Growing Garlic

Fall is garlic planting time, and growing garlic is fun and easy. In order to get you off to a good start, we’ve put together a series of garlic planting and harvest slides. We also have a ‘cheat sheet’ of garlic planting instructions, which you can download here.

Seed Savers Exchange members have access to over 300 varieties of garlic. Become a member and order garlic through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook.

garlic planting

Plant your garlic between September 15 and November 30, depending on where you live. The optimum planting time is after the first light frost.

garlic planting

Garlic is a heavy feeder and likes loose, rich soil with lots of organic matter and a pH of 6.5. Plant the largest cloves to grow the largest bulbs. Leave the outer skin on the bulbs, and do not separate the cloves from the bulb until you are ready to plant.

garlic planting

Plant the cloves root end down, pointed end up, 6-8” apart.

garlic mulching

Cover with 2” of soil and a 6” layer of mulch (straw, hay, or grass clippings mixed with leaves). Do not remove mulch in the spring; it helps control weeds, preserves moisture, and provides nutrients as it decomposes.

garlic, early season

One or two foliar applications of fertilizer are beneficial before May 15. Do not fertilize after May 15 as this is detrimental. Garlic needs about 1” of water per week during the growing season. Cease all watering about June 1; this allows for better bulb formation and ease of harvest. Garlic does not compete well with weeds, so keep them under control, especially early in the season.

Scapes are the curly center stems that form as hardneck garlic varieties mature.

garlic scapes

Cut or break off scapes after they are 10” long—they will inhibit bulb growth if allowed to remain.

garlic scapes

Garlic scapes are delicious in soups and stir fries, roasted, pickled, or made into pesto.

garlic harvest

Harvest after leaf die-back begins and there are still five green leaves remaining on the plant—sometime in June or early July depending upon the year and your climate. Do not wait too long or the bulbs will begin to separate in the ground. Dig the garlic carefully, do not pull the stalk or it will separate from the bulb.

Gently brush most of the dirt off—do not wash. Be careful not to bang the garlic bulbs against each other or a hard object—they will bruise. Remove from the sun immediately.

garlic drying

Tie in bundles of 6-10 and hang in a shaded, dry, well-ventilated shed or garage. Leave hanging for 4-6 weeks.

garlic harvest, trim roots

After thoroughly dry, trim off the roots…

garlic harvest, trim stalks

…and cut the stalks off about 1 1/2 inches above the bulb.

Store in net bags—old onion bags work well. For optimum storage, hang in an area with 45-55% humidity and a temperature of 50-70 degrees. Do not refrigerate.


At all stages handle your garlic carefully. It is alive! Bruise it, and it will not keep as long. Hold back your nicest bulbs for replanting again in the fall. Good Luck!


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  1. Jan Thompson says:

    Wow…what a great little informative series of slides. Now I feel confident enough to give it a go and plant some garlic this fall. Thanks!

  2. I’m glad to hear it, Jan. Garlic is such a hassle-free, rewarding crop. And tasty, too! You’ll have to let us know how yours turns out.

  3. Since the local hardware store sold garlic this spring, I, being the novice gardener that I am, bought them and planted them. They came up fine, then died back. Only later did I learn that they were winter garden plants. I just purchased some from you and will plant them this fall. I hope for better results!

    • The same thing happened to me…well, I did it to myself. I just figured since the hardware store was selling it, it was time to plant it. Oh well…live and learn! I can’t wait to plant some garlic I’ve ordered from SSE. Good luck!

  4. Hi, I was wondering if all of the garlic you are selling will survive outside during the winter. I particularly love elephant garlic and wanted to try growing some myself. I have planted something (passed on by a friend) that looks a lot like German White and that did very well last winter.

    • Yes Tamara, the garlic we sell should survive the winter provided it is planted and mulched according to the instructions written in the slides. Granted, some winters are more harsh than others, but get your cloves in the ground on time, give them plenty of mulch, and they should be just fine. Good luck!

  5. Is there any variation in timing if you have garlic seeds instead of cloves? I was given some by my aunt and am looking for advice on growing it. Sorry, I am new at garlic growing, and don’t know the type of garlic.

  6. Wonderful slide instruction–thank you. Just a note: research has shown that leaving the scapes on will give a heavier garlic crop. I’m glad—less work! I tried it and it worked well.

    • Hi, Diane….we’ve always thought that we needed to cut the scapes to get heavier garlic. Can you please tell me what research you found to the contrary?

  7. I’m new at growing garlic as well, and was wondering if it does at all well in containers? I live in a small space without room for an in ground garden, but I would love to try growing some garlic!


    • Ellen, while I haven’t done it myself, I think garlic would do just fine in containers as long as you keep a few things in mind. Garlic has relatively shallow roots, but it’s also a heavy feeder. Choose containers that give your plants enough space–at least 18″ deep. Garlic is also prone to fungal diseases, so make sure your container has drain holes and that the soil/potting mix drains well. Then follow the rest of the instructions in this blog post, and you should be good to go. Good luck!

  8. I have been growing garlic for years, but this year I am seeing something new on some varieties. After peeling the cloves, I notice a green color on some of the clove ends. Does anyone know what this is? Steve

    • Steve, I’m sorry to hear that. Without seeing the garlic, it’s difficult for me to say what might be going on. Could it be that your cloves are sprouting prematurely in the bulbs? Feel free to email me a photo, and I might be able to give you some more ideas.

  9. This is great.