How Do You Grow Garlic for Beginners?

For beginners, growing garlic can seem daunting, but actually, it's quite an easy task! Begin with a garlic bulb and break it into individual cloves; these planted can reap almost 20 garlic bulbs! You can do it in your garden or a plant pot, depending on your preference. 

It's best to buy good quality garlic too. Seed garlic has the best results, although you can use organic garlic from a store if needed. Check when your garlic needs to be planted; most are done in the fall, but if you are unsure, November or December are good times to plant your garlic.

Select the sunniest spot of your garden and ensure the soil is well-draining to avoid any water pooling or rot in your garlic. Break the bulb into individual cloves, taking care not to remove their thin skin and plant them into the soil.

Water your garlic, but take care not to flood them. You will want to provide more water in the warmer springtime when your bulbs start to swell. Once planted, you can pretty much leave your garlic to be! They need weekly watering at best and weeding, but that is it!

You can expect them to be ready for harvesting between June and August. The stem will be lying on the ground, indicating that they are ready! Simply remove them from the ground and dry them out in either a glasshouse or window sill. Once dry, you can enjoy them!

Can I grow garlic from shop-bought garlic?

You can grow garlic using shop or store-bought garlic, but you need to be mindful when doing so. Some store-bought garlic is treated with sprout inhibitors, meaning they are unlikely to grow when you plant them.

The inhibitor ensures that the garlic you buy and use doesn’t sprout in your cupboard or the store (as this puts many shoppers off) and is harmless when ingesting properly peeled and prepared garlic.

But these inhibitors mean that you can have difficulty, and your cloves might not sprout and grow as expected. Sometimes these cloves also carry diseases that can affect crops as they continue to grow. Most garlic growers will recommend using diseased free seed garlic that has been certified for best results.

However, there are plenty of garlic growers that use store-bought garlic to grow garlic at home. If you have a garlic head that has already sprouted, then chances are it can continue to grow in the soil!

It can be better to purchase organic garlic as it is less likely to have been blasted with chemicals and should grow better. You can purchase organic garlic at most stores and farmer’s markets, usually at a slightly higher price than other garlic.

You can then plant your garlic as instructed, and in several months, you should have plenty of garlic to enjoy! Some labels will list the chemicals and treatments used on the garlic while growing, so you can check this if you have any concerns before planting your garlic.

Remember, any chemicals used are unlikely to harm you when you eat the garlic, providing it has been peeled before cooking.

Do I peel garlic cloves before planting?

Before planting your garlic cloves, you will not need to peel them. You will need to remove the entire garlic bulb’s outer skin (the white and sometimes flaky covering). Next, you will want to remove each clove, so they are all laid out separately.

Leave the skin or peel on these individual cloves. It's thin and has a papery texture if you are unsure. It's often white, but sometimes more purple/pink in color too. The peel can benefit your garlic when growing and help prevent the cloves from rotting while they are in the ground.

However, if the skin does peel off or part of it comes loose when separating the cloves, do not panic. You can still plant the cloves if the skin has been removed or they were peeled. Some garlic growers remove the peel and never encounter any issues.

While it's best to keep the skin on and give you peace of mind that your chances of rot are reduced, it's not the end of the world if the skin is loose or off. You have a slightly higher risk of rotting, but providing you follow all the guidance and advice for growing garlic, your cloves should still successfully grow into a full head of garlic!

How long does it take to grow garlic?

Depending on the condition, it can take your garlic eight to nine months to grow and be ready for harvesting. If you have planted cloves, it will take this time for one clove to grow into a full head of garlic ready for harvesting.

To achieve this time frame, your garlic needs to be planted and cared for correctly. It needs to be planted in the fall, roughly three to eight weeks before the first freeze of the season. The Cloves will continue to grow through the winter, but you will need to keep an eye on the temperatures and winds to ensure your cloves are properly protected.

As the seasons change, your garlic will also need lots of sun, a good six hours a day, as it continues to grow.

