Grow Garlic at Home: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

For both experienced and novice gardeners, growing garlic at home may be a fulfilling experience. It provides a fresh and flavorful culinary ingredient and offers the satisfaction of nurturing your garden from start to finish. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of growing garlic at home, step by step, ensuring a successful harvest and a bountiful supply of this versatile herb.

Choosing the Right Garlic Varieties

Taste, size, and growth conditions are all considerations when choosing garlic types for your home garden. Here are some popular garlic varieties to consider:

Softneck Garlic: Softneck garlic varieties are known for their mild flavor and long storage life. They produce multiple layers of cloves around a central stalk, making them ideal for braiding. Common softneck varieties include ‘Silverskin’ and ‘Artichoke,’ which thrive in various climates and soil conditions.

Hardneck Garlic: Hardneck garlic varieties are prized for their bold, complex flavors and large, easy-to-peel cloves. They produce a stiff central stalk with a scape (flower stalk) that curls as it matures. Popular hardneck varieties include ‘Rocambole’ and ‘Porcelain,’ which prefer colder climates and well-drained soil.

Elephant Garlic: Elephant garlic, despite its name, is a close relative of the leek rather than a true garlic. It produces large, mild-flavored bulbs with fewer but much larger cloves. Elephant garlic is a good option for gardeners seeking a garlic-like flavor without the intensity. It prefers rich, fertile soil and ample moisture during the growing season.

Key Takeaway: Choose garlic varieties that suit your taste preferences, climate, and growing conditions. Softneck varieties offer mild flavors and extended storage, while hardneck varieties provide bold flavors and larger cloves. Elephant garlic is an alternative for those looking for a milder garlic taste.

Preparing the Planting Area

Garlic must be planted in a prepared place to thrive. To make sure your soil is prepared for planting, take the following actions:

Step 1: Choose the Right Location: Select a sunny location for your garlic bed, as garlic requires full sun to thrive. Avoid planting in areas that receive excessive shade or are prone to waterlogging, as this can lead to poor bulb development and increased susceptibility to diseases.

Step 2: Test the Soil: Use a test to determine the soil’s pH and nutrient content. Garlic thrives in soil between 6.0 and 7.0 pH, which is somewhat acidic. To boost fertility and correct pH, amend the soil as necessary, and if needed, add sulfur or lime to drop pH or raise pH; add organic matter—such as leaf mold, aged manure, or compost—to the soil to enhance its structure and supply vital nutrients.

Step 3: Prepare the Soil: Loosen at least 8 to 10 inches of dirt using a garden fork or tiller. Clear the planting area of any garbage, rocks, and weeds. Using a rake, break up any large soil clumps and level the surface. Ensure that the soil drains appropriately to prevent waterlogging, which can cause diseases such as root rot.

Step 4: Add Organic Matter: Add a significant amount of organic matter to increase the texture and fertility of the soil. Spread a layer of compost, aged manure, or organic fertilizer over the planting area and thoroughly mix it into the soil. Organic matter supplies vital nutrients for plant growth, encourages healthy microbial activity, and aids in moisture retention.

Step 5: Mulch the Bed: Cover the garlic bed with an organic mulch of crushed leaves, straw, or grass clippings. Mulching helps suppress weed growth, conserve soil moisture, and regulate temperature. Spread the mulch evenly around the garlic plants, leaving a few inches of space around the stems to prevent rotting.

Step 6: Water the Soil: Water the prepared soil thoroughly to settle it and provide moisture for planting. Make sure the soil is damp throughout but not drenched. To ensure that the soil is moist for the best possible growth of garlic, keep watering often throughout the growing season, especially during dry spells.

Step 7: Mark Planting Rows: Use a garden marker or string to mark planting rows in the prepared soil. To provide room for the development of the garlic bulb and simple access for maintenance, space the rows 12 to 18 inches apart.

Following these steps will ensure your soil is well-prepared and optimized for planting garlic, setting the stage for a successful harvest.

