How to Plant, Grow & Harvest Garlic

Overview

Garlic, Allium sativum, produces a clove of many individual bulbs covered by a thin paper-like skin. The large cloves are best for planting. Plant garlic in the fall, allowing the bulbs to develop roots during the winter, then sprout in the spring. Garlic is a heavy feeder and prefers well-drained loamy soils that are high in organic matter. There are many varieties of garlic with variations in flavor, strength and coloring. Growing your own garlic allows you to explore and discover the varieties that you prefer.

Step 1

Dig or till the soil to loosen it. Perform a soil test for pH and fertility. Adjust pH as needed to between 6.2 and 6.8. Fertilize as recommended by the soil test.

Step 2

Purchase garlic bulbs that are recommended for your area. Grocery store bulbs may not be suitable for your climate.

Step 3

Separate the bulbs one to two days before planting, keeping the husks on the clove. Plant approximately 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart with the tips facing up. Elephant garlic needs to be planted 3 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart.

Step 4

Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch. Keep the garlic bed free of weeds. Hand pull weeds as they appear.

Step 5

Water to keep the soil moist, applying approximately 1 inch of water each week until the end of the growing season. Sandy soils may need more water. Discontinue irrigation two weeks before harvesting to allow the cloves to dry slightly.

Step 6

Break off flower stalks as they appear. Flower development takes energy away from the development of the bulbs.

Step 7

Fertilize garlic in the spring when plants first sprout and again three to four weeks later. Apply a top dressing of high-nitrogen formula with other nutrients, as recommended by your soil test.

Step 8

Harvest garlic when the lower leaves turn brown and dry out. Loosen the soil with a trowel or fork and pull the garlic bulbs by hand.

Step 9

Cure garlic bulbs for three or four weeks before storing. Hang small bunches of garlic bulbs in a warm dry area or spread them out on racks to dry. In wet weather, dry whole cloves in a forced air dryer.

Step 10

Store cured garlic in a mesh bag in a well-ventilated area at 32 to 35 degrees F. Save the largest cloves for planting next year. Leave the bulb whole for storage.

Things You'll Need

  • Tiller or shovel
  • Trowel or gardening fork
  • Soil test
  • Fertilizer

References

  • Ohio State University Extension: Growing Garlic in the Home Garden
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Growing Garlic
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Garlic
Keywords: plant garlic, grow garlic, harvest garlic

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.