How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Garlic in Your Garden

Garlic is one of the more useful vegetables you can plant in your garden. It has a variety of different uses, being especially popular in many food dishes across the world. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey takes you through each step you'll need to follow in order to plant, grow, and care for garlic in your garden.

Garlic Fresh Picked From Field

Contents

You can find garlic in just about every cuisine in the world. Any pizza, pesto, curry, roast, pasta, dressing, or sauce would be sorely lacking without the zesty, pungent, and spicy aroma of garlic. But there is nothing quite like the flavor and nutrition of garlic you cultivated yourself. This onion-family bulb is extremely rewarding for beginning gardeners and can be adapted over time to your specific microclimate.

Garlic is my all-time favorite crop to grow in the garden because it operates on an opposite schedule from all the rest of our common vegetables: plant it in the fall and harvest in the summer. You can save the best cloves to re-plant your own seed. Then, you can cure the bulbs and enjoy them all winter long.

By growing your own garlic, you get to try unique varieties as well as the highly coveted buttery rich garlic scapes that are nearly impossible to find in stores. Plus, you don’t have to worry about poor worker treatment and sketchy growing conditions associated with grocery store garlic that is typically sourced from China.

If you’ve been wanting to grow garlic but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered! I’ve grown high-quality organic garlic in over 10 different states (nearly every growing region of the United States). No garden is complete without this scrumptious root! Let’s dig into how to plant, grow, and care for the best garlic you’ve ever tasted!

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Garlic Overview

Fresh Harvested Bulbs with Roots
Plant Type Perennial, grown as Annual
Plant Family Amaryllidaceae
Plant Genus Allium
Plant Species sativum
Hardiness Zone USDA 0-10
Planting Season Fall
Plant Maintenance Low maintenance at maturity
Plant Height About 2 feet
Fertility Needs High
Temperature Cool planting, warm when mature
Companion Plants Dill, kale, spinach, carrots, beets
Soil Type Well-drained loam
Plant Spacing 6” apart with rows 12-24” apart
Watering Needs Moderate
Sun Exposure Full
Days to Maturity 8-9 months (200-300 days)
Pests None
Diseases White Rot, Black Mould, Damping Off

History and Cultivation

Cloves Separated in Basket
Add spice and flavor to any cuisine with these delicious cloves.

Over 5,000 years ago, ancient cultures were wild foraging and growing garlic for medicinal and culinary use. Garlic is one of the oldest crops in the world, with clear historical evidence of use by the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and Indians. Perhaps that’s why we find it in nearly every cuisine! 

What is Garlic?

Dried Bulbs on Table
This delicious flowering plant can be grown nearly anywhere in the world.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a bulbous flowering plant that humans have used for millennia. It is technically a perennial that is grown as an annual. It’s grown all over the world and adapted to USDA growing zones 0 to 10 (yes, even gardeners in some parts of Alaska can grow garlic as long as there’s no permafrost). However, it grows best in zones 1-5 where it receives a period of cold exposure called vernalization.

Garlic is flavorful, aromatic, and rich in sulfurous compounds that have earned it “superfood” and even medicinal status in a variety of global cultures. A member of the Lily or Amaryllidaceae family, and is part of the Allium genus along with its cousins onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives. Garlic is remarkably cold-hardy, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and resilient in a variety of conditions.

Garlic is most often grown for the root. The mature bulb is sheathed in an array of wrapped outer layers that make it easy to cure, store, and transport for year round use. Depending on the variety, each bulb is comprised of 5-12 individual cloves that can be peeled and used raw or cooked. The young leaf blades are also edible, in addition to the coveted garlic scapes (young pre-flowering stalks) of hardneck garlic and the flowers themselves.

Where Does Garlic Originate?

Origin of Garlic
Species of “wild garlic” have been found around the world.

