Would you like to find out how to grow garlic? It’s such an easy crop to grow!
Growing garlic doesn’t take up much space, it’s not very fussy, and there are lots of different varieties available for you to experiment with. It’s also a great crop to involve children with too, because it’s easy and fun to plant.
How to grow your own garlic
If you’re thinking “This all sounds great – so how do I grow garlic?”, you’re in the right place!
This post covers everything you need to know about garlic growing. I’ve included advice on when, where and how to plant garlic bulbs, plus tips on caring for your garlic plants, harvesting your garlic bulbs, and how to grow garlic in pots.
How does garlic grow?
Garlic is grown from a bulb. Each bulb is made up of a number of garlic cloves. You’ll be very familiar with garlic bulbs; they look the same as the garlic you buy in the supermarket.
To grow garlic, you break the bulb up and plant each clove in the ground. Each clove will grow into a new bulb of garlic – so just one bulb can produce a sizeable garlic harvest.
When to plant garlic
You can plant *garlic in autumn or spring. Apparently autumn-planted varieties tend to be more successful and produce larger bulbs. I’ve always planted my garlic in autumn, mainly because it’s one less crop to get started in the madness of spring planting!
Where should I plant garlic in the garden?
Does garlic need full sun? Ideally, yes. Growing garlic in full sun gives you the best chance of harvesting lots of large, tasty bulbs.
If you grow garlic in partial shade it will still produce bulbs, but these are likely to be smaller. The flavour shouldn’t be affected though.
The best soil for growing garlic
Garlic likes growing in a loose soil which has good drainage. It doesn’t enjoy sitting in water, and can rot if it’s exposed to soggy conditions. If your soil is a heavy clay, it’s a good idea to either add sand before planting, or grow garlic in raised beds or pots.
Can you plant garlic from the grocery store?
Ideally you should buy *garlic bulbs for planting from the garden centre or a seed supplier. These are the best garlic bulbs to plant, because they will be certified virus-free and more likely to grow well. Having said that, I have planted supermarket-bought garlic in the past and it has grown. The bulbs were on the small side, but they were perfectly usable. I would say that if you can’t make a special trip to the garden centre give it a try!
Can you plant garlic that has sprouted?
It’s fine to plant garlic that has sprouted. A sprouted clove has just begun the process of growing. As long as it’s nice and firm with no signs of damage, it should still grow perfectly well once planted.
How to grow garlic from a clove
Ready to have a go at growing your own garlic? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to plant garlic cloves.
Before you begin your garlic bulb planting, you need to prepare your soil. Remove any weeds, dig over the soil, and rake the surface to even it out.
Do you peel garlic before planting?
You don’t need to peel garlic cloves before you plant them. It’s fine if some of the papery outer layer flakes off, but try to leave the skins intact. They provide protection against bacteria, and help prevent a sprout emerging before roots have formed.
How deep to plant garlic
Planting garlic bulbs is very simple. Break up your bulb of garlic into individual cloves, then plant each clove about an inch below the surface of the soil. Make sure the pointy end of each clove is facing up.
How far apart to plant garlic
Depending on your garlic variety, you will need to leave 10-15cm space between cloves (4-6 inches apart). Leaving the right amount of room will help each garlic clove grow well, and avoid your cloves competing with each other for nutrients. It’s always worth checking the packaging for the variety you’re growing, to make sure you get this bit right.
Once your garlic cloves are all in place, fill the trench back in so that the cloves sit just below the surface of the soil.
As you garlic plants grow, keep on top of any weeds that emerge. Leaving these in the ground will inhibit the growth of your crop.
Great companion plants for garlic
Garlic is a great companion plant, because it acts as a natural pest and fungus deterrent. Growing it alongside other crops will provide those crops with some natural protection. Because it’s quite a small plant, it’s easy to tuck it in amongst your other fruit, vegetables, and even flowers, to help keep pests under control.
Vegetables that grow well alongside garlic include potatoes, beetroot, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, kale, peppers and cabbage. Roses, nasturtiums, marigolds and geraniums are all good companion flowers for garlic.
Avoid growing peas, beans and asparagus near garlic, as it can limit their growth.
Water the row well after planting your garlic cloves, but don’t water it again over winter.
Water your growing garlic in spring and early summer if the weather is very dry. Avoid watering once the bulbs are looking nicely formed, as doing so can cause them to rot.
Fertiliser for garlic
Garlic is a hungry plant, and it’s in the soil for a long period of time, so it’s a good idea to feed it with a suitable fertiliser. If you’re planting garlic in autumn, start feeding your plants in spring.
The best fertiliser for garlic plants is one that’s rich in nitrogen – check the label before you buy. Make sure also that you go for a *plant food which is designed specifically for edible plants.
You can also add compost or manure to the soil before planting garlic, to give the plants a boost right from the start.
How to grow garlic in a pot
If you don’t have much space in your garden, you can grow garlic in a pot. Garlic will grow perfectly well in a container, so if you’ve only got a patio or balcony you can still grow your own supply. Here’s how to grow garlic in pots.
To grow garlic in a pot, ideally you should use a container that has a minimum depth of 20cm. This will provide enough space for strong root growth.
The method for planting garlic in pots is the same as for planting it in the ground. Fill your container with compost (multipurpose compost is fine), and plant each clove about an inch below the surface of the soil. Leave 10-15cm between each clove, and don’t plant any cloves close to the edge of the pot.
Water your container once the cloves are planted, and keep an eye on moisture levels after this. Containers tend to dry out more quickly than soil, so you might need to water your pot if the weather is dry.
How to grow garlic indoors
It’s possible to grow garlic indoors, but it’s important to understand that you won’t be able to grow a bulb of garlic in the same way as you can by planting it outdoors.
If you grow garlic in a pot indoors, the cloves will produce garlic sprouts. These are the green leaves that grow out of the top of the clove. You can use them as seasoning in your cooking; their flavour is usually lighter than fresh garlic.
Keep the soil in your pot moist, and try to place it in a position that receives good natural light. Harvest your garlic sprouts as you need them, until you’ve used them all up and the bulb is exhausted.
How long does garlic take to grow?
Given that garlic grows underground, you might be wondering how you know when garlic is ready to harvest. Autumn-planted garlic will be ready for harvesting around July next year. If you’re planting garlic in spring, it will be ready to harvest slightly later.
How to harvest garlic
Garlic is ready to harvest when the foliage turns yellow. If you’re thinking “Why is my garlic plant dying?”, the answer is because the leaves have done their job and it’s time to harvest!
If you’re not sure whether your garlic ready, just dig up one plant to see what size the bulb is – if you’re careful, you can have a quick look and re-plant if necessary.
When you’re ready to harvest your garlic, lift the bulbs gently with a fork. Lay them out in a single layer to dry off, a well-ventilated greenhouse or shed is ideal for this. It will take around two to four weeks for the bulbs to dry out, obviously this is very much dependent on the weather.
Once all the foliage is showing no signs of moisture, you can cut the stalks off and store – or eat! – your garlic bulbs.
You can also take a look at this video for a guide to growing garlic:
And that’s it, a quick guide on how to grow garlic at home that will hopefully give you a lovely crop of garlic for your cooking. Will you be growing your own garlic this year?
More grow your own tips
For more inspiration on growing your own you might like to take a look at these posts: