How to Grow Great Garlic


  • Be prepared to plant garlic in the fall, about 6 weeks prior to freeze. In our zone, this is usually in mid-October, right after the first frost.


  • Garlic likes lots of sun, so be sure your planting location gets at least 6–8 hours of full sun each day.

  • Fertilize your soil with a good, all-purpose, chemical-free or green fertilizer/compost at least a few days before planting. This isn't mandatory, but we highly recommend it because garlic is a heavy feeder.

  • Separate the cloves from each bulb, but leave the clove wrappers intact. We found a butter knife is the best tool to help crack the bulbs apart without damaging the cloves.

  • Be sure to keep varieties separate so you can organize your planting.

  • If you choose to, put your cloves in a fertilizer soak for about an hour just prior to planting to reduce the chance of diseases, increase plant health, and boost bulb size. We highly recommend this step, especially for larger crops growing over 60 bulbs.


  • One clove will grow one garlic bulb.

  • Plant garlic cloves into prepared soil about 3" deep and 6" apart with the tip of the clove up towards the sky, and the root side down.

  • It is very important that your clove is oriented "tip up" so the germ faces the sun and plants grow nice and straight!

  • Cover each clove with approximately 3” of soil.

  • A few weeks after planting, after the ground has frozen, put 3–6” of mulch (straw/hay, leaves, shredded newspaper, etc.) over your whole garlic plot, and wait until spring.


  • In the spring, watch for your plants to peek out from under your mulch and weed, weed, weed as needed!

  • If you notice your mulch has been packed down too much over winter, use a pitchfork to gently fluff it up so your plants can make their way through.

  • In mid- to late-June, keep weeding, but also snap the scapes off your hardneck garlics after they've formed a loop to encourage larger bulb growth.

  • Get creative with scapes to help satisfy all your garlic cravings until your harvest is ready. Check out our garlic scape recipes to help pass the time until harvest!


  • Harvest when you have 3–4 full green leaves remaining, or 50% of the leaves have died and turned yellow from the bottom up.

  • When the plants are ready, loosen the soil around each bulb with a pitchfork or hoe, then pull each plant straight upwards out of the ground.

  • Shake and rub as much soil off the bulbs as possible.

  • Remove the the bottom two (outer most) leaves of each plant to expose the beautiful, silky bulb wrappers underneath.

  • Prepare a space for curing your garlic.



8 Tips for Growing Great Garlic

  1. Purchase seed from a trusted source – like us! Common, white, grocery store garlic can’t be used for seed. Most likely, that garlic was either grown in the mild climate of northern California or China. It is also likely to have been chemically treated so it won’t sprout. Instead, purchase seed garlic for the best results. Also, try not to be too shocked at the initial price of garlic seed. Each clove will grow another head of garlic, and will produce plenty for eating and seed for years to follow. One pound of garlic seed can yield 40 bulbs or about 5 pounds of garlic depending on the variety. Planting with good quality, naturally grown seed stock like ours will get your garlic crop off to a good start with fewer chances of disease.

  2. Select varieties that grow well in your zone. Buy your seed garlic from a supplier located in a similar growing environment. Garlic is highly adaptable to many growing conditions, but it can take a few years to adjust fully. You will get better results right away if you grow garlic that has already been conditioned to your climate and soil type. Look up your zone, soil properties and general growing conditions at plantmaps.com.

  3. Plant only the largest cloves, and plant more than one variety. Sort your cloves prior to planting, and reserve only the largest cloves for planting. Also, plant more than one variety because some may succumb to diseases, or they may not perform as well as expected. By having multiple garlic varieties, you can hedge your bets for a successful harvest.

  4. Plant at the optimum time for your location. Plant garlic 4–6 weeks before your estimated hard frost date in fall. Planting in the fall gives the garlic a head start, and it begins to send out roots. It then goes dormant when the ground freezes, and begins growing again as soon as the soil warms in the spring when daylight increases to about 14 hours per day. Overwintering is necessary for bulb formation. Hardneck garlic varieties in particular require a period of cold winter temperatures to encourage the seed clove to divide and grow into separate cloves that form a bulb. This process is called, vernalization.

  5. Prepare your soil before planting. Success in growing garlic often comes down to proper soil properties and preparation. Garlic thrives in full sun, and in loose, sandy or loamy soil. Choose a well-drained spot that receives 6–8 hours of full sunlight per day. Also, select an area that did not have onions or other alliums growing this year; the soil needs time to recover between these types of crops because they are heavy feeders. Remove weeds and work in a generous layer of finished compost before planting.

  6. Mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Garlic has a shallow root system and will stop growing in dry soil conditions, or when the roots get too hot. After the ground is frozen, add mulch (straw/hay, leaves, shredded newspaper, etc.) on top of the soil surface to help conserve moisture, prevent weeds, and insulate the roots. Do not add a heavy layer of mulch before the ground is frozen as this can insulate the ground too much and delay the plants from going dormant naturally.

  7. Remove garlic scapes in mid-June. Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that hardneck garlic plants produce. Several weeks before the garlic bulb has finished growing, it sends up this flower from the middle of the stalk. The scape grows upwards for several inches, then will curl once or twice before continuing to grow upward. Removing the scape allows the plant to devote its energy into growing a larger garlic bulb. These tender shoots are edible and are like a bonus crop. Scapes can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic. They have the texture of green beans or asparagus, and have a sweet, mild garlic flavor. See our Scape Mania page for more information about the mighty scape, or check out scape recipes in Our Stinky Kitchen.

  8. Time your garlic harvest right. This can be tricky, but lifting the bulbs too early will give you undeveloped, small bulbs, while harvesting too late could cause the cloves to split through their skins or develop rot or mold. The number of days to maturity varies with the climate, but garlic is finished growing when 50% of the leaves on the bottom of the stalks begin to turn yellow. Leaves grow from the bottom up, which is why the leaves at the bottom will die back first. Additionally, to test your garlic's harvest-readiness, you can dig up a test bulb. Bulbs should be large, and the skins filled out tightly. Give the plants a little more time to continue filling the bulbs out, then harvest when you have only 3–4 green leaves remaining on the plant.

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