The jury is out as to where exactly garlic came from. Various species of so-called “wild garlic” have been identified around the world, but archeological and genetic evidence seems to point to Central Asia, India, Egypt, and Ukraine as the origins of true wild garlic (Allium sativum or A. longicuspis). Other members of the genus (Allium) can be found in North America, for example Allium vineale is a relative commonly called “wild garlic” amongst foragers in the U.S.

Wild Garlic Types

Wild Garlic
Migrating cultures likely gathered wild bulbs and planted them for cultivation.

Regardless of its precise origin, garlic has been produced and eaten by humans for at least 5,000 years. Migrating cultures likely collected wild garlic throughout Central Asia and replanted the bulbs for cultivation. It is unclear whether early cultivars of garlic were hardneck or softneck (we’ll review the difference below), but researchers suspect that hardneck types were most common amongst wild lines.

These wild garlic ancestors prolifically spread by true seeds and created incredible genetic variation thanks to sexual reproduction in the wild. Humans also aided in garlic’s spread across the world, however cultivation has historically been asexual (using vegetative cloves and bulbs rather than “true” seeds). Genetically, this means that most garlic types we know today are “clones” which produce more uniform crops than the wild diverse varieties.

Where is garlic grown?

Plantation Rows
California is the lead producer in the US, but much of what you see in stores comes from China.

Garlic can be grown in a wide range of climates around the world. Commercially, China is the top global producer. In the United States, California is the leading producer, with Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and New York trailing behind. As you can see, there is quite a diversity of growing conditions for this allium-family bulb.

Gilroy, California is known as the garlic capital of America and hosts an annual festival celebrating this abundant spice. In spite of the nearly 400 million pounds of garlic grown domestically, the U.S. is also the largest importer of garlic from China, South America, and Mexico.

Americans just can’t get enough garlic! In fact, the average American eats about 3 pounds per year. Little do they know that most of it comes from China, which is all the more reason to grow your own!

Commercial garlic for fresh eating or dehydrated powders is typically grown from softneck varieties which are less cold hardy but typically higher yielding and longer lasting in storage. In the garden, you can grow a combination of softnecks and hardnecks to explore a much more diverse range of flavors, sizes, and colors than you’ll find in grocery stores.   

Propagation

Sorting Cloves for Harvest
Simply save the best and biggest cloves for planting next year.

Garlic is most commonly grown from so-called “seed garlic”, which is actually cloves that are saved and replanted year after year. Just like potatoes, this form of vegetative reproduction makes it easier to propagate and maintain streamlined lines of special varieties of red, purple, porcelain, and silverskin, to name a few.

The cool thing about garlic propagation is that you technically only have to buy seed garlic once. After your first successful crop, you can save the biggest best cloves to replant the following year. Over time, this will allow you to select plants that are specifically adapted to your garden and your preferences.

Sourcing Seed Garlic

When buying seed garlic, it’s very important to get it from a good source. The quality and size of the bulbs you plant determines what you harvest, and nobody likes peeling a million tiny cloves before a meal. Variety definitely plays a role in this, but the quality of your seed source is most important.

You also want to be sure that pathogens like White Rot, Black Mold, or Fusarium Basal Rot are not transported into your garden through contaminated seed garlic. If they are, you may be dealing with allium diseases for years to come! At the same time, you probably don’t want garlic that has been fumigated with toxic chemicals. Choose a reputable seed company with disease-free certified organic garlic for the best results.

What is Vernalization?

Frost on New Seedlings
Cold, icy temperatures are needed for proper growth and bulb formation.

Vernalization is way less complicated than it sounds! It is simply a period of exposure to cold temperatures that stimulates garlic plants to create a proper bulb. This chilling period is the secret to growing the highest quality garlic in your garden.

Most garlic evolved to adapt to cold northern climates. When planted in the fall, they were exposed to long winters beneath the snow that actually helped promote better growth and bulb formation in the spring.

