Beginner’s Guide to Growing Garlic


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beginner's guide to growing garlic

If you’ve never grown garlic, this Beginner’s Guide to Growing Garlic will give you all the tools you need from planting to harvest! And if you have grown garlic before, keep reading. You might learn a new trick.

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Garlic

Garlic is great plant to grow as it enhances so many dishes with its wonderful flavor and it has a lot of medicinal qualities as well. I’ve been growing garlic for a number of years and love it. It’s one of my favorite plants to grow, because after it’s planted in the fall, it seems like it grows effortlessly in the spring. Since I consider myself to be a lazy gardening (ha!) I like that a lot. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you grow the best garlic ever!

When to plant garlic

You can typically start planting garlic in the fall just after your first light frost for a summer harvest. I’ve planted my garlic in the snow out here in Eastern Iowa as the fall always seems to get away from me. Just don’t wait too long. It’s impossible to plant when the ground is frozen and garlic needs an average of 6 to 10 months to mature.

You can also plant garlic in the spring for harvest in the fall, but fall plantings typically yield bigger garlic bulbs.

Where to buy seed garlic

Unfortunately, you can’t just take a bulb of garlic you bought at the store and plant it in the garden. You’ll need to source quality seed garlic from a reputable seller. My favorite places to buy seed garlic are Seed Savers, Rare Seeds, or Azure Standard. I look for varieties that will store well and are suited for my harsh climate.

Softneck vs hardneck garlic

There are two main types of garlic you can choose from when deciding what to grow: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic is supposed to have the richest flavor and smaller, but very tight bulbs. It’s best grown in climates with colder winters (like mine) and it’s also the garlic that grows scapes. Softneck garlic on the other hand, grows better in warmer climates where the winters aren’t as cold. Some softneck garlic varieties can produce up to 40 cloves per bulb and they do not grow scapes.

heirloom garlic varities

Read about different types of heirloom garlic to plant this fall here.

How to plant garlic

To plant garlic, separate the bulb into individual cloves leaving the outer skin on. Plant the cloves pointed end up, 6-8″ apart and 2″ deep. Cover with a lot of mulch – up to 6 inches of straw or grass clippings and leave the mulch on through the spring to help with moisture and weed control. You’ll want to plant it in a well drained area that receives full sun.

garlic scapes

Don’t forget to cut off the scapes!

A big part of growing garlic is cutting off the scapes. Scapes are the curly stems that often form as the garlic grows. Because leaving them on to flower inhibits bulb growth, cut or break them off after they are 10″ long. Scapes are edible and are very tasty added to stir frys, soups, salads and more!

For information on harvesting, curing and storing, head over to Part 2 of the Beginner’s Guide to Growing Garlic! This informative  post will tell you when to harvest garlic, everything you need to know about curing garlic, and tips for storing it to last all winter. Click here to read Part 2: What You Need to Know About Harvesting & Curing Garlic.

For more helpful gardening posts, read these:

1o Practical Tips for First Time Gardeners

Seed Starting for the Organic Garden

7 Methods of Natural Weed Control for a Weed Free Garden

Top 10 Plants for an Early Spring Harvest

And that’s it! Happy planting this fall! I’d love to hear what your favorite variety of garlic is to grow. Happy Gardening!

Tuesdays in the Garden

Now it’s time for Tuesdays in the Garden. My favorite gardening bloggers are sharing their best tips and tricks for growing other veggies today. I sure hope you’ll hop over and learn from them too.

green beans

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Green Beans from Jami at An Oregon Cottage

Frugal Family Home

Everything You Need to Know about Growing Carrots from Shelly at Frugal Family Home

homemade food junkie

5 Tips for Growing the Perfect Peppers from Diane @Homemade Food Junkie

elephant garlic

How to Grow Elephant Garlic from Angie at The Freckled Rose

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. Simple and to-the-point, Michelle, but covering all the bases! Growing garlic is super rewarding for very little effort. :0

  2. Lol. Our garlic is mostly volunteer anymore. Thanks for the resources. We are definitely in need of fresh garlic starts! Love those scapes in salads and stir fries!

  3. Great tips for growing garlic! I didn’t realize there was hardneck and softneck garlic. I’m going to try to remember to plant some this fall so we can harvest it in the spring. I’ve found it’s has a much better flavor when it’s homegrown.

  4. Thanks for the easy to follow tips and sources for the best seed. I’m going to give soft neck garlic a try this fall.

  5. Such great tips Michelle! I’m definitely going to have to order some of those net bags now. I love how you mentioned the scapes! I can’t believe I didn’t know about the delicious flavor they give dishes for years. I first learned about them at my local farmers market and have been hooked since! I’ve never grown softneck, but hope to give it a go next spring!

  6. Such an interesting post, Michelle!I have never planted garlic before, though I consume a lot of garlic in my cooking. Pinning and I am pretty sure I will be coming back to your post once I need to plant my own garlic.

  7. We just started a garden this year, and I will tell you, I had no idea that you could grow garlic! I mean I know you can grow everything (almost), but garlic wasn’t even on my radar. We eat tons of it, so thanks for these tips!

  8. So many great points: cutting off the scapes, when to plant, how deep (this is where I usually err) and harvesting. Thank you so much. I’m going to try and get mine in this Fall.

  9. Great post! I had not thought about growing my own Garlic, but with this step-by-step guide, I am going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing 🙂