All About Growing Garlic

Here is a concise primer on growing garlic that covers varieties, how and when to plant, pest prevention, and harvesting and storage.

  • Growing garlic
    Near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is best for growing garlic.
    Photo by Adobestock/dleonis
  • Growing garlic
    Your reward for growing garlic is the world of flavors that await in every bulb! Garlic’s taste has several dimensions that come alive depending on how the plant is cooked. Shown here, from left to right, are braided softneck garlic, fresh elephant garlic, and purple stripe hardneck garlic.
  • Garlic bulb
    Wait until just before planting to break your garlic bulbs into cloves. One pound of cured bulbs will split into about 50 individual cloves, which is enough to plant a 25-foot-long double row.

  • Growing garlic
  • Growing garlic
  • Garlic bulb

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

The last crop to go into the garden, garlic is planted in fall and harvested the following summer. Flavorful, nutritious, and helpful for warding off vampires, garlic also is easy to grow as long as you plant varieties suited to your climate. Fertile, well-drained soils with a near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.0 are best for growing garlic.

Garlic Types to Try

Softneck types grow best where winters are mild, though some tolerate cold to Zone 5. Most varieties do not produce scapes (edible curled flower stalks), but softnecks are great for braiding. Subtypes include Creole, artichoke and many Asian varieties.

Hardneck types adapt to cold winter climates, and all produce delicious curled scapes in early summer. Popular subtypes include porcelain, purple stripe and rocambole varieties.

Elephant garlic produces a large, mild-flavored bulb comprised of four to six big cloves. Closely related to leeks, elephant garlic is hardy to Zone 5 if given deep winter mulch.

Garlic Types and Growing Tips







Softneck garlic(Allium sativum sativum)

Large bulbs comprised of 12 to 20 cloves, with the largest ones on the outside of the bulbs. Large, vigorous plants grow best in mild winter areas. Most grocery store garlic is softneck garlic. Flavor is generally mild, with more spiciness in some Asian strains. Will keep for eight months under cool, dry conditions.

Creole types such as ‘Burgundy’ taste great and store well, even in the humid South. In the West, try late-maturing ‘Susanville’ or other California-bred varieties. ‘Red Toch’ is remarkably tasty and cold-hardy.

Hardneck garlic
(Allium sativum ophioscorodon)
Medium to large bulbs comprised of six to 12 symmetrical cloves around a hard central stalk. Cold-hardy plants produce delicious edible scapes. Plants that are allowed to flower may produce bulbils. Often sold in gourmet shops, hardneck garlic has a complex, spicy-sweet flavor. Storage time ranges from three to eight months.

Often called porcelain or continental strains, ‘German White’ and ‘Music’ produce tender scapes and six or more big, juicy cloves. Big-flavor rocamboles such as ‘Chesnok Red’ and ‘Spanish Roja’ excel in cold winter climates.

Elephant or Buffalo garlic
(Allium ampeloprasum)
Large, upright plants with strappy leaves need wide, 12-inch spacing. Baseball-size bulbs comprised of four to six cloves have mild flavor, which makes them great for roasting. To increase bulb size, harvest the edible scapes or use blossom clusters as cut flowers. Seed is sold simply as elephant garlic, or you can start with a store-bought bulb. In areas where elephant garlic grows wild, feral seedlings moved to the garden will form bulbs in two years.


When to Plant Garlic

In fall, plant cloves in well-drained beds after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. Cloves can also be planted in late winter as soon as the soil thaws, but fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs.

7/28/2017 11:44:03 AM

just harvested some garlic; and attached to the heads are garbanzo looking what i think are seeds, but what are they? Phil

7/14/2017 3:43:07 PM

Is it time to harvest the soft neck variety when the stalks wither and turn brown?

10/17/2015 9:56:26 AM

Regarding the comment about being allergic, or sensitive to garlic. Often we are unable to properly digest certain foods due to a condition called "leaky gut." Foods pass through the digestive tract not properly broken down and so alert the immune system that an invader is present. That offending food is targeted by the immune system and symptoms result. The way to heal "leaky gut" is to follow a protocol that facilitates this. One such protocol is GAPS - Gut & Psychology/Physiology Syndrome which removes foods that are contributing to leaky gut and encourages eating those that will heal and seal the digestive tract. There are other, such as Donna Gate's Body Ecology Diet. The important thing is that whichever one is chosen, it is followed long enough to achieve this level of healing. Once this occurs, individual usually find that not only can they again eat garlic, for example, but can eat other foods that previously gave them issue. Another possible cause may be liver related. In that case making sure pathways of elimination are functioning well first, followed by a good detox, may be what is required. I hope this is helpful! Sue Clinton RN, RHN Greater Kingston Weston A. Price Foundation Co-Chapter Leader Certified GAPS Practitioner

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