How to Plant Garlic: A Step-by-Step Guide

Garlic is a versatile and flavorful herb that can enhance the taste of various dishes while also providing numerous health benefits. Growing your own garlic can be a rewarding experience, as it allows you to enjoy the freshest bulbs straight from your garden. If you’re interested in planting garlic, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Types of Garlic

Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum, is a widely cultivated herb that comes in various types, each with its unique characteristics and flavors. Here are some common types of garlic:

  • Softneck Garlic (Allium sativum var. sativum): Softneck garlic is the most commonly found type and is often seen in grocery stores. It is characterized by a soft stem that can be braided easily. Softneck varieties tend to have a milder flavor and a longer shelf life compared to other types. They are well-suited for braiding, making them popular for decorative purposes.
  • Hardneck Garlic (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon): Hardneck garlic is known for its hard central stem or “neck” and often produces a flowering stalk called a scape. This type of garlic typically has larger cloves and a more robust flavor compared to softneck varieties. Hardneck garlic varieties are popular among culinary enthusiasts for their complex and nuanced taste profiles.
  • Rocambole Garlic: Rocambole garlic is a type of hardneck garlic known for its rich and intense flavor. It has a robust, spicy, and sometimes slightly sweet taste. Rocambole varieties are sought after by chefs for their full-bodied flavor and are often used in gourmet cooking.
  • Porcelain Garlic: Porcelain garlic is a hardneck variety known for its large, plump cloves and beautiful white skin. It has a strong and pungent flavor that can be quite spicy. Porcelain garlic is favored by those who enjoy bold garlic flavors and is commonly used in recipes where a strong garlic taste is desired.
  • Artichoke Garlic: Artichoke garlic is a type of softneck garlic that is widely cultivated. It is named for its resemblance to an artichoke in shape and size. Artichoke garlic varieties have a mild to medium flavor and are often favored for their versatility in cooking. They are commonly used in everyday recipes and are a popular choice for roasting.
  • Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum): Despite its name, elephant garlic is not a true garlic but rather a close relative. It produces large bulbs that are much milder in flavor compared to traditional garlic. Elephant garlic cloves are typically used in recipes where a more subtle garlic taste is desired. It is also favored for its ease of peeling and its larger size makes it excellent for roasting.

How to grow and care for garlic

Choose the Right Time

Garlic is typically planted in the fall, a few weeks before the ground freezes. This timing allows the bulbs to establish roots before winter and provides them with a head start for spring growth. Depending on your region, this can range from late September to early November.

Select High-Quality Seed Garlic

To ensure a successful harvest, it’s essential to choose healthy and disease-free seed garlic. Look for bulbs that are firm, plump, and have unbroken skin. Purchase them from reputable nurseries, garden centers, or online suppliers.

Prepare the Soil

Garlic thrives in well-drained soil with good organic matter content. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches and remove any rocks, weeds, or debris. Incorporate compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and drainage.

Break the Bulbs into Cloves

Carefully separate the individual cloves from the garlic bulb, ensuring you keep the papery skin intact. Avoid using damaged or small cloves, as they may produce weaker plants.

Plant the Cloves

Dig furrows or individual holes, approximately 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. Place each clove with the pointed end facing up and the flat end down. Plant them at a depth where the tip of the clove is just covered with soil.

Space the Rows

If you’re planting multiple rows of garlic, space them about 12 to 18 inches apart. This spacing allows enough room for the plants to grow and ensures proper airflow, reducing the risk of diseases.

Water and Mulch

After planting, water the cloves thoroughly to settle the soil and promote root growth. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or chopped leaves, to conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and provide insulation during winter.

Provide Adequate Care

As the garlic begins to grow, it’s important to provide it with proper care. Water the plants regularly, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to rot. Remove any weeds that compete with the garlic for nutrients and sunlight.

Fertilize When Needed

Garlic is a moderate feeder, and a balanced fertilizer can help support its growth. About a month after planting, you can apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to provide the plants with additional nutrients. Follow the package instructions for the appropriate amount to use.


Garlic is usually ready for harvest in late spring or early summer, depending on the variety and planting time. The plants will start to show yellowing and drying of leaves. As the lower leaves turn brown, stop watering to allow the bulbs to mature. When about half of the leaves have dried, carefully dig up the bulbs using a fork, being cautious not to damage them.

Curing and Storage

Once harvested, garlic bulbs should be cured before storage. Lay the bulbs in a single layer in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Allow them to cure for several weeks until the outer skin becomes papery. After curing, brush off any excess soil and trim the roots and foliage. Store the bulbs in a cool and dark place with low humidity, such as a pantry or basement.


To save energy for the bulbs, many garlic producers advise removing the scapes, or topsets, of the garlic plants as soon as they begin to curl. Others think it helps the bulbs in storage and prefer to leave the scapes in tact. Some people choose a medium ground and remove the scapes while they are still used for cooking and before they turn woody.

Propagating Garlic

Garlic is the most simple plant to grow. Simply save a few of the best bulbs for the following season’s planting in the ground or in containers. Replanting bulbs should be stored at ambient temperature with a relative humidity of about 70%.

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