Planting and Caring for Garlic

Once you’ve prepared the planting area, it’s time to plant your garlic cloves and provide them with the care they need to thrive. Follow these step-by-step instructions:

Step Instructions
1 Select Healthy Garlic Cloves: Choose large, firm garlic bulbs and carefully separate the individual cloves for planting.
2 Prepare Planting Holes: Use a dibber or your fingers to create planting holes in the soil, 4-6 inches apart.
3 Plant Garlic Cloves: Place each garlic clove in a planting hole, pointed end up and flat end down, at a depth of 2 inches.
4 Cover with Soil: Gently cover the planted cloves with soil and pat down the surface to ensure good soil contact.
5 Water Thoroughly: To help the soil settle and supply moisture for germination, give the planted cloves plenty of water.
6 Apply Mulch: Cover the garlic plants with an organic layer to prevent weeds and retain soil moisture.
7 Provide Regular Watering: To promote healthy growth, moisten the soil, especially during dry periods.
8 Fertilize Sparingly: Apply a balanced fertilizer or compost tea every 4-6 weeks to provide essential nutrients for growth.
9 Monitor for Pests and Diseases: Check garlic plants frequently for insect or disease symptoms, then take the necessary action.
10 Harvest Scapes (Optional): Remove garlic scapes when they curl for culinary use, promoting bulb development.
11 Stop Watering Before Harvest: Stop watering garlic 1-2 weeks before harvest to allow bulbs to dry and cure in the soil.
12 Harvest Garlic Bulbs: Harvest garlic bulbs when the foliage turns yellow and begins to dry, usually in mid-summer to fall.
13 Cure Garlic Bulbs: To improve storage, cure harvested garlic bulbs in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area for 2-3 weeks.
14 Store Garlic Properly: Once cured, trim garlic bulbs and store them in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.

These steps will ensure your garlic plants receive the care they need to grow strong and produce bountiful harvests of flavorful bulbs. Adjust watering and fertilization as needed based on soil conditions and weather patterns.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can greatly hamper garlic growth, but these issues can be reduced with the right management strategies. Here’s how to identify, prevent, and control common garlic pests and diseases:

Common Garlic Pests:

  • Aphids: These small, sap-sucking insects can cause curled or distorted leaves and stunted growth—control aphids by spraying plants with a strong stream of water or applying insecticidal soap.
  • Thrips: Thrips feed on garlic foliage, causing silvering or bronzing of leaves and distorted growth. Use row covers to exclude thrips from garlic plants or apply neem oil or insecticidal soap to control infestations.
  • Nematodes: These microscopic worms attack garlic roots, causing stunted growth and yellowing foliage. Rotate garlic with nematode-resistant crops like beans or marigolds and improve soil drainage to reduce nematode populations.

Common Garlic Diseases:

  • White Rot: Garlic bulbs and roots can develop white, fluffy growths known as “white rot,” a fungal disease that eventually causes rot and disintegration. Practice crop rotation, improve soil drainage, and avoid planting garlic in areas with a history of white rot.
  • Rust: Orange or brown pustules on garlic leaves indicate the fungal disease rust, which can damage plants and lower harvests. Remove and destroy infected plant material, and apply fungicides labeled for rust control as needed.
  • Fusarium: Fusarium is a soil-borne fungus that causes garlic bulb yellowing, wilting, and rotting. Practice crop rotation, plant disease-resistant garlic varieties, and avoid overwatering to prevent fusarium infection.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategies:

  • Monitor Regularly: Inspect garlic plants for signs of pest infestations or disease symptoms, such as yellowing foliage, distorted growth, or fungal growth.
  • Cultural Practices: Keep your garden clean by removing debris, weeds, and diseased plant material to reduce the infestation of pests and illnesses.
  • Biological Controls: Aphid populations can be naturally controlled by introducing beneficial insects such as predatory mites or ladybugs.
  • Organic Sprays: To manage pest and disease outbreaks, use organic insecticides, fungicides, and bactericides derived from botanical oils, soaps, or beneficial microbes.

