Garlic Growing Tips for Your Garden

Reader Contribution by Bryan Traficante and Gardeninminutes
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For gardeners who still want to plant something even though winter has come, garlic may still be an option. Garlic is great for planting in the Fall/Early Winter so that it can mature over the Winter and Spring seasons to be harvested in the summer. 

Garlic is a root vegetable that’s a staple in most recipes. Gardeners who are serious about usable recipe gardens will include garlic due to its versatility in cooking. Plus, it stores well and can be given to friends and family. Who doesn’t want some garlic as a gift?

Growing garlic is a bit of a challenge, so we need to be mindful of its preferences. The key to great garlic is allowing it to mature. All plants have things they like and don’t like: when they grow, where they grow, soil type, seed spacing, storage, etc. Without knowing about what we plant, our gardens will never grow. So, let’s learn! 

When They Grow

Pro-tip: Fall planting usually yields larger bulbs.

Gardeners in higher number USDA hardiness zones – which means you are in the lower regions like Florida, Gulf Regions or Southwest coastal areas – you will still have time to plant garlic into the beginning of winter depending on the weather. If temperatures stay cool and don’t drop below 40 degrees consistently, then garlic should be okay to grow. IF winter is already upon you in the lower USDA hardiness zones – located in the central and northern regions – you may have to wait until spring. Your garlic can still be harvested in the summer, but it may not be as robust in size and flavor.

Where to Plant Garlic, Soil Preparation, and Seed Spacing

Pro-tip: 9 cloves of Garlic per square foot, and plant them pointy ends up.

Square foot gardening plant spacing minimizes the area a garden takes up and maximizes the amount of plants that can be grown in condensed areas (e.g. Raised Garden Beds). For gardeners who want a good harvest of garlic, plant 9 per square foot. Ensure that the garden receives frequent daily sunlight (4-8 hours), and that a layer of mulch or compost keeps the soil and seeds within it warm. Just because plants prefer cooler temperatures does not mean they can survive in blatantly cold temperatures.  

Garlic prefers soil that is well-drained, full of organic matter, and loose enough for them to grow without resistance – again Raised Garden Beds provide an easier way to create this ideal type of growing medium. If you are really into soil and want to dial it in just right for garlic, use soil with a pH balance of 6.5 to 7.0 – near neutral.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Pro-tip: Garlic is ready for harvest when the leaves turn brown.

In the summer, the leaves will begin to brown, and that’s when harvest is ready. Loosen up the soil around the bulbs, and pull them upwards delicately. Place them in a warm, dry, and airy location protected from the rain and direct sun for about a week. This ensures they dry properly and can be stored afterwards. They are stored at 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit in a cool, dry location and can last for 4 to 8 months.