Fresh Garlic just harvested from our garden
Fresh Garlic just harvested from our garden

Garlic is a staple in our household.  Whether added to a pasta dish, salsa or stir fry – it seems like a clove or two finds its way into our meals almost daily.  In addition, the consumption of garlic has many well known health benefits – including its antioxidant properties.  It is also an easy crop to grow and store, making it a great addition to grow in your garden.

There are two basic types of garlic – hardneck and softneck.  Softneck garlic grows well in warmer and milder climates, and usually are grown in the same calendar season.  They do not produce scapes, but do tend to store a little better than the hardneck.  Softneck varieties are used to make the garlic braids you see in stores.

Hardneck varieties grow best in the cooler climates of the Northern US – and are the most commonly planted form of garlic.  It is also what we plant and will cover in today’s post.  Hardneck garlic should be planted in the fall for an early to mid-summer harvest the following year.  Hardneck varieties are also what produce garlic scapes – the delicate shoots coveted by many chefs and cooks each spring to add great flavor to salads and dishes of all types.

THE BASICS OF HARDNECK GARLIC:

When To Plant:

A single clove of garlic ready to be planted. Separate your bulbs into single cloves and plant with the pointed side up a few inches down in the soil
A single clove of garlic ready to be planted. Separate your bulbs into single cloves and plant with the pointed side up a few inches down in the soil

Although you can plant garlic in the spring, the best time to plant it is in the fall, allowing for a nice mature crop to be harvested the following early summer.  We have grown it both in the spring and fall, and quite frankly, the spring garlic just does not have enough time to develop much bulb growth.  Fall planted garlic can produce larger yields – and the taste is far superior than spring planted bulbs.  For us   best time to plant here is in mid September to early October.

The Soil:

Garlic shooting up in early fall through the straw mulch
Garlic shooting up in early fall through the straw mulch

Much like most vegetables, garlic will grow best in rich, fertile and loose soil – so it is best to work in a generous amount of compost to your soil prior to planting.  If your soil tends to be on the hard-pan clay side, don’t be afraid to add a few shovel-fulls of sand in when you work your beds. Along with the compost, it will help to loosen up the soil structure and make it easier for the garlic to grow.

Planting Garlic:

Each single clove of a garlic bulb is an individual “seed” that will grow a full bulb.  In general – the larger the clove – the larger the full garlic bulb will be that is grown.  We like to select the largest of the bulbs each year to use as our seed cloves for the coming year.  To prepare the cloves for planting –  take your bulbs and separate each clove carefully – trying to keep as much of the papery skin in tact.  The skin serves as a protectant for the garlic as it sits in the soil waiting to sprout.

Make sure to plant with the pointy end of the garlic up.
Make sure to plant with the pointy end of the garlic up.

Some people like to soak their cloves a day or two before planting in a quart jar filled with water and a teaspoon of baking soda.  It is said to help the garlic sprout and help prevent ground rot.  We have never used the procedure and our garlic has always performed well without it. 

Garlic can be mass planted in raised beds or raised rows like ours – so we actually plant 3 rows in a single 18 to 24″ wide strip – leaving about 4 to 5″ inches between each planted row.  It can also be grown in a single row if you wish.

Once you have decided where to plant – dig a trench about 4 inches deep.  We then like to fill in the trench without about an inch of compost, and then plant each bulb down into the compost layer.  When planting – make sure to keep the pointy end of each garlic clove up – and the flat end down.  Then simply cover up with the remaining soil, and add a few inches of straw or shredded leaves as a mulch for the cold winter months.

You should see shoots coming through the ground within 2 to 4 weeks and the garlic will continue to form and grow before going dormant in the cold winter months.  No worries –  it will come back to life in the spring and continue growing.  Keep your garlic weeded and mulched through the spring – the less it has to compete for nutrients – the larger your resulting cloves and harvest will be!

Garlic Scapes:

Garlic scapes snapped off from our plants a few weeks back in June
Garlic scapes snapped off from our plants a few weeks back in June

In late spring / early summer – you will notice curly spikes starting to emerge from your hardneck garlic – these are known as garlic scapes.  You will want to cut these off as they appear – which will force the garlic to grow larger bulbs underneath the soil and not spend it’s energy on the curvy and exotic looking scapes. Don’t just toss away those scapes however – they make a delicious addition to salads and dishes in the kitchen!  See : What To Make With Garlic Scapes

The Harvest:

Here in our Central Ohio climate – garlic is usually ready to harvest around the first week of July.  The tops of the garlic will begin to brown off, and as soon as  to 3/4 of the top stalk begins to die off, it’s harvest time!

Digging up the garlic
Digging up the garlic

Using a pitchfork or a shovel – carefully dig your garlic by digging down about 6 inches beside the stocks – and lifting them slowly from the earth.  We then use our hands to gently knock off all of the soil from around the garlic bulb and roots – taking care not to damage any of the cloves or stems.  The more careful you are in this stage – the better chance your garlic has to cure and then store later without losing any to rot.

Once you have cleaned them off – it’s best to get them out of the direct sun, and begin the process of curing the garlic.  Curing is different from long-term storage.  To cure, we like to hang the garlic in a well ventilated space out of the direct sun.

Garlic curing on our back porch
Garlic curing on our back porch

For us – our back porch is a prime curing location.  We hang the garlic up for a few weeks and allow it to air-dry.  Once the bulbs are dry – you can then cut off the stalk about 1″ above the bulbs and the roots to about a half inch below the bulb.  Store your garlic in a cool-dark place for use throughout the year.   Garlic will keep longer if you allow for air circulation.  We keep ours in a mesh bag in a dark corner area of the basement – and it usually will keep through the winter.

So get ready to plant some garlic this fall and Happy Gardening!

Mary and Jim

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Fresh Harvested Garlic
Fresh Harvested Garlic

28 thoughts on “How To Grow, Cure And Store Your Own Garlic

  • June 28, 2016 at 11:38 am
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    Can garlic be planted in the same location in the garden year after year or do you need to rotate it with other crops?

    Reply
  • July 31, 2015 at 7:57 am
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    Thank you for a great article on garlic. This is my second year growing garlic with much success. I live in a very small space and have hung my garlic in an open closet, which worked out well last year. After harvesting most of them, I laid them out on the floor. I did not get a few garlic out until the green was almost completely dry. They seem to be doing well in spite of that. I am looking forward to another growing session as well as your clear instructions. Very well written article and I was glad to see you are In Ohio as well. Have prosperous growth????

    Reply
  • March 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm
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    I tried to grow garlic at our place in eagle river. No luck. I have added compost, manure, peat, lime, New soil planted in the fall. Covered with straw. Nothing. What else do I have to do

    Reply
  • October 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm
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    Great article on garlic planting. I think I will try that. How do I tell if garlic I buy at the store is softneck or hardneck? Should I purchase garlic from one of the local farmer’s markets to use as starters? Thanks.

    I love your emails and reading about your gardens.

    Paula

    >________________________________ > From: The Farm – Old World Garden Farms >To: msgadget@bellsouth.net >Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 8:33 AM >Subject: [New post] How To Grow, Cure And Store Your Own Garlic > > > > WordPress.com >oldworldgarden posted: ” Garlic is a staple in our household. Whether added to a pasta dish, salsa or stir fry – it seems like a clove or two finds its way into our meals almost daily. In addition, the consumption of garlic has many well known health benefits – including its ” >

    Reply
  • August 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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    Thanks very much for this info, I ordered some garlic from one of the seed companies and I will also buy some from the organic grocery that we usually buy from and I will be planting both and see how they work out, and in your info ‘all about garlic’ It was very informative and I’m really looking forward to my fall planting.

    Reply
  • May 16, 2014 at 2:31 am
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    I planted garlic for the first time this last fall – and I was curious because I never see any mention of any special requirements for the cloves which you plan on replanting that fall… Anything special you need to do for those?

