How-To-Grow Garlic

How-To-Grow Garlic

Garlic Lovers – Grow Your Own!

It’s the end of October about four to six weeks before frost hits – the best time to plant garlic.  If you choose to plant very early in the spring, you will get a smaller yield. Garlic has many benefits due to the high levels of allicin, a sulfur compound, and other sulfoxides. These sulfur compounds are what give it the stinky smell but at the same time they are responsible for various health benefits.

Garlic is very easy to grow, has a great shelf life and gives a generous crop. Get a good organic supplier, as those sold in the grocery store may not work. Most store-bought garlic cloves have been sprayed with a deterrent to stop them from germinating. If you use them, you may get very poor germination at best, and the varieties may not be suited for the local area. Therefore, purchasing good seed is the way to go.

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Temperature and Planting Season

Garlic is a cool weather crop that resists frost. In order to get bulb development the cloves need to be exposed to temperatures below 65° F . The bulbs are broken apart into individual cloves and planted. Each division of a clove will develop into a full garlic bulb. The seeds of garlic are mostly sterile. They take about eight to nine months to mature, depending on variety. Therefore, a late October planting will be ready to harvest sometime in late June to early July. When you break apart the bulbs into the various cloves the papery husks that protects them from diseases and rot can not get damaged.

Soil and Sun

They like well-drained, rich soil in order to prevent rot from occurring. A raised bed is the best growing condition for this vegetable. Garlic develops a deep root system over the growing season. In the fall, you will not see any top development– only root development will take place. Therefore, before planting, incorporate lots of compost, or composted manure. The extra organic matter will loosen the soil and give it a fluffiness for the bulbs to develop in and absorb the extra moisture to prevent rot.

They need full sun but will grow under partial sun. The more shade they receive the less prolific they will be.

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Stiffneck cloves

Varieties of Garlic

There are three different varieties of garlic: the softnecks, stiffnecks and giant elephant varieties. The softnecks can be braided, as the tops stay soft and pliable. They have a strong flavor. The stiffnecks have a central core as a stem and a ring of cloves around them. The cloves are larger in size and are the most cold-hardy of the varieties. They have a milder flavor. The elephant variety has very large cloves and just a few of them. They are the least cold-hardy.


Plant them 2” deep, with the point upwards and the wider part down, and about 4” to 5” apart within the row and the rows about 15” to 24” apart. A raised bed with good organic soil, allows you to plant them closer together than a soil that is low in organic matter. Elephant garlic gets planted 3” to 4” deep and 6” to 10” apart. The bigger the “seed”, the bigger the plant.


Once planted, mulch with three to four inches of straw or some type of mulch to prevent heaving during the winter months.  Also, mulch keeps the temperature of the soil regulated between strong freeze to thawing out, and may fool the plant too early on to start growing.


Harvesting happens when half the leaves toward the bottom turn brown, even though the tops may still be green. Leaving them in the ground longer may cause them to split and then insects or diseases may come in.  In the Northeast is usually in June or early July.


Garlic will store only if properly cured. This means hanging the whole plant in a dry, well-ventilated area for it to fully dry out. If you live in an area of high humidity, place a ventilator nearby or a dehumidifier.  Drying takes about 3 weeks. Save the best and the largest cloves for next year’s crop.

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