Growing Garlic from Planting Through Harvest

Growing Garlic From Planting to Harvest

November 30, 2017

Garlic is best planted before winter in many areas. It’s very easy to grow; all it needs to thrive is a sunny spot and good drainage. In this video, we demonstrate how to plant, harvest, and store these beautiful bulbs so you can enjoy perfect garlic every time.

Gorgeous garlic packs a pungent punch, making it an indispensable addition to so many recipes—and every vegetable garden. 

There are two types of garlic: ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’.

  • Hardneck varieties produce edible scapes (flower stems) which should be cut off to promote plumper bulbs. The scapes have a mild garlic taste that is great in salads and stir-fries. Hardneck varieties are more tolerant of cold weather than softneck types.
  • Softneck varieties don’t produce scapes but store for longer than hardnecks.

Originating from central Asia, garlic loves a sunny location in fertile, free-draining soil. You can improve your soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, a few months before planting.

How to Plant Garlic

Plant garlic in the fall. Choose a sunny location and rich and well-drained, soil. Our Garden Planner can help you find out the best times to plant in your area. Add garlic to your plan then take a look at the Plant List to see recommended planting and expected harvesting times.

To plant your garlic, gently break apart the bulb into individual cloves. Plant them about six inches apart, leaving a foot between rows.  Cover with soil so the tips are just below the surface. If birds pull up the cloves, replant them and protect them with a row cover to prevent it happening again.

In very cold areas, plant garlic cloves in plug trays and keep them under cover until spring.

You can also grow garlic in containers at least eight inches wide. Plant the cloves so they are four to six inches apart in each direction. Place the container in a sunny spot, and water in dry weather.

Caring for Garlic

Garlic needs very little attention during the growing season. Water if the weather is dry, and keep the spaces between the rows well weeded. Adding an organic mulch (e.g. grass clippings) occasionally will help to feed plants and keep the soil cool and moist.

How to Harvest Garlic

Harvest garlic when the leaves have begun to turn yellow in summer. Ease the bulbs out of the soil using a fork or trowel. Dry them out somewhere warm and airy. Once dry, brush off any remaining soil and cut off the leaves. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place on wire racks, or plait the leaves and use them to hang up strings of garlic. Garlic bulbs should store for at least three months.

For more information, see the Almanac’s Garlic Growing Guide.

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Reader Comments

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Garlic side growth

My garlic did great but they have these side redish growth that looks like individual clove. Several people had the same question bellow but no answer. Wish i could upload a picture.

Garlic will not produce bulbs

My garlic goes to seed on the top and the bulb is only 1/2 inch around. What is going on? Have tried for years.

tiny bulbs

The Editors's picture

The problem is probably with the soil. Get some new cloves for the fall and do this: One week before planting, mix aged manure and/or compost into the soil. If you have poorly draining, heavy clay soil, mix in aged manure and/or compost. Immediately before planting, work a couple of tablespoons of 5-10-10 complete fertilizer, bonemeal, or fish meal into the soil several inches below where the base of each garlic clove will rest. Mulch heavily with seedless straw or leaves to insulate and prevent soil heaving in winter.

Garlic is a heavy feeder. In early spring, side-dress with or broadcast blood meal, pelleted chicken manure, or a synthetic source of nitrogen.

Fertilize again just before the bulbs begin to swell in response to lengthening daylight (early May in most regions). Repeat if the foliage begins to yellow.
Weed regularly. Garlic needs all available nutrients. Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing (mid-May through June). If May and June are dry, irrigate to a depth of 2 feet every 8 to 10 days. As mid-June approaches, taper off watering.
Once you have good soil, the rest is easy.


Side shoots?

We planted our hardneck garlic in the fall here in the Pacific Northwest and have followed the suggestions here pretty much to a T. It was looking great until recently it started to yellow — we assume this meant it’s getting close to being done after a very, very warm spring and we haven’t seen scapes yet. But today I noticed two plants have broken just above what looks like bunches of small red cloves/bulbs shooting out the side, an inch or two above the soil. Any thoughts on what this is or how we should handle it? Thank you!

garlic problem

The Editors's picture

I’ve never had this happen before, but I wouldn’t think it’s anything to worry about; it would probably be best to use up those plants first if the bulbs have broken.

The yellowing leaves could be an indicator of drought or disease if the scapes haven’t appeared yet though.

Cutting scape off too soon

I forgot that I needed to wait until the scape curled before cutting it and cut it as soon as I saw it. What will happen? Did I hurt it? I haven’t found any information about this.
Thank you

garlic scape

The Editors's picture

It won’t hurt the plant at all. The reason it’s usually recommended to leave the scape until it curls is so you have plenty of edible scape to eat! 

Garlic Harvesting

We live in moist, swampy Florida. We have a dehydrator for drying herbs, etc. Can we use the dehydrator to dry the garlic bulbs when harvesting?

preserving garlic

The Editors's picture

I’m guessing you wish to dry the garlic to cure it, and not to preserve it as garlic powder? If so, my gut feeling is that it would be very tricky to dry to the right stage; it would probably be easier to just leave the bulbs under cover somewhere dry and airy until they’re cured. If garlic tends not to dry enough to store for long in your climate, it might be worth trying out the dehydrator with a few bulbs as an experiment.


I have been planting garlic for a few years. Last fall (around the end of Oct.) I planted 24 varieties of garlic most are hard stem. I'm up in Calgary Alberta Canada.

Growing garlic

This was my first year growing garlic. When I harvested my garlic I noticed that at the end of some of my roots was a growth that looked like a clove of garlc. I put them back in the soil. Will i have to replant next month or will these cloves germinate into regular garlic.

I'm now a garlic, onion,

I'm now a garlic, onion, ginger, tumeric gardener, thank you so much for the tutorial on how to get better results.
Can I say ,Wow, I'm amazed.

Happy Gardening.


while I enjoyed the show it didn't provided the answer to my problem. I've planted garlic the last three years an get very small bulbs, my soil has a lot of heavy clay and even with tilling in mulch for eight years it is still very heavy. while the rest of my acre plus garden does very well my garlic is terrible since I put up over 60 quarts of dill pickles a year buying garlic is a cost that I would like to avoid, not to mention that I eat a clove a day as well as use a lot in cooking . I purchased my planting Garlic from a seed company and planted five pounds of cloves but have never had any luck. I'm about to give up any help would be gratefully excepted the growing season is from late April to early October.

Some help for you

Catherine Boeckmann's picture

I’d recommend adding rich, well-rotted compost or manure from a trusted source to the soil just before planting, and possibly add a balanced organic fertilizer in spring too. Make sure to keep the bulbs well-watered. Planting in fall can help to produce a bigger crop that a spring planting. If his climate is very cold, planting into plug trays in fall for planting out in spring may be a better choice.

Garlic bulbs

I pulled some garlic and on the roots are little cloves what are these a.d what are they good for


The Editors's picture

We’re not sure what you mean.  When you plant cloves, the bottom of the clove will put down the roots, and the pointy top will sprout the leaves. See our Garlic Growing Guide for more information:

garlic video

Thank you for your help in planting garlic ~ it is the first time i have tried to grow it. ~


Where do you get the starts can you use ones out of store?

Garlic Starters

The Editors's picture

Some folks report success with store-bought garlic, but your best bet would be to find locally-grown garlic and plant that instead. This way, you will know that the variety is hardy in your area and that the garlic has not been treated with chemicals. So, if you have the option to buy locally-grown garlic, do so, but if not, then store-bought should suffice.


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