Garlic Planting Guide

Garlic Planting Guide

View/Download PDF

Available in store August - October


One of the most commonly used plants for cooking, garlic is a must have for any garden. Originating in central Asia, these delicious bulbs have spiced up foods since the dawn of cooking. Garlic is easy to grow in a garden or even in a good sized pot. They share the same family as onions, leeks, and shallots.


Garlic is categorized into two groups: hardneck and softneck Softneck garlic is more commonly found in grocery stores. With layers of parchment-paper thin skin and two layers of smaller cloves, this kind is ideal for the home cook. The tops are easy to braid, making it for easy storage. Among the varieties we carry are Gilroy (grocery store, long storage) and Inchelium (baking, a little spicy) Hardneck garlic tends to have a more consistent flavor but have a shorter shelf life. They form long firm stalks, called scapes, with 8-15 large cloves on the inside. In the fall, we carry 10-13 types of hardnecks such as Spanish Roja (strong, spicy, easy to peel) and Siberian (fiery, smooth flavor perfect from cream sauces). Mark’s favorites are the German Red, Musik, and Susan Delafield.


Garlic grows well in any type of soil, as long as it has good drainage, rich nutrients, and plenty of sun. Prep the soil with a basic 16-16-16 and organic matter (compost), typically 3 lbs/100feet Work the compost and fertilizer down at least 6 inches into the soil so the garlic has nutrients through winter. Garlic can be planted anytime from September to October, or at least 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. Don’t panic if tips come above the soil. They may get a little bit of winter burn, but they can tolerate temperatures below zero. In the store, our bulbs come in around the first week of September. Don’t break them apart until 48 hours before planting; any earlier will cause the cloves to dry and lose viability. Water your space several hours before planting to help the cloves go into the soil easier. Dig holes about 1-3 inches deep and add ½ tsp of  Hi-Yield Bone Meal. This is a slow, release phosphorus fertilizer to help with bulb growth and development. Break up the heads into individual cloves and plant them 3-4 inches apart. If doing multiple rows, keep the separate rows 6-10 inches apart to allow for adequate growth space. After planting, water with Fox Farm Kangaroots for quick establishment and root enhancement. In containers, follow the same rules for depth and spacing. Your quantity is only limited by the size of the pot.


Use a general purpose fertilizer in the fall, such as Fox Farm’s Happy Frog (organic), or Fertilome’s Gardner’s Special. Don’t add anything else to the soil until April or May. At this point, side dress the rows or just around the plant with another fertilizer, preferably something high in nitrogen, like Anderson’s “That’s All it Takes.” After the first of June, fertilizing with anything high in nitrogen could adversely affect bulb size. When it comes to watering, garlic is quite picky. In the early spring, when the sprouts are first starting to grow, keep them moist. Allowing them to dry out will decrease yield in the summer. Moisten the soil every 5-7 days at least 12 inches down. When the tops start to die down and turn brown, stop watering. Too much water at this point will actually damage the bulb and could cause storage issues.


Garlic is very prone to neck rot, a gray mold that appears after harvest. The bulb usually has sunken black spots caused by a type of fungus that thrives in moist, hot environments.  Unfortunately, it isn’t controllable once it has taken hold of the bulb, but can be managed by proper harvest and storage. Purple blotch is another disease that can attack garlic. There are pale yellow or even purple spots that are on the leaves that spread rapidly. Use Ferti-lome’s F-stop when initial signs appear. One of the best things about garlic is that it naturally repels insects. However, thrips, small sucking insects that love the garlic and onion family, can damage the leaves and bulbs. The tips will turn silver or gray. Use Ferti-lome’s Broad Spectrum Insecticide to get rid of them once you notice their damage. Keep weeds under control as garlic won’t compete with them.


Don’t harvest too early as it can cause storage problems or leave them in the ground too long. With hard necks, the scapes that come up can actually be eaten like a scallion with a strong garlic flavor, so you can enjoy them earlier. Starting mid July through early August, the tops will start to turn yellow and fall over. However,the tops won’t completely dry out at this point. Once the tops are completely over, carefully dig up the bulbs. Use a spade or a small gardening fork to dig underneath the soil and lift out the bulbs. Don’t pull from the top because that can damage the bulbs. It is possible to take garlic from the garden straight to your kitchen, but for maximum storage length, cure the bulbs for 2-3 weeks in a dry place. Take a few and tie the tops together, then hang them up in a well-ventilated place for at least a week. After they are cured, store them in a cool, dark, dry place with a good air flow. Don’t store them in the fridge or somewhere with moisture in the air.  

Back to blog

Leave a comment