    Reply
  • April 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm
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    I also planted garlic for the first time this year. I just bought a couple of bulbs from the produce section, separated them & stuck them in the end of my raised bed in November (Zone7/6). Covered with about 4 inches of straw, they sprouted beautifully. Now to cut the scapes & see what they do thru the summer.

    Reply
  • March 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm
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    I PLANTED A COUPLE OF CLOVES A MONTH AGO AND THEY HAVE SPROUTED AND LOOK REAL NICE. I DIDN’T KNOW ALL THIS INFO I JUST READ SO I WILL BE DOING EVERYTHING HERE NEXT FALL. THANK YOU I LOVE ALL YOUR ADVICE ON EVERYTHING.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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    I was happy to see this post on HomeTalk. I just planted some garlic but was working blind. It was some organic garlic that I bought at the grocery store. I had extra and thought I would give it a try. Now at least I’m no longer in the dark.
    I am very interested in saving seeds. Some friends gave me tomatoes, peppers, corn and various varieties of squash. I hope to save some seed for next year.

    Reply
  • October 2, 2013 at 9:01 pm
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    I live in California and have planted garlic at this time of the year before. My garlic never gets very big and I try to plant the largest cloves so that they will grow into large bulbs. I planted soft neck garlic. I was wondering how much water to give them. We often don’t get a lot of rain and I don’t want to rot them out with water. Can you help me with how much water garlic needs? Thanks

    Reply
  • August 22, 2013 at 9:58 am
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    Very timely as I have been talking about planting garlic for the first time this fall n my raised bed garden. Where do you get your starter bulbs? Can you use garlic from the grocery store?

    Reply
    • September 12, 2013 at 10:03 am
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      I would like to know the answer to this question as well.

      Reply
  • August 18, 2013 at 10:50 am
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    I planted 3 different types of garlic from “Burpee’s” last year fall(Oct) and had a great crop of garlic to harvest starting in July-August.Your posts are very helpful on all your gardening.One thing I would like to mention is to put your clove root end down in the trench.Thanks,PR

    Reply
  • July 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm
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    How do you know when to harvest the garlic bulbs?

    Reply
    • July 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm
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      Nanny – when the tops of the garlic begin to brown off, and as soon as 1/2 to 3/4 of the top stalk begins to die off, it’s harvest time!

      Reply
      • July 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm
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        Thank-You so much. I learn so much from all of the gardeners out there.

        Reply
    • July 18, 2013 at 7:16 am
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      It can be – and the warmer climates are especially suited to growing softneck varieties.

      Reply
      • September 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm
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        Excellent. I came here specifically to ask (coming from the Life Hacker site…). I live in Florida. I used to live in central Ohio (Hebron, Newark and Columbus).

        Thanks!

        Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 8:01 pm
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    I tried growing garlic last year in spring. Well, I wish I had read this post then. I need to add so sand to my soil and try it again this fall. I didn’t get a one garlic bulb! I was so disappointed. Here in Pennsylvania it can get pretty cold in the winter. But I’ll try again. Thanks for this post. Sue

    Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 7:55 pm
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    I would really like to know which garlic I should start off with. I have alwasy been intimidated by garlic but want to give it a try.. I would assume that NE weather would be similar to Ohio so I should plant about Sept. as well. Please help I have learned so much from following your blog..

    Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm
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    The lighter background is much easier for these 50+ eyes to see!

    I was able to harvest a little garlic this past year and plan to grow it every year from now on, as we use it daily too.

    Thanks for the great walk-through.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 10:26 am
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    Two things…first, I love the changes you’ve made to the site. It is so much easier to see everything! Second, I will soon be planting garlic in our vegetable garden and this article was a huge help to me! Thank you so much.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 9:58 am
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    Thank you for this wonderful post. I have wanted to grow garlic but just didn’t know how. Where should I get my original garlic to plant?

    Reply
  • July 2, 2013 at 8:58 am
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    for those of us who live in apartments, how large a container do i need to grow garlic? and how do i tell if the garlic i have is a hardneck or softneck variety. i know that the ones i really like from the grocery store have a bit of red in the covering – somewhat like the picture of the garlic harvested from your garden.

    Reply

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