This blog post will explore how to grow garlic, from planting the cloves to storing them.
Garlic is a hardy crop that can be grown in any garden and can produce a great harvest for you. This guide will show you all of the steps involved with growing garlic so that you have an easy reference point for future gardening endeavors!
Garlic is a bulb containing a central stem surrounded by cloves and a root at the bottom. It also has flat leaves and a basal plate that stores energy and nutrients. Garlic helps with immunity and has many health benefits, so it is worth exploring!
If you are interested in a particular topic on how to grow garlic, just jump right in:
Step 1. Prepare Garlic Cloves
Although garlic is closely related to onions, they are grown differently. Garlic is best to grow from cloves as opposed to seed garlic. Each clove grows and produces a whole new garlic bulb.
When people say “garlic seeds” most of the time, they are actually talking about garlic cloves. This article will discuss how to grow garlic from cloves only. But, If you do come across genuine garlic seeds, they should be treated similarly to onion seeds.
Softneck garlic and hardneck garlic are the two most common types of garlic.
Softneck Garlic Varieties
- Produces more but smaller and thinner cloves.
- Does not store well, only for up to 3 to 4 months.
- Does not have the luxury of producing flowers since the stem snaps off before the flower can sprout.
- Some varieties of Softneck garlic are Inchelium Red, Silver White, California Early, California Softneck, and Italian Loiacono.
Hardneck Garlic Varieties
- Produces fewer but larger and thicker cloves.
- Can be stored longer than softneck, up to 12 months.
- Has a central stem that can produce a flower when conditions are right.
- Some varieties of Hardneck garlic are Metechi, Siberian, Purple Glazer, Spanish Roja, and Chesnok Red.
So, choose which type you want to grow. If you are unsure, get both types and see which one does better in your garden.
Pro Tip: You can also choose cloves of store-bought garlic as your seeds. Most of them will sprout but don’t expect them to perform very well. They might not be the best for your region. Great garden experiment, though!
Step 2. Prepare the Soil for Garlic
Garlic is a cold-season crop, so the soil preparation for growing garlic should begin when the summer crops are harvested.
The soil for garlic is required to be rich in nutrients and should drain well. Weeds and the remains of summer crops should be removed from your soil. Mix some homemade compost or well-rotted manure in with the soil. Rake the surface smooth. If you do not have homemade compost, you can use store-bought organic compost.
The same soil properties apply if you want to grow garlic in containers.
Step 3. Planting Garlic Cloves
Once the soil is ready, and you have a garlic variety selected, follow the steps below for planting garlic.
- Break apart the head of garlic into individual cloves. While breaking them, do not remove the papery husk that is on each individual clove.
- Check cloves to make sure no mold is present. If some of the garlic cloves have mold on them, discard these cloves. You can plant the rest of them.
- Garlic must be planted in the autumn as it requires cold weather to grow well.
- Press the cloves into the ground with the pointy side up and flat side down, 2 inches (5 cm) deep and 4 inches (10 cm) apart. Cover them with soil.
If you decide to plant in containers, fill containers with compost or manure mixed with potting soil. Then place the cloves pointy side up to about an inch deep. Cover them with soil.
After planting, water your newly planted garlic well. Keep the area moist until the shoots emerge.
Step 4. Care for Garlic Plants
Garlic plants don’t need much looking after, but some things need to be considered. Those are:
As the soil does not completely dry out during the autumn and winter, garlic becomes a low-maintenance crop. Water the soil regularly throughout the spring and summer months but less frequently as the foliage begins to yellow. The yellowing of garlic leaves is an indication that the bulbs are fully developed.
If growing in containers, regularly check for wetness or dryness. The soil should be moist, so water as required.
Remove weeds between the plants to decrease competition for water and nutrients. Weed by hand as tools might damage the emerging bulbs.
Mulching around your newly planted garlic is optional, but it is very beneficial. It will help suppress weeds and keep moisture in. Mulch will also break down (decompose) and enrich the soil with nutrients for any future crops.
Step 5. Harvest Garlic
The timing of the garlic harvest can be tricky. To get the biggest bulb size, leave the heads in the ground as long as possible. The garlic bulb size doubles in the last stage of its growth.
These plants may take 7 to 8 months to mature. So, when leaves become yellow or brown, and the tops start falling over, it means garlic plants are ready to be harvested. However, do not mistake harvest time for the yellowing of leaves caused by diseases. If the discoloration starts before month 7, this can indicate a lack of nutrients or the start of the disease.
Fertilize garlic with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer if a lack of nutrients causes the garlic leaf discoloration.
When harvesting, loosen the soil around each garlic with hand tools. Dig up your garlic and brush off excess soil. New bulbs can bruise easily, so don’t scrub garlic too much.
Pro Tip: If you leave the garlic in the ground for too long, the cloves will separate. Then each clove will grow into an individual plant. There is nothing to worry about, as garlic plants will grow normally, and the separated cloves will become bulbs. The only downside of leaving them growing in a clump is that you will get smaller bulbs.
Step 6. Cure Garlic
Garlic is perishable and can be stored fresh only for a brief time after it has been harvested. So, it is essential to dry and cure garlic to preserve its shelf life.