These pest and disease management strategies can protect your garlic crop and ensure a healthy and productive harvest. Rotate garlic with other crops, such as legumes or brassicas, to break pest and disease cycles and maintain soil health for future plantings.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Harvesting garlic at the right time and storing it properly are essential steps to ensure maximum flavor and shelf life. Here’s how to harvest and store your garlic bulbs for long-lasting enjoyment:

Harvesting Garlic:

  1. Monitor Foliage: Watch for signs that garlic bulbs are ready to harvest. As the garlic plants mature, the foliage will turn yellow and dry up, indicating that the bulbs are nearing maturity.
  2. Check Bulb Size: Carefully dig up a few garlic bulbs to check their size and maturity. Mature bulbs will have plump cloves and papery skins with no signs of rot or disease.
  3. Timing: Depending on your region and growing conditions, you can harvest garlic bulbs around the middle of summer or early fall, when roughly 50–70% of the foliage has turned yellow and begun to dry
  4. Dig Gently: Be cautious not to harm the garlic bulbs by using a garden fork or trowel to loosen the dirt surrounding them gradually. Lift the bulbs from the soil, shaking off excess dirt but leaving the foliage attached.
  5. Curing: A garage or covered porch would be a good place to store gathered garlic bulbs so they may cure for two to three weeks in a single layer. This process allows the bulbs to dry out and develop a protective outer layer, enhancing flavor and improving storage life.

Storing Garlic:

  1. Trim and Clean: Once cured, trim the roots and tops of the garlic bulbs, leaving a short stem attached. Brush off any remaining soil and inspect the bulbs for signs of damage or disease.
  2. Choose Storage Location: Store cured garlic bulbs in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, such as a pantry, cellar, or garage. Garlic should not be stored in places with high humidity or sudden temperature changes since these conditions might encourage sprouting and rotting.
  3. Use Proper Containers: Store garlic bulbs in mesh bags, wire baskets, or ventilated containers to allow air circulation and prevent moisture buildup. Garlic shouldn’t be kept in airtight jars or plastic bags since this can lead to bulb rot.
  4. Monitor Regularly: Check stored garlic bulbs periodically for signs of sprouting, mold, or decay. Remove any damaged or spoiled bulbs promptly to prevent the spread of disease.
  5. Long-Term Storage: For long-term storage, consider preserving garlic by freezing, drying, or pickling cloves. These methods can extend garlic’s shelf life and provide convenient culinary options.

Following these harvesting and storing guidelines, you can enjoy homegrown garlic’s fresh, flavorful taste year-round. Harvested garlic bulbs will keep for several months when stored properly, providing a delicious and aromatic addition to your favorite recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What time of year is ideal for planting garlic?

Garlic is best planted in the fall, usually 4-6 weeks before your area’s first frost date. Planting in the fall allows the garlic cloves to establish roots before winter dormancy, resulting in stronger and healthier plants come springtime.

How deeply should garlic cloves be planted?

The garlic cloves should be planted two inches deep in the ground, pointed end up and flat end down. Planting cloves at the correct depth ensures proper root development and encourages vigorous growth.

Can I plant store-bought garlic cloves?

While it’s possible to plant store-bought garlic cloves, it’s not always recommended. Many commercially grown garlic bulbs are treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting and prolong shelf life, which can inhibit their ability to grow successfully. For the best results, purchase garlic bulbs from a reputable nursery or seed supplier specializing in organic or untreated garlic varieties.


Growing garlic at home is a satisfying and straightforward process that can yield delicious rewards for your culinary endeavors. By following these step-by-step guidelines for selecting varieties, preparing the planting area, planting and caring for garlic, managing pests and diseases, and harvesting and storing your garlic crop, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a plentiful harvest of homegrown garlic in no time. Happy gardening!