How to Grow Garlic

garlic plants growing

by Jennifer Poindexter

Did you know garlic is a borderline superfood?

Yes, this small, fragrant food contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In the past, it has been used to help with high cholesterol and to maintain heart health.

If you’re interested in consuming more of this food, why not grow it? Garlic is easy to plant, low-maintenance, and has few enemies in the garden.

Here’s what you should know to grow garlic.

Growing Conditions for Garlic

Garlic is a great choice if you live in planting zones three through eight. It needs well-draining soil that’s also looser. This allows the bulb to grow more freely.

This plant does need some sunlight. Anywhere that receives full to partial sun should work to grow garlic.

You should also avoid planting garlic where other members of the onion family were planted recently because the soil may have been drained of the nutrients garlic needs.

If you don’t have a nice grow space for garlic, don’t give up just yet. Instead, consider raising garlic in a raised bed or container.

I’ve grown garlic for years and always in a raised bed to better control the elements of which it’s grown in, and I’m happy to report I’ve had great success.

Get creative and figure out how to provide the few elements garlic needs to grow well, even if it means practicing different gardening methods.

How to Plant Garlic

When you’ve located a specific place or gardening method to grow garlic, it’s time to begin planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall or spring as it’s a cold weather crop.

Make sure the soil is loose. Once everything is ready to receive the garlic bulbs, add compost and a balanced fertilizer prior to planting.

This will ensure the garlic has everything it needs in the soil for easy feeding. The garlic cloves should come in larger chunks.

Divide the clove out into sections. It should have natural dividers within the bulb. When you have each section divided, it’s time to place them in the soil.

Place each section a half foot apart within each row. Rows should have a foot of space between them. The garlic should only be planted two inches beneath the soil with the narrow end pointing up.

I always leave the narrow tip sticking out of the soil but press dirt firmly around the rest of the plant. Once everything is planted, water adequately.

After the garlic is planted, it’s time to learn about caring for the crop until harvest.

blossoming garlic

Caring for Garlic

Garlic is a low-maintenance plant. The only thing it needs from you is proper mulching, fertilizer, water, and to know when to stop supplying water.

Mulch is a benefit to garlic because it helps insulate the crop during cold weather. It also helps to keep weeds down and moisture in the soil surrounding the plants.

For these reasons, it’s important to apply a good amount of mulch around your garlic plants once they’re planted.

Watch the growing plants to spot leaf formation. When the leaves begin growing on the garlic, it’s time to add a slow-release fertilizer.

The fertilizer should be high in nitrogen as garlic requires a great deal of this nutrient to grow properly. Once you’ve fertilized, add more mulch around the garlic.

Over time, you may see some stalks of the garlic begin to flower. If this happens, remove them. This is the garlic plant going to seed.

The more energy the plant puts into producing seeds, the less that’s going towards the bulb. By removing the flowering stalk, you’re encouraging everything to go to the bulb instead of the plant.

Water is essential to the growth of any plant. Make sure your garlic plants receive approximately an inch of water per week.

If nature supplies this amount of water, that counts. If not, deep water the garlic. This means watering the plant fewer times per week for longer periods.

It allows water to go to the roots of the plants and helps to form stronger root systems. If you’re unsure of when your crops need water, test the soil.

Stick your finger into the dirt around your plants. If it’s dry up to your first knuckle, it’s time to water. If not, wait a few days and test the moisture in the soil again.

After the garlic plants stop producing leaves, it’s time to stop supplying water. Pull the mulch away from the base of the plant. This will allow the bulbs to dry before harvest.

Once this step of the care process is complete, you’ve accomplished everything needed to properly tend to a garlic crop. 

Garden Pests and Diseases for Garlic

There’s only one threat you should be made aware of when growing garlic. This is white rot. White rot is a fungus which grows in the soil.

It can impact any member of the onion family, but unfortunately, garlic is one of the most likely to attract this disease.

To avoid white rot, it’s important to practice crop rotation. Also, make sure you practice good garden hygiene.

Keep all debris out of the grow space, dip garlic bulbs in warm water prior to planting, and clean all tools used to plant in an attempt to avoid introducing the fungus to the area and avoid spreading it.

If you see signs of white rot in your garlic bed, there are fungicides available to control the growth of the fungus.

It can be difficult to fully rid the area of the fungus. Once it’s in the soil, it can live for as long as 20 years which is why it’s best to avoid it all together.

Other than this disease, there are no pests which bring a threat to garlic because it’s used as a pest deterrent in many grow settings.

If you’re searching for a crop you can grow which won’t be under attack by a variety of pests and diseases, garlic could be it.

How to Harvest Garlic

Does garlic seem too good to be true? It’s easy to plant, doesn’t need a ton of care, and doesn’t have many threats.

We’re getting ready to add one more easy thing to the list of garlic. It’s also simple to harvest. You’ll know your garlic crop is ready for harvest once the foliage of the plant turns brown and falls over to die back.

When you see this occurring, pull the bulbs out of the bed. If you have a bulb that’s tough to remove from the soil, use a spade to carefully dislodge it.

In this process, be careful not to splice into the bulb. Place the bulbs in a covered location to allow them to dry for three weeks.

Put the bulbs on wire drying racks or on a tarp during this drying period. This will allow air to circulate around them.

At the end of the three weeks, cut the tops off the bulbs. Place them in netting and hang them in a cool, dry location such as a basement or root cellar. You could also choose a dark corner of your pantry.

Once you’ve harvested your garlic and placed it in storage, you’ve completed the entire process of growing garlic.

Homegrown garlic is delicious, easy, and packs a ton of flavor. It also contains many nutrients your body needs. If you’d like to add more garlic to your diet, growing your own is an easy and inexpensive way to go about it.

Learn More About Growing Garlic

garlic plants in garden and harvested garlic with text overlay how to grow garlic

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