How to Grow Garlic

  You can plant Garlic in autumn or spring but Garlic grows best when planted in the autumn. Autumn planted garden will have a period of 1-2 months of cold temperature 0-10C which helps the bulb formation producing a better yield. 

However, if your planting area has clay soil, or is heavy and wet over winter, autumn planting may not be ideal as the Garlic bulbs may rot in the wet soil over winter. In which case you can either plant into containers or wait until the spring. The containers will need some protection from freezing weather, as with all container-grown plants, there is a risk the roots may freeze. Put in a cold frame or protect from the worst of the weather.  

It is best to plant from certified bulbs purchased online or at the garden centre, not from saved bulbs. This ensures the plants start disease free and you can select bulbs of a good size. Also, you can buy Garlic bulbs which more suited to growing in the UK.  Specific varieties of Garlic are sold as suitable either for autumn or spring planting.

Commercially, a large amount of Garlic is grown in the Isle of Wight, and it is no coincidence that this is one of the sunniest places in the UK and it has very free draining soil.

Garlic is one of the easiest veg to grow, as are onions and shallots, and all suitable for growing in containers.  Once harvested, Garlic will keep for months in suitable conditions so you can enjoy home-grown garlic all the year round.

New video How to grow onions and garlic

green wheel barrow easy

Garlic is easy to grow and tolerant of most soil conditions - definitely a green wheelbarrow plant

How to Plant and Grow Spring Garlic

If your soil or conditions are not suitable for Autumn planting, a good a crop comes from spring planting, and I often plant both. Whatever time of the year you are planting garlic it likes full sun (remember it is a Mediterranean plant) with good rich soil which is free draining.  Garlic does less well on acidic soils and if your Ph is high, you may need a little lime, or in containers with a neutral compost.

When planting garlic, take the whole garlic and break it open as you would to select a bulb to cook with; separate out each individual bulb and plant each bulb flat end down and pointy tip upright the same as it was within the garlic bulb. Some growers recommend separating out the bulb first and leaving for 24 hours before planting out.

Plant the garlic bulbs in rows about 10 cms apart.  Plant the clove with the pointed end upwards and the flatter end down. It is from this flat end the roots sprout downwards, push it into the soil gently so as not to damage it. 

Within a matter of week/two depending on the weather, the shoots will start appearing. As with everything grown in the veg plot, you will encourage larger bulbs by incorporating organic matter into the soil before you plant, and feed along with the rest of the plot once planted. 

Garlic is suitable to grow in containers. The golden rule with all container grown veg is that the planting environment needs more attention, as it will be prone to drying out and extra feeding. Unless fed and watered well, garlic grown in containers may produce smaller bulbs. Check out which other vegetables are suitable for growing in containers.

How to plant and grow Autumn Garlic

Garlic planted in the autumn has the benefit of a period of cold weather which is said to help bulb formation and the ultimate flavour. November or December is the best time to plant Autumn Garlic. If your plot is reasonably well drained you can plant outside. Plant Garlic in full sun and to a depth so that the tip of the bulb is about 2.5 cms (1")below the soil surface. This is in contrast with onions, which are planted so that the tip is just poking out a little above ground level. Soil preparation is easy, good soil, with added organic matter and not compacted, and free draining.

If your planting area is wet soil/heavy soil plant into pots and the garlic can  be plant out into the veg plot in March, spacing plants about 10 cms (4-5") apart. Little attention is needed to garlic throughout the growing season other than to water if there is a prolonged dry spell. Garlic is best in  individual pots or just 2/3 into a container. If too many cloves are planted into one large pot it can be  difficult to extract the garlic in the spring for planting out as the roots merge and become hard to separate. Avoid this problem by  planting into individual pots/small numbers.

When is Garlic ready to Harvest?

Harvest Garlic late in the summer to give it a long growing season. Softneck garlic will collapse when it is ready to harvest, which means the stem will lie prostrate onto the soil. With hardneck garlic, which produces flowering spikes, the outer foliage will turn brown when it is ready to harvest.

How to Store Garlic

Garlic drying prior to cleaning by The Sunday Gardener

Like onions, Garlic is ready to harvest when the top growth turns brown and papery. Garlic, once lifted, must be thoroughly dried somewhere warm and dry before storing, which is really important. If the bulbs are not completely dry, there is a risk the dampness will rot the bulbs and others stored around it. Like onions harvested on a dry day and leave on the warm soil to dry.

Given our summers, this traditional ways of harvesting can be difficult to accommodate. Alternatively, if you have a greenhouse, dry upside down on the slats, (see image left) or place in netting in a shed, or lie on newspaper on a sunny windowsill or conservatory. When the garlic has throughly dried, knock off any remaining soil and store somewhere cool and light, again in a conservatory, garage or porch.

Garlic hanging up with onions

The dried top growth can be platted to make an onion/garlic string. If the top growth is not as robust as would be ideal for platting, you can weave in some raffia to supplement it. 

Although Garlic plaits look nice in the kitchen, it's not the ideal storage place, (being too warm and humid) it's best to just bring in a few bulbs at a time and store the rest of the garlic elsewhere in the cool.

Last updated 07.10.2021