How To Grow Garlic

Garlic is a power plant. The myths and lore surrounding it have been building up around the world for over seven millennia. It was so popular in ancient times that it is rumored to have triggered the first labor strike. During the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, the builders’ daily garlic ration was removed causing the workers to put down their tools in protest. It’s so powerful that there is a word – Alliumphobia – for those that fear it. Its influence is so strong, that some Hindu and Buddhist monks avoid it, so as not to stimulate their aggressive desires or be tempted by its aphrodisiac qualities. And it’s so celebrated that here in the Hudson Valley, we have a whole festival devoted it, and we’re not unique in that phenomenon. To the home gardener, garlic is a gastronomic savior, an indispensable medicine in the home apothecary, and a fairly easy crop to grow.

One of the last planting tasks in the garden, at least here in the Northeast, is getting garlic in the ground. When you plant garlic in the fall, you are putting-it-to-bed since it needs a cold cycle to perform well. Read on to discover how much garlic to plant, how to choose a great location, and how and when to plant it.

Hardneck Garlic Variety Pack

Hardneck Garlic Variety Pack

Try a bit of each of three hardneck garlics we offer.

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1. Quantity

How much you plant depends on what you want out of your crop.

The shortest answer is that 1 pound can plant between 15 and 30 feet depending on the variety, and the amount of space you give it. (That's a single row. Space rows 12 inches apart in whatever bed system you use.)

Each pound of garlic can produce between 50-75 heads of garlic, since each clove can produce a head. If you would like to produce your own seed stock and your own eating stock, plan to reserve the top 30% of your harvest for planting.

2. Location

Since we follow a vegetable rotation, we know where our garlic will be well ahead of planting time. This gives us plenty of time to make sure the beds are well worked, weeded, amended and prepared.

German Extra Hardy Hardneck Garlic

German Extra Hardy Hardneck Garlic

Excellent keeper, store for up to six months.

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Here's what you need to consider. Plan ahead a few weeks before your planting date:

1. First, pick your site. Garlic prefers rich, well-drained soil, weed-free soil and full sun. Ideally, pick a spot that is in full sun from winter through spring. It can be difficult to grow a crop in your weediest beds, so consider this when scouting during the summer.

2. Consider your mulching options. In wet winters, mulch plays an important role in keeping your garlic seed tucked safely in the soil. Without mulch, you risk your garlic seed popping out of the soil during frost-heave (the uplift of water-saturated soil due to expansion and contraction during the freeze-thaw cycle).  Compost, aged manure, and weed-free hay or straw mulch are good choices. Give yourself plenty of time to get this figured out. Don't leave it for later lest you forget!

3. A few days prior to planting, prep your site. Visit our bed prep post for tips on how to get a good, even garden bed.

3. Planting Garlic. 

Pick a sunny day in early to mid-October (in the Northeast), when the soil is still warm. Try to leave enough time before the ground freezes solid for the garlic to set roots. Garlic can be planted any time before the ground freezes solid, though, ideally 3-6 weeks prior.

Chesnok Red Hardneck Garlic

Chesnok Red Hardneck Garlic

The most beautiful garlic you'll ever see.

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Begin by breaking apart the heads of garlic into cloves. Count the cloves and determine the amount of space you need.  Most hardneck varieties have 50-90 cloves per pound. Garlic prefers full sun, so choose a spot that will get full sun for the spring and early summer. Each clove will be planted at 6" spacing, in rows 12" apart. Weed and work a proper amount of garden space. After cultivating the space, mark the rows. Plant cloves root side down, 2" deep, at least 6" apart, in rows 12" apart. Water and cover with mulch. Your garlic will need to be tended to in the spring, once the ground warms and it begins to grow.

4. Spring growing conditions and care.

Garlic begins to poke through the ground as soon as the soil warms. If you covered your garlic with a thick mulch layer, rake it back to help warm the soil faster.

Garlic prefers rich, weed-free soil and ample water. As spring weeds begin to emerge, pull them when small, taking care not to damage your garlic when pulling them out. Hardneck varieties produce garlic scapes in the spring. If left on the plant, the scapes will draw energy from the bulb, reducing size and quality. Once the scapes emerge, cut them off immediately to direct the plants' energy into bulb production. The scapes are an edible spring delicacy.

5. Fertility.

Garlic thrives in highly fertile soil. In the fall, plant garlic into well-composted beds. In the spring, give your garlic a nutrient boost in the form of alfalfa meal or an additional side-dress of compost.

6 thoughts on “How To Grow Garlic”

  • Peter Occhiogrosso

    You might also mention the film by the great documentary filmmaker Les Blank, called “Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers”
    https://vimeo.com/ondemand/garlic

    Reply
  • E K Adams

    Please advise about growing garlic in Iceland. The seeds we had from you last Spring did well for carrots. Some other things bolted. We could use some type to order and timing advise. EKA

    Reply
    • Isabel Vinton
      Isabel Vinton 09/06/2018 at 8:10 am

      Unfortunately we cannot claim any expertise about gardening in Iceland, and from what we have been able to research it seems like growing garlic will present some challenges there. The biggest issue would be the short growing season, as garlic tends to need a longer season to reach maturity. Other issues could include soil, sunlight, and frost heaves. If you are committed to giving it a try, we would definitely recommend choosing a Hardneck variety (the German Extra Hardy Hardneck would be the best match from our catalog), and you would definitely need to cover the bed or container with a blanket of straw for the winter.

      Reply
  • Charlene Clinger
    Charlene Clinger 08/28/2018 at 4:35 am

    I have Ohio clay. Impossible stuff! Could I fashion a temporary raised bed to plant them in?

    Reply
    • Isabel Vinton
      Isabel Vinton 09/06/2018 at 8:10 am

      You can absolutely plant your garlic in containers, whether raised beds or large planters. You'll want to make sure that the containers are deep enough, 18" at least, and because a raised bed may be more susceptible to frost heaves (when the ground freezes and thaws repeatedly, which can push garlic up and out), a good blanket of straw on top may be a good idea.

      Reply

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