Hardnecks usually need at least 4-8 weeks of cold temperatures below 40-50°F to develop bulbs. Softnecks need vernalization as well, but it can be milder and shorter. Cold temperatures promote the garlic to start growing roots and then the plants go dormant over the winter. If you are gardening in zones 0-5, you don’t need to worry about vernalization. Simply plant in early fall before the first frost and the cold winter will do the work for you!

However, if you are growing in a southern climate, you probably need to stimulate this chilling period with a refrigerator because your winters are very mild. Placing bulbs in a plastic bag in the fridge at around 40°F for 1-2 months before planting should do the trick.

Research shows that vernalization of bulbs at 40°F for 42 days produced acceptable garlic bulbs in tropical conditions. Once the cold conditioning period is over, you can plant them like normal in December or January in warm regions.

How to Propagate Garlic

Getting Ready to Plant
Divide into individual cloves, save the best ones and remember to keep the natural wrapping on.

Once you choose your variety, order seed garlic, and vernalize (if needed), it’s best to prepare for planting as soon as possible. Garlic companies will usually ship seed in late summer and early fall, depending on your region.

Before planting, bulbs need to be divided into individual cloves, keeping as many wrappers in place as possible. It’s best to separate the larger outer bulbs first and use smaller inner bulbs for cooking. Just be sure not to peel them. I repeat, do not peel your seed garlic!

Separate the largest cloves from smaller ones. You may wish to plant smaller cloves closer together and harvest as “spring garlic”. Save the biggest best cloves for full size spacing.

Discard any moldy or damaged cloves so that they don’t contaminate your garlic planting. You may also want to soak your garlic seed to promote faster establishment and reduce disease risk.

How to Soak Seed

Garlic Cloves Soaking in Bucket
Soak your cloves 8-12 hours before planting in the garden.

Soaking seed garlic gives your garden a jumpstart by preventing disease and offering a boost of nutrients for rapid growth. This is a very common practice amongst commercial organic growers who don’t want to use fungicides or fumigants. It’s as simple as breaking up your cloves and putting them in a clean bucket or container of water with a diluted substance 8-12 hours before planting.

The dilution is not precise and may depend on your water type, the amount of water, the age and quality of the seed garlic, and the strength of your soaking substance. Always be careful not to use too much of any sterilizer or fertilizer. A little goes a long way. I usually use 1-2 tbsp. per gallon of water with 30 to 40 cloves inside. Never soak cloves in pure vinegar, alcohol, or fertilizer.


For disease prevention, garlic can be soaked using one of these techniques:

  • Warm water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sterile alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Baking soda
  • Compost tea


For growth stimulation, soak garlic seeds in one of these fertilizers, which can also be used in combination with disease prevention tactics:

  • Diluted kelp
  • Liquid fish
  • Compost tea extract
  • Organic all purpose liquid fertilizer

Planting Garlic

Planting Cloves in Loose Soil
Bring your unpeeled, soaked cloves to the garden for planting.

Whew! Preparing and propagating garlic is definitely the hardest part of growing this zest bulbus allium. Thankfully, the planting process is super easy.

When to Plant Garlic

Garlic is a super fun crop because it is uniquely opposite from most common vegetables. You plant it in the fall and harvest in early summer! Due to the vernalization requirements described above, planting timing is dependent on your regional weather.

In general, you want to get garlic in the ground 2-3 weeks before the first fall frost. This gives it time to establish and put down roots before going dormant. If you don’t get a frost in your southern growing zone, opt for planting the coolest months like December and January.

How to Plant Garlic

Proper Planting of Cloves
Make sure the sprout side of the clove is pointing upwards.

Garlic planting is very straightforward. It is a nice tactile experience for children or elderly gardeners who may have trouble handling the small seeds of most vegetables. It’s also a great companion plant for beets, carrots, kale, and other veggies like tomatoes.

Prepare your cloves as described above and (if desired) soak them for 8-12 hours before planting. Bulbs may start to produce roots during soaking, so avoid soaking too long or the roots may get damaged when planting.