If the conditions are not correct, it can take longer for your garlic to grow or encounter issues along the way. Be sure to follow the guidance you have been given carefully and seek advice if you aren’t sure.

How deep do you plant garlic?

For best results, plant garlic cloves just below the surface of the soil. Plant your garlic roughly 2.5 cm deep with the pointed end facing up. If you are planting multiple cloves, you will want them evenly spaced out. Each clove should be 10-15cm apart, and each row should be 30 cm apart.

Spreading your garlic cloves out like this when plating ensures that you have plenty of space to weed between them and keep them well maintained. It also ensures that your garlic has plenty of space beneath the soil to grow too.

If you are prone to cold temperatures where you live, you can plant the garlic deeper if you wish. You could plant them roughly 7 to 12 cm deep if your soil is fresh and not too wet. Most often, you can do this with your hands too! Garlic can typically tolerate cold temperatures, but the winter winds hitting your soil can impact them.

Those living in these colder and windier climates should consider planting their garlic slightly deeper in the ground to provide them with an additional layer of protection. You can also cover the garlic with a layer of mulch to offer extra nutrients and protection to your new cloves.

How often does garlic need to be watered?

During a growing season, you will need to water your garlic regularly. It needs ½ inch to one inch of water per week. You can provide this in one go or throughout the week if you prefer. You will need to water garlic more often during warm weather to prevent it from drying out. You will also need to water it more frequently if it's growing rapidly.

Provide less water for your garlic during cold weather and when the gloves are first sprouting. When you notice this, ease off so that your garlic can continue to grow as it should. It's also worth stopping to water your garlic for one week when most of your crop has reached maturity.

When 50 to 75% of your garlic has half brown and half green leaves, stop watering your garlic for one week. You should also water it less during the two to four weeks before you harvest the garlic too. Don’t worry about knowing when that is; the garlic tends to tell you! You will notice its final growth spurt and know when it's time to stop watering.

Do you soak garlic cloves before planting?

No, you don’t need to soak garlic cloves before planting! While many garlic growers would soak their garlic before placing them in the ground, the step is not necessary. We see plenty of successful garlic grow from cloves that have not been soaked beforehand.

If you have the time to soak them, then, by all means, soak your garlic cloves! But for those with a little less time on your hands, you can place the garlic cloves directly into the ground and still enjoy wonderful garlic! Remember, you will still need to follow all the steps and advice to ensure that you have a successful crop.

For those that want to soak your garlic cloves before planting, place them in a container with water, organic fish fertilizer, and baking soda. Leave the cloves to soak for at least 15 minutes and up to several hours. The longer, the better, but do not exceed 16 hours.

Drain and place your garlic into another container and cover with vodka or Isopropyl Alcohol (70%). Soak them for twenty minutes and drain them again. You should plant your garlic no later than an hour after its second soak.

Soaking your garlic cloves this way provides them with a boost of energy to help the growing process and offers them a level of protection against several fungal diseases that can affect garlic. While it isn’t necessary to soak them, it can be advantageous if you have the extra time.

Do you water garlic after planting?

Yes, water your garlic after it has been planted. A little water will help settle the soil after planting your garlic and help ensure the garlic settles into the soil correctly, ensuring that it grows successfully. It's important that you only use a little bit of water to do this, as too much can clog the soil or drown your garlic.

You don’t want water to be pooling anywhere, as it can cause the garlic to rot before it even has a chance to grow! When you plant your garlic in the fall, you want to ensure it has enough water to grow, but you don’t want the clove to be sitting in lots of water. It's recommended that you use no more than an inch of water per week.

In colder climates, you will want to use less too. If your fall season is quite dry or warmer than usual, use the full inch per week. If it's colder or wetter, then reduce the amount of water your garlic is having. You want the garlic to settle, so give it and the soil gentle water when you plant it, then wait a few days before following with more water.

If the soil looks too dry, then, of course, you can go in with some more water. As the climate varies across the country, it's hard to give one set piece of advice. Listen to the weather and the soil your garlic is in to make the best decision here.