How to Plant Garlic – 3 Most Frequently Asked Questions

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I’m not exaggerating when I say garlic is the easiest crop I grow, and it is one of the most rewarding. But if you’re like many gardeners, you don’t know how to get started. The good news is, once you do, you’ll see how simple it really is!

Here’s the secret many beginning gardeners don’t realize about how to grow successful garlic:

Plant Garlic in the Fall.

Planting garlic is the final garden task of my season. Once planted, it may sprout slightly before cold weather and short days shut it down. But in my area, longer daylight and creeping temperatures in late January spur garlic to grow as one of my first crops in the spring.

Whether you live in the south like me or further north, I’ll share with you how to plant and grow garlic. In this episode of the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, I tackle the three most frequently asked questions I get, and read below for a cheat sheet that will help you get started. If you’re like me, garlic will quickly become a must-have crop in your garden.

Click here to listen, or read the accompanying blog post for the highlights below:

How to Grow Garlic

When Should I Plant Garlic?

Unlike other crops, you want to plant garlic in the fall before you expect a summer harvest. Most gardeners I know have the best luck when they plant right around their average first frost date. (Click here to calculate yours.) You want to plant your cloves before your ground freezes but after the cold begins to set in.

I have my best success planting garlic in a raised bed. I make a furrow about four inches deep and plant the garlic cloves pointy-side up about six to eight inches apart. Then I cover the garlic with soil and mulch. Here’s how I do it each season:

VIDEO: How and when to plant garlic:

Where Can I Buy Garlic?

You will need to purchase seed garlic from a seed supplier. Seed garlic is just a fancy term for garlic cloves, but don’t make the mistake of planting garlic you buy from your grocery store. Garlic for retail sale (unless it’s organic) may have been sprayed with a sprout-inhibitor, and it’s not certified disease-free. You don’t want to introduce pathogens into your soil.

Typically seed suppliers begin offering seed garlic in the late summer to early fall. Keep a watch for availability, however, as many of them sell out quickly.

Here are my recommendations for purchasing seed garlic:

What Type of Garlic Should I Buy?

Garlic comes in two main types — hardneck and softneck. Hardneck types are best for northern gardeners, as the garlic needs colder winters in order to break dormancy in the spring. Hardnecks typically don’t store as long but they boast a more complex range of flavors.

Softneck types are best for southern growers because the garlic doesn’t need cold winters and may not survive them. Softneck types store well and can be braided. These are the kinds you see at the grocery store. I’ve had the best success with the Inchelium Red.

If you are a beginner, make sure you buy the right type for your region. Otherwise, it may not grow well or develop large bulbs.

Elephant garlic is another type, and in my experience it grows well and has a more mild flavor than other garlic.

Related Blog Post: 2 Reasons to Grow Garlic & 1 Reason Not To

Garlic Planting Cheat Sheet

Garlic is the easiest and most rewarding plant you can grow! All you have to know is some basics:

  • WHEN to plant
  • WHAT KIND to plant
  • WHERE to purchase
  • WHERE NOT to purchase
  • The simplest WAY to plant, whether you have a raised bed, a plot of land, or container. This step is SUPER EASY!

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  1. Hi Jill!
    I live in Canada and am trying garlic for the first time in a very big pot on my covered patio. I planted hardneck Russian red garlic in early October and watered. Winter is a little late this year in Vancouver, and the soil is now dry. My question is-do I water it again or just leave it alone until spring? If temps go down at night below zero will the water ruin the cloves?
    Thanks! 💚

    1. Hi Shelley, I live in the southern US, so I don’t have personal experience with Canadian winters. However, in my area we have very rainy winters and the water does not bother the garlic. I would recommend keeping the soil moist based on my experience.

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