re planting later during the year, gently move away from any frosty days so your crop can reach its fullest potential. Before sowing your garlic, always conduct a local climate check!

How Do You Grow Garlic for Beginners?

Growing garlic is a cinch for newbie gardeners! Start by picking out healthy cloves and planting them two inches deep with the pointed end up. Don’t forget to provide adequate space of four to six inches between each clove for optimal growth. If you can, purchase organic garlic as it may bolster your soil health, nourish your plants with essential nutrients and boost its flavor! And don’t overlook adding some mulch or compost in the soil now and then; watering regularly will also help things along. With steady care, soon enough you’ll rejoice at an abundant harvest of delicious garlic!

Can You Plant Garlic Cloves From the Grocery Store?

Yes, you can. In fact, grocery store garlic is the easiest as it’s readily available. Alternatively, if you have garlic in your pantry that’s started to sprout, you can use it. However, you can only grow organically grown garlic. For example, store-bought garlic bulbs from China cannot sprout because they’ve been treated to keep them from growing. Also, remember that most store-bought garlic is softneck and doesn’t do well in cold weather. However, you can plant soft-neck garlic indoors and use its leaves on the bright side in food preparation.

Do You Peel Garlic Before Planting?

When planting garlic, you’ll remove the outer skin from the bulb and separate the cloves. Be careful not to damage the individual cloves as you do this. Also, you should leave the thin papery skin covering every clove on.

Is Garlic High in Protein?

For every 100g serving of garlic, there’s 7.9g of protein.

How Do You Know When Garlic is Ready to Pick?

When the three lower leaves turn brown or yellow, the garlic bulbs are ready for harvesting. If you let a lot of time pass after this, the bulbs will not have protective layers around the cloves. This means that the cloves will not last long in storage. Also, flowers are a good sign they are harvest-ready.

How Often Do You Water Garlic?

With the perfect temperatures and soil looseness, you should water garlic every 3-5 days during bulbing. However, if it’s considerably dry, you should irrigate garlic about 2 feet deep every 8 or 10 days.

Can I Grow Garlic in Pots?

Yes, you can. However, you should be aware of several things as you prepare to take this route – garlic is prone to getting fungal root diseases, and the soil must drain properly. In addition, you shouldn’t be tempted to add regular garden soil to your container.

Can You Eat Garlic Leaves?

You can eat the green leaves and the scapes. You can pinch them off easily.

What is the Best Fertilizer for Garlic?

The best fertilizer is any that’s rich in nitrogen. Fertilizers that have blood meals are often a great option.

Does Garlic Coffee Grounds?

If you find yourself with coffee grounds, you can add a handful of planted cloves to help it grow. Garlic loves acidic soil, so this should be great.

Does the Garlic Plant Need Sunlight?

Yes, it does – a lot of it. You should give it between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight every day.







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