To begin, prepare your garden beds by mulching or incorporating a quality compost or aged manure. Optionally, use a broadfork to loosen the lower layers of soil and improve drainage. Rake the surface flat and then use the handle of a garden tool to make long thin furrows about 2-4” deep in the soil, spaced approximately 12-24” apart.

Plant the soaked bulbs with the pointy sprout side facing up and the flattened “butt” side facing down. This is arguably the most important part. I know a farmer who once let some volunteers plant his garlic crop for the season, only to discover that thousands of bulbs had gone in the ground upside down. Don’t make that mistake! Keep the butts down and the sprouts up!

The root side should wind up 2-3” deep in the soil with 6” between cloves. Then, use your hands or a rake to backfill the furrows and bury the cloves. Give them a generous watering to help get established.

Mulching

Growing with Mulch
Using a mulch, such as straw, helps protect your crop from cold winters and warm summers.

While not every garden crop needs mulching, I would argue that garlic should always have a straw layer. Not only does it cut down on weeds for this long-season crop, but it insulates the plant through cold winters while simultaneously keeping the soil cool in hot summers. Mulch also conserves water so that garlic can be “dry farmed” without irrigation in many regions.

Be sure to use organic or non-sprayed weed-free straw. Straw is different from hay because it is harvested before the seed heads mature. This is super important because mulching with hay will result in a grass lawn rather than a garlic patch! When in doubt, if you can’t find straw, use chipped deciduous leaves as a mulch.

After planting, use your hands to loosen the straw or leaf mulch and fluff it up as you spread over the top of the tucked-in cloves. The mulch should be 2-3” deep and applied generously over the entire bed. Garlic usually sprouts before the killing frost (a good sign of vigor!), so a loose mulch will provide plenty of protection through the winter. 

How to Grow Garlic

Fresh Picked Bulbs
This low maintenance crop cares for itself once the seeds are planted.

Growing garlic is remarkably hands-off compared to the rest of your veggie crops. Most of the growing work is concentrated at the planting and harvest stages. The crop is very low maintenance in between. Once you do the hard work of preparing bulbs and getting them in the ground, it mostly takes care of itself as long as it gets enough fertility and water.

Light

Garlic Growing in Rows
These plants love full sun.

Garlic performs best in a site with full sunlight. You will not get a good crop if it is aggressively shaded by trees or buildings. But garlic can be a bit more tolerant to growing in the shade, depending on the sun orientation. Be sure that garlic beds receive at least 6-8 hours of sun per day for the entirety of their life cycle

Water

Watering Your Seedlings
Be sure to keep your plants hydrated without making the soil overly muddy.

Like many alliums, garlic can be “dry farmed” (grown without irrigation) in some moist regions of the north, east and south. However, it will definitely need consistent moisture during the spring and bulbing period. I prefer to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to avoid splashing water on the leaves with overhead irrigation, which can lead to a greater risk of disease.

The key to keeping garlic hydrated and happy is proper mulching and an inch or so of rainfall or irrigation per week. Water stress will manifest as wilted leaves and poor bulb formation. However, if you overwater garlic in a poorly drained soil, you will definitely have issues with bulb rot or disease.

As always, a happy medium of moisture is crucial. Check soil moisture regularly by sticking your finger in at least 4-6” deep. Soil should be cool and moist, slightly sticking to your finger, but never soggy or muddy.

Soil

Handling fresh picked bulbs in garden
These long roots grow best in loose soil mixed with organic compost.

Garlic performs best in a well-drained fertile soil with lots of organic matter. Compost is the best way to enhance drainage and fertility. The ideal pH is somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0. If you have a heavy clay soil, it enjoys being planted in raised beds that facilitate additional drainage.

I prefer to prepare beds by loosening the soil with a digging fork or broadfork to add aeration to lower layers. Contrary to popular belief, it can be a fairly deep-rooted crop under the proper conditions. The garlic you see in stores has had its roots trimmed. If you have a compaction layer, the plants may grow shorter roots and be under greater stress. The deeper the aeration and soil drainage, the happier your garlic will be!

