This is a complete guide for “How to Grow Garlic from a Clove,” from planting, to maintenance, to harvesting and storage. Plant this fall to get a bountiful harvest next summer in your own garden.
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My Experience Growing Garlic from a Clove
As the garden season is winding down for most plants, it’s just starting for the powerhouse of many recipes, garlic!
This past year was my first year growing garlic in my own garden. While it is an easy plant to grow and I did get a garlic harvest, I also ran into some issues which inspired me to do more research so next year’s harvest will be bigger and better!
Last year, 2020, was the year of the garden, which in turn translated into not being able to get the seeds and plants that would normally be available. I missed the boat when ordering garlic from a seed company, so I ended up just planting store bought garlic and hoping for the best.
They did grow and I did get small harvest, much to my surprise since the garlic plants didn’t look too healthy in my garden.
After researching, I’ve definitely found things I plan to change for growing this coming year.
Below is a compilation of research I have gathered on growing garlic. Hopefully this helps you feel confident to grow garlic in your own garden this year.
A Little Bit More About Allium (aka garlic)
Garlic is a part of the allium group of flowering plants. I don’t know whether you have seen the beautiful large purple flowers in some ornamental gardens but they are apart of the same group of plants as garlic.
Here’s a photo I found on pinterest. I need to get some of these for my garden. They make such a statement!
Some other great culinary plants in the Allium family are scallions, onions, shallots, leeks, chives, etc. (source)
The Many Uses of Garlic
There are many reasons why having a good store of garlic in your home is a good idea. The main use everyone is familiar with is, of course, garlic makes food taste amazing.
But there are some other amazing things garlic can do as well.
Garlic for your apothecary – I’ve used garlic for colds, flu, group B strep in pregnancy, etc. I started to write down my experiences using garlic for illness but then realized I needed a whole separate post for that. So I’ll be working on a post for how I use garlic in my home for illness.
Garlic as a wormer – Raw garlic is a natural dewormer for humans and animals. Although you will hear cautions from experts about using garlic for animals, I’ve found it to be fine in small doses. Just like with any medication too much will harm. The right amount does what it is supposed to do. ***Try at your own risk.***
Companion planting with garlic – Garlic can deter pest and is great to grow near pest prone plants like fruit trees.
Garden pest repellent spray – blending a few garlic cloves with water and 1 T of oil or dish detergent and putting in a spray bottle is a great pest repellent, but must be used often.
Understanding the difference between Hardneck, Softneck and Elephant Garlic
- Has a more mild flavor.
- Grows around a central thick stalk.
- Produces around 12 large cloves per bulb.
- Shorter storage life than softneck varieties (around 4-6 months).
- Is hardier in colder climates, making it a more popular choice for northern regions.
- Produce scapes that need to be trimmed but can be eaten fresh.
- Has a pungent garlic flavor.
- Produces more smaller cloves than hardneck varieties.
- The flexible stem allows the garlic to be braided once cured.
- Has a longer storage life and will keep many months when stored properly.
- Not actually garlic but considered a leek.
- Behaves like a hardneck variety.
- Produces a mild flavored garlic and is often eaten raw.
- The bulbs grow very large.
- Peeling one clove will give a large amount of garlic all at once.
- Will store for a long time when stored properly.
How To Grow Garlic From A Clove
All About Planting
Garlic prefers to grow in full sun with moist loose soil. This allows the bulbs to have room to spread as they grow more easily.
When to Plant – The time to plant garlic will vary a little depending on your region but in general, once the days are cooling off is the best time to get them in the ground. Garlic needs to go through a cold period in order for the bulbs to start growing in the early spring.
Although mid to late winter planting (Jan-March) will offer enough of a cold period for good growth, around the end of October is a great time to plant before the ground gets hard and the days become freezing cold.
How to Plant – Plant with the pointed end up about 2-3 inches deep, 3-6 inches apart with each row 12-14 inches apart. Mulch heavily after planting. Mulch will help insulate the bulbs during the winter and keep the earth moist and cool in the hot summer.
Companion Planting – Garlic is compatible with most other garden produce. It can be interplanted with other crops and will act as a natural pest repellant. It doesn’t grow well with legumes or certain flowers so keep that in mind when planning your garden.
Garlic is one of the plants that works well for fruit tree guilds. Fruit tree guilds are basically a mini permaculture garden. It works to add nutrients to the soil with certain plants and protects from pests with other plants. Here’s an article that explains more about what a guild is and how to grow one.
All About Growing
Maintenance – It is important to keep garlic free from weeds as they will compete with the growing garlic and can result in small, weak bulbs. Also don’t let the ground dry out during the growing period. Mulching heavily will help to keep the ground moist and the weeds down.
Once the garlic has reached around a foot high stop regular watering. The bulbs will grow larger as they come closer to the time of harvesting.
A few days to a week before harvest, stop watering completely and allow the ground to dry out.
Early Harvesting – If growing hardnecked garlic, the garlic scapes need to be cut or else the plant will put its energy into making a flower instead of a clove.
Scapes will grow in a loop and eventually produce flowers if left on the plant. When they have made one complete circle it’s time to cut them. Don’t throw them out as they can be used in cooking like green onions but with a garlic flavor!
Not only can you harvest the scapes but it is also possible to harvest some small shoots in early spring and use like chives or green onions. Don’t cut too many of the garlic shoots or that will cause your garlic harvest to suffer later.
All About Harvesting and Curing
When to Harvest – Softnecked garlic will mature slightly faster than hardneck varieties, so it is important to know which variety you are growing.
The garlic plant doesn’t make clove until right before it is time to harvest so don’t pull them up too soon. A way to hurry the process along is to knock over the green leaves. This cause the energy to be put into the bulbs. Hot weather will cause the garlic to mature faster as well.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to harvesting garlic. Some say to harvest when the green leaves start to fall over and die. Others say to harvest when the leaves are still green. This is something you have have to experiment with to see what works best for you and your growing region.
Some people plan to harvest their hardneck garlic around 2 weeks after cutting their scapes.
Leaving garlic in the ground too long will cause the bulb to start rotting and the outer skin will come off.
How to Harvest – Once the cloves have grown and it is time to harvest, it is best to wait for a couple of dry days. This will keep the bulbs cleaner when you pull them up as well as help them to dry a bit quicker.
Pull up the bulbs and peel of outer skin to expose the white clean underneath and trim the roots.
How to Cure – Lay the freshly harvest garlic in the sun to cure for a few days. When the sun is really strong it can cause the garlic to start to deteriorate so moving them to a shady dry well ventilated location is best for the rest of the curing process which takes about 4 weeks. This ensures the garlic cloves will store through the winter months.
All About Storing
Once completely cured, the garlic cloves can be hung for storing.
For softnecked garlic, you can braid them together.
For hardnecked varieties they can be bundled together with string or stored in a breathable bag or basket.
A basement or root cellar is a great place to keep your homegrown garlic fresh all winter long.
Can you save your own garlic cloves to grow for next year?
If you plan to grow more garlic, be sure to save your best bulbs to replant again in the fall.
Some people will say it isn’t good to use your own garlic to grow again as it can result in more disease or pest problems.
However, I’ve also heard from experienced gardeners that they’ve used the same garlic year after year with no problems.
I guess this is something you will have to decide for yourself. Personally, I plan to save my own since garlic from seed companies are expensive to keep purchasing every year.
Hope this article was helpful and informative. Be sure to leave any questions or additional thoughts below. I’ll periodically come on and update this page with new information as I learn more. Gardening is such an adventure!