Growing Garlic

Growing Garlic

In the garden, garlic makes a wonderful companion crop and tends to repel most bugs. Planted among members of the cabbage family, it helps repel imported cabbageworm. Many gardeners have also found using sprays made from garlic to be very effective in helping to control plant diseases such as powdery mildew, bean anthracnose, and brown rot in almonds, apricots and peaches.

Garden Preparation

Garlic prefers well-drained, moderately-fertile soil in a sunny spot of the garden. Raised beds are ideal so that water drains quickly and the soil warms earlier in the springtime. If the soil is too fertile, you will end up with lush leaf growth and smaller bulbs.

Before planting, loosen the soil with a rake or hoe. You may want to amend the soil with a root crop fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number) like bone meal or rock phosphate.


Just before planting, break apart each bulb of garlic into its individual cloves, trying to keep as much skin on the cloves as possible. Next, simply poke your finger into the soil until about your third knuckle (2 inches), drop the clove in pointy side up, cover the hole, and pat firmly. Space the next garlic 5 inches further down the row. Each row of garlic should be about 15-18 inches apart. After planting, water the buried cloves well.

To form cloves, garlic must be exposed to temperatures below 41 F (5 C). Thus, if planted too late in the spring, garlic will tend to form large onion-like bulbs instead of individual cloves. In the North, garlic is normally planted in October so that it can establish roots before winter and really take of in the spring. Southern gardeners can only plant garlic if they know the temperature will dip low enough. Often, they can wait until November or December to plant.

Growing & Harvesting

Growing and Using Garlic
Growing and Using Garlic book coverGrowing and Using Garlic
Self-proclaimed garlicaholic Glenn Andrews provides easy-to-follow directions for growing, harvesting, and preserving your own crop of fresh garlic. She also offers simple instructions for making roasted, smoked, and pickled garlic as well as delicious garlicky recipes for condiments, appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, sauces, and entrees.

In springtime, the green tips will start to emerge and the garlic should be side-dressed with fertilizer again by placing the fertilizer 2 inches away from the row and lightly scratching it into the soil. During the growing season, keep garlic keep a mulch of grass clippings or similar material around the garlic to help conserve water and suppress weeds.

When the tops turn yellow in early summer, stop watering. Allow the bulbs to cure in the soil for 2 weeks and then harvest the garlic by pulling the whole plant out of the soil and tying the leaves together. Allow the bulbs to dry on a rack in a warm, dry spot.

Garlic types

Silverskin - This type of garlic is the one most often seen in grocery stores. As the name implies, the skins are silvery-white and the taste is mild & garlicky. Silverskin garlic, often referred to as soft-neck garlic, stores incredibly well and is the type used for making garlic braids.

Rocambole - Also known as serpent garlic, rocambole is classified as a hard-neck. During the growing season, this type of garlic will form flower heads which need to be cut off so they do not drain the resources of the bulb. Most rocambole-types have a very pungent, almost hot flavour and are often identified by the purplish tinge to their skin. Although this is a much more gourmet garlic, it does not store well, usually just a couple of months.

Elephant - The cloves of this garlic can weigh an ounce and will usually give up to 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic. Elephant garlic is actually a member of the leek family and thus, has a much milder taste. If your growing conditions are cool & damp, this is the garlic to choose. The bulbs of elephant garlic should be spaced farther apart, usually 10 inches, to give the plants enough room to grow.

About the Author Arzeena is an agronomist and gardenwriter for Organic Living Newsletter.

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