Climate and Temperature

Moist Soil Conditions
Although this crop prefers the cold, with a few tweaks you can grow garlic in nearly any climate.

Garlic is remarkably adaptable to almost every climate in the United States and beyond. It can tolerate extreme cold down to USDA growing zones 1 and even 0 if there is no permafrost. While it struggles a bit more in warmer climates, it can be successfully grown in the south by choosing proper varieties, providing a pre-chilling vernalization period, and planting at the right time.

Garlic needs to be planted in cool weather conditions. The ideal planting temperature is around 32° to 50°F. Usually this is sometime in mid-to-late fall (September through November), before hard frosts arrive. The key is to let garlic establish its roots and grow in cool weather before the ground freezes. At this point, dormant rooted plants can survive down to -30°F!

If planted too early amidst warm weather, garlic will create too much tender top growth before winter. But if planted too late into the fall, it won’t have adequate root growth for winter. In hotter climates, it can be planted closer to December and January, or the coolest months possible. Hardneck garlic needs at least 4-8 weeks of temperatures below 40°F to develop bulbs.

In the spring, the ideal growing temperature for garlic is 50-90°F. It can handle spring frosts without worry. Ultra hot weather can end bulb growth and cause it to die back, which means it needs to be harvested.

Fertilizing

Slow Release Fertilizer
Before planting, mix organic compost and/or slow-release fertilizer into the soil.

Garlic is a heavy feeder that needs plenty of nutrition to grow big flavorful bulbs. Prepare the fall soil with a generous heaping of compost and/or a slow-release organic nitrogen fertilizer such as feather meal. In the spring, feed with diluted fish emulsion fertilizer when shoots reach about 6” tall.

Maintenance

Weeding Around Plants
Be sure to pull any pesky weeds so your plants won’t need to compete for water or nutrients.

Keep garlic thoroughly weeded throughout its growth cycle. Weed competition can be the main reason for poor bulb formation. The roots of weeds can be very competitive with the garlic bulbs.

The only other maintenance you will need to worry about is topping or harvesting the scapes of hardneck varieties to ensure proper bulb formation.

What are Garlic Scapes?

Scapes Prepared for Cooking
Hardneck garlic is the only variety that produces these delicious scapes.

Stiffneck or hardneck garlic varieties send up long, curled flower stalks called scapes. These appear 1-2 months after the first leaves establish, often in early summer around May or June. If you don’t remove the scape, your plants will put their energy into growing a flower rather than producing a bulb. If left to grow, the scapes will result in very small unusable cloves and a hard, thick stalk through the center of garlic cloves.

How to Top Garlic

Picking Garlic Scapes
Harvest scapes right when they begin to curl.

Remove the scapes simply by cutting or snapping them off. But don’t let them go to waste! Scapes are arguably almost as tasty as garlic bulbs themselves. You can harvest them right when they begin to curl into little curly-q’s. They have a stiff harsh texture when raw, but buttery delicious flavor when cooked. Use garlic scapes in a similar way to scallions or leeks. Garlic scape pesto is a decadent late spring treat!

You don’t have to worry about scapes on softneck varieties unless they are under stress. Occasionally under drought or fertility stress, softnecks will send up a scape that you need to remove.

Harvest

How to Harvest with Trowel
Gently loosen the soil around your plant before harvesting.

Garlic harvest is probably my favorite time of year in the garden. The sun is usually shining and warm, and the aroma of freshly pulled garlic is unbeatable. The crop is usually ready to harvest around June through August, depending on the climate.

The key indicator that it’s time to pull your garlic is when the bottom leaves begin to yellow and the 3-5 lower leaves have turned dry and brown. It’s important to start harvest as soon as this happens, otherwise the bulbs left in the ground could begin to separate and rot.