The most efficient way to dry and cure garlic is to tie them in a bunch of 10 bulbs and hang them on a string in a dry and cool area. You can also place them on a flat surface but ensure to turn the garlic every day for even exposure to air.
When the outer skins are dry and crispy and the core of the cut stem is stiff, curing is complete. Curing can take from 10 to 14 days. After that, cut off roots and stems close to the bulb.
Step 7. Store Garlic
Storing garlic is easy as long as the curing process is done correctly. By storing garlic in a cool, dry place, you can keep it for up to 4 months if it’s softneck garlic and up to 12 months if it’s hardneck.
Garlic can be stored in net sacks or mesh bags but avoid storing it in plastic bags for extended periods.
The most ideal storage condition is a temperature between 56 – 58 oF (13 – 14 oC) with a humidity level of 50% or less. A basement, an outbuilding, an underground, or a garage is the best place to store garlic. Those areas usually have lower humidity levels.
If stored incorrectly or for too long, garlic will become spongy and soft, the intense flavor will fade, and mold will start growing.
Garlic Pests and Their Control
Garlic is resilient and can withstand most pests. It is also planted as a companion plant to many fruits, vegetables, and flowers to deter pests. Still, some pests are attracted to garlic. These are onion maggots, thrips, and leafminers. Below is a short description and control measures for each of them.
An onion maggot is a larva of a small fly. It belongs to a larger family of flies called root maggots. The onion maggots are about 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) long and slightly smaller than houseflies. The larvae are creamy-colored, with pointed heads and elongated bodies. Basically, they look like all other maggots.
Onion maggots favor onions, but flies will lay eggs in the soil at the base of garlic too. Onion maggots will tunnel toward the base of the garlic plant, causing injury. This injury will wound older plants and can kill young ones.
Beneficial insects like rove beetles will give you some control over onion maggots. Beneficial nematodes will be more helpful.
You may also use spinosad-based sprays to control these pests naturally.
Pro Tip: Practice crop rotation. To eliminate these pests using crop rotation, you must avoid growing any plant from the Allium family (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, chives, and scallions) for two years. These should not be grown in your garden or anywhere else within a 1 mile (1.6 km) radius. Not so easy, is it! For this reason, biological control using predatory insects is the best method.
These bugs are tiny and translucent orange or yellow in color. Their bodies are narrow, measuring approximately 1/32 inches (1 mm) in size. Some thrips species like onion thrips  and Western flower thrips  will attack garlic and also other Allium family members (onions, shallots, leeks, chives, and scallions).
The damage caused by thrips is not fatal to the plants, but over time it may destroy plants by providing access to certain diseases.
Also, good gardening practices like regular weeding and crop rotation will reduce places where thrips may hide.
For bigger infestations, you can use neem oil, insecticidal soap, or spinosad.
Allium leafminers are the smallest of the onion files that are yellow and black in color. The larvae are yellow and white maggots that measure about 0.3 inches (8 mm) in length. They will tunnel between the leaf layers of tissue or under leaf scars. They can also eat their way into the garlic bulbs. 
Leafminer damage may not kill your garlic plants, but it will reduce their growth and vigor.
As with other pests, biological control is the best method for controlling leafminers. Attract parasitic wasps into your garden.
You may use neem oil and insecticidal soap to control these pests. Also, keep adult flies away from your crops by installing floating row covers.
Garlic Diseases and Their Control
Garlic, same as other members of the Allium family, is susceptible to a variety of diseases, a few are listed below.
The symptoms of white rot include the yellowing of older leaves, and stunted plant growth. White fluffy growth appears on the bulb’s base and spreads up the leaves, eventually killing the whole plant.
The field is unusable for garlic cultivation once the fungus has taken hold. White rot is able to stay in the soil for 20 years and is one of the world’s most serious diseases afflicting Allium crops, resulting in substantial yield losses.
Avoid transferring soil from an infected area and do not place infected plants into compost. Fungicide treatment and crop rotation are the best ways to eliminate white rot. 
Rust disease is caused by fungi. This fungus’s spores can be carried great distances by the wind.
Circular or elongated orange bumps form on the leaves and stems. If plants are left in the field, leaves will turn yellow, and garlic plants will die.
Some fungicides can be used to control this disease. The best is to avoid it by using disease-free seeds and creating a less favorable environment for fungi. This includes planting garlic in well-drained soil and weeding around crops. 
Garlic Enemy and Companion Plants
Plants may be both allies and rivals. Some can help one another in a variety of ways when they are next to each other. Companion plants may provide a variety of advantages, including pest control, habitat for beneficial insects, enhanced crop yields, pollination, and much more.
Not all plants get along. Some plants compete for the same resources, which leads to reduced growth and productivity.
Plants that may be planted as companions and plants to avoid when growing garlic are listed below.
Garlic Companion Plants:
Garlic Enemy Plants:
What to Do Next
Garlic needs little effort to grow, making them one of the “seed and leave it alone” crops. So why not give it a shot? If you want to try growing garlic in your garden this autumn, go ahead and use our easy How To Grow Garlic Guide.
If you liked our How To Grow Garlic guide, then check out our other Growing Guides. Read and learn more easy step-by-step tutorials.
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