Unless your soil is super loose, you typically can’t just pull the garlic right out of the ground. Use a spading fork or broadfork to gently loosen the soil around the plant and push them upwards. Be careful not to stab or bruise the bulbs. Grab them by the stalk and pull up, making piles until your harvest is complete. Brush off some of the soil before curing to make for an easier cleanup.

Curing

Hanging to Dry in Sun
This process thickens the skin, thus allowing for a longer shelf life.

Last but not least, you will need to cure your garlic in order to store it all winter long. Curing partially dries the garlic and thickens the skin to prevent decaying in storage. It is a similar process to curing winter squash and pumpkins.

Find a shady place near the garden that is fairly warm and has good circulation. You can use a fan to keep gentle air flow moving, but don’t point it directly at the plant. Avoid putting it in high heat or full sun during curing.

Hardnecks can be bundled together with twine for hanging or laid in a single layer on drying racks or screens. Softnecks can be braided and hung as well. Braiding before curing is easiest because the stems are still fresh and pliable.

Leave garlic to cure for about 2-3 weeks, or until the necks are fairly dry and the outer skin feels papery. Preserve as many of those papery wrappers as possible when cleaning because it helps it store for longer. Curing may take up to 1 month or more in cool conditions or high humidity.

You can braid garlic after curing as well, or simply cut off the tops and store heads in a mesh bag, basket, or open container.

Storage

Hanging from Wire After Drying
Store your abundant harvest where there is good ventilation and lower temperatures.

Garlic should be stored at 45-55°F and 50-60% humidity if possible. Good ventilation is key to long lasting garlic heads to use in cooking all winter long. A root cellar or pantry are great options for storage. If you put garlic in the refrigerator, it will probably sprout.

Fresh Bulbs on Table
Choose the varieties to grow in your garden based on the climate and region in which you live.

There are over 600 different varieties around the world and new ones are being developed every year. If you save garlic cloves in your garden for many generations, you can even call your garlic its own cultivar!

All the different varieties belong to two major subtypes: hardneck or softneck. Both are grown very similarly, but your garlic cultivar selection will majorly impact your growing success. Each type has its own adaptation to specific climates and regions, as well as unique flavors and aromas in the kitchen.

There’s probably a lot of argument amongst chefs, farmers, and garlic aficionados about what the “best” garlic variety truly is, but here I’ll share the most popular as well as my personal favorites based on yields, performance, flavor, and storage.

Hardneck vs. Softneck

Hardneck and Softneck Garlic
Hardnecks have stiff stems, and softnecks do not.

There’s a lot of confusion about hardneck garlic and softneck garlic, so let’s simplify it shall we?

Generally, hardnecks are best for areas with cold winters because they need that chill (vernalization period) to create full bulbs. These are the varieties that create edible flower stalks called garlic scapes. Hardneck garlic is most closely related to the wild garlic ancestor from Central Asia. This category includes popular Creole, Purple Stripe, Porcelain, and Turban varieties, amongst many others.

On the other hand, softneck types are ideal for more mild or warmer regions and are the most commonly grown commercial garlic. Softnecks are often sold in garlic braids because they don’t have the stiff stems of hardnecks. They also store longer, but may have smaller cloves and more wrappers (making them a little more tedious to peel). Softnecks are widely adaptable, but less cold hardy. They still need some vernalization (chilling period) to create bulbs, but it doesn’t have as long or as extreme as hardneck types.

 

Hardneck

Softneck

Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon Allium sativum var. sativum
Best for cold areas Best for mild or warm areas
Need vernalization (prolonged cold period or pre-chilling) to create a bulb Only mild vernalization needed
Complex flavor Mild to hot flavors
Larger cloves with thinner wrappers (easier to peel) Smaller cloves with more wrappers (more layers to peel)
Shorter storage life (4 to 7 months) Long storage life (9 months to 1 year)
Form garlic scapes (the buttery delicious garlic-flavored flower stalks) Rarely form scapes
Stiff central stalk Soft stalk for garlic braids

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic
This large Allium is actually part of the leek family.

You may be wondering, “where does elephant garlic fit on this spectrum”? Surprisingly, elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. Ampeloprasum) is not technically garlic. It is actually a variety of leek (Allium ampeloprasum).

These massive cloves have a mild flavor and are super easy to peel. The bulbs tend to be very large and sometimes grow as big as a softball! Elephant garlic is very popular and delicious when roasted whole.

Thankfully, it is cultivated the exact same way as all the other garlic types, so you only need to know it is botanically a leek if you are trying to impress your gardener friends with garlic trivia. Otherwise, grow it just like a softneck.

Like I said, there are virtually endless garlic varieties for you to try out in the garden, but these are the most popular amongst growers in different regions.

Keep in mind that garlic won’t cross-pollinate like your squash or tomatoes, so you can easily grow several different cultivars in a single season. Some seed companies even offer “garlic sampler” packs of seed garlic. Why not plant a nice diversity for some fun taste tests come summer?

Best Varieties for Cold Climates

Chesnok Red Garlic
This Chesnok Red is extra delicious when roasted.
  • ‘Music’: My all time favorite, this hardneck has amazingly delicious, big, easy-to-peel cloves with thick skin for long storage. Cloves are a creamy white color and excellent raw or cooked. Strongly adapted to ultra cold climates, including northern Montana (zone 4) where I grew the tastiest ‘Music’ garlic I’ve ever had. 4-5 large cloves per head. 290 days to mature from fall planting.
  • ‘German Extra Hardy’: One of the most reliable cold-hardy garlics, this porcelain variety produces hefty heads with 4-7 large cloves in each. The skins have a reddish tint and the cloves have a classic garlic flavor. Hardneck. 290 days.
  • ‘Chesnok Red’: An amazing roasting garlic, this hardneck is very cold-hardy, productive, and has dazzling purple-striped skins. Large bulbs yield 8-12 medium sized cloves. Stores about 6 months when cured and takes 290 days to mature from a fall planting.
  • ‘German Red’: With its classic bold garlic flavor, this hardneck is a rocambole-type known for robust spice and great adaptability to northern climates. Produces 8-9 medium-sized cloves per head. 290 days.

Best Garlic for Southern Climates

California White
This California White is easy to grow and does well in warm temperatures.
  • ‘Inchelium Red’: A softneck variety that is easy to grow in the south, yet hardy enough to overwinter in cold northern climates. About 8 to 15 light lavender-skinned cloves are bundled in each head. Mild flavor and exceptional storage. Perfect for garlic braids. 280 days.
  • ‘California White’: Similar to grocery store garlic, but with a much richer flavor, this softneck variety is well adapted to hot southern states like Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. Easy to grow and widely adapted, this garlic can be cured, braided and stored for up to a year. 150 to 250 days to maturity.
  • ‘Early Italian’: This early to harvest softneck is great for the south as well as warm parts of the west. It is known as one of the best storing garlic and has a milder flavor than its hotter cousins. Pearly white bulbs look gorgeous in braids. Tolerates summer heat. 90 days.
  • ‘Nootka Rose’: With medium-large heads and a strong flavor, this is a beautiful pink-splashed softneck is adapted to summer heat and stores for 9-12 months. 90 to 100 days to mature from a late fall planting. 

Pests and Diseases

Rotten Clove
Although bugs don’t bother with this Allium, there are a few diseases to look out for.

Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, etc.) are susceptible to a few gnarly diseases that can live in soil for a long period. Crop rotation, good drainage, quality seedstock sourcing, and proper sanitation tend to take care of most of them. But thanks to its pungent aroma, not many pests attack garlic.

White Rot (Scleorita rot)

White Rot
This fungus can affect your crops for many years, so be sure to practice regular crop rotation.

This fungus initially causes yellowing and dying leaves, and later attacks bulbs, leaving them soft, water soaked, and unusable. It is most severe in cool, dry soils that are exceptionally damp. Unfortunately, white rot survives in the soil for many years in hardy black “sclerotia” about the size of a mustard seed. It can infect alliums in that area for years to come.

The only means of preventing white rot is through sourcing quality disease-free garlic seed and practicing a 3-5 year crop rotation of where you plant alliums in the garden.

Black Mould (Aspergillus spp.)

Mould Infection
Only irrigate at the base to avoid this fungus that will shrivel both the bulb and neck of your crop.

Another pesky fungal pathogen, Aspergillus causes blackening and shriveling around the neck and bulb of garlic plants. You may notice clumps of powdery black spores and streaks on the leaf veins. The fungus can spread through air, soil, and infected plant parts, so its best to remove and destroy any plant debris at the end of the season if you suspect you have black mould in your garden.

The easiest prevention of black mould is simply only irrigating at the base. This disease likes to take hold on garlic plant surfaces that are wet for more than 6 hours in temperatures above 85°F.

Damping Off

Garlic Sprout
Remove previous crop debris before planting to avoid damping off.

Damping off can cause seedlings to rot just before emergence or right after. It may look like the baby garlic plants have been girdled at the base and the collar portion is rotting away. The pathogen survives on old crop debris in the soil, which is why removing and burning or composting garlic residues is so important.

Damping off is most common in wet climates or areas with high spring humidity. Prevention is key with good soil drainage, drip irrigation, no overwatering, and removing crop debris.

Plant Uses

Peeled Cloves on Cutting Board
Add a few, or more than a few for true garlic lovers, to any savory recipe for enhanced flavor and health benefits.

Garlic is most commonly grown for the prized bulbs or heads. Sometimes heads are roasted whole, but the cloves are used in thousands of different recipes, from sautes to sauces to pizzas to soups to pestos and everything in between. Garlic scapes (the curly flowering stalk of garlic) are also highly coveted in farm-to-table cuisine and can be used in sautes, pestos, as a tasty pizza topping, or grilled whole.

Medicinally, garlic bulbs are known to be excellent for the digestive system, cardiovascular health, and many chronic diseases. There is evidence that garlic can be used to prevent and treat cancer as well as promote overall immune health.

In the garden and household, garlic sprays are often used as a pest repellant or organic pesticide. It is known to repel insects and ticks with its pungent strong smell.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does garlic take to grow?

It can take 8 to 9 months to grow to full bulb maturity. It is typically planted in the fall, overwintered, and harvested in early summer.

What is the best month to plant garlic?

Garlic is commonly planted sometime in September, October, or early November. In southern climates, it should be planted a bit later in November or December, depending on climatic conditions.

Can you grow garlic from a clove?

Technically seed garlic is simply just cloves. You can plant cloves from your kitchen in the garden and grow a full head of garlic. However, culinary garlic tends to be smaller-sized and longer-cured than the higher quality plants sourced from seed companies.

How do I grow garlic in my garden?

Plant in the fall about 4-6 weeks before the first hard frost. Separate the cloves, leaving the wrappers intact (do not peel before planting). Then, make a furrow about 2-3” deep and place the plant flat-side down with the pointy side facing up. Garlic can be grown 6” apart with about 12-24” between rows. Backfill so that the cloves are 2-3” below the soil surface. Mulch with 2-3” of straw and keep consistently moist. The plant will sprout in the spring and be ready to harvest around early summer.

Does garlic grow better in sun or shade?

Garlic needs to be grown in full sunlight for proper bulb formation.

Final Thoughts

Once you learn to grow garlic, you’ll never want to go back to grocery store cloves. This allium will quickly become one of your favorite plants thanks to its quirky growing season, low-maintenance attitude, and flavorful versatility in the kitchen. Just don’t forget to save your best bulbs for next year’s planting!

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