How to Grow Garlic at Home – We Did it For You!
Can you grow garlic indoors? I’ve tried doing this myself—and yes, it is very easy to grow garlic at home! However, there are a few things that must be remembered for you to harvest the best garlic.
Garlic can be grown by planting the largest cloves in nutrient-rich soil with 6 hours of sun per day or 12 hours of grow light indoors. Although store-bought garlic can also be planted, it will grow slowly and must be given consistent water to prevent premature wilting.
Gardeners around the world love growing garlic because of how easy and low-maintenance it is. All you need to start is a few cloves of garlic! Read more to learn how you can grow garlic!
For the experiment, 5 cloves from a 40-gram bulb of softneck garlic purchased from a grocery were selected for planting. Larger cloves were selected to increase the chances of bulb growth.
As you can see in the picture, no central stem is visible. This is because softneck garlic is the most common type of garlic sold in stores as it can last for up to a year after harvest—but more on that later on.
When it came to selecting which garlic to plant, I picked the largest bulbs and cloves. The smaller cloves should be avoided, as they tend to produce smaller bulbs and mediocre results.
So now that we’ve got the best cloves, let’s see if these store-bought garlic cloves can still be grown at home despite—probably—having been sprayed with a sprout inhibitor.
The Experiment Setup
All 5 large cloves of garlic were planted with their basal roots down in the same 6-inch plastic container filled with soil and manure. The cloves were watered 1–2 times a week and grown with 6 hours of direct sun at 80–85°F and 50–60% humidity.
Now to grow the garlic, you need good soil. For nutrient-rich soil, a plastic 6-inch container was filled with a blend of fresh soil and manure. 5 garlic cloves were selected for this experiment.
I left the skin on to prevent it from rotting in the soil. But don’t worry, peeled garlic cloves can still be grown without their skin. Plant the 5 cloves in the soil with their flat side, or basal root, down with the pointy tip up.
All of these cloves were planted in the same pot. For this experiment, I buried them about 2 inches deep in the soil.
If you have very cold winters, you can bury yours up to 6 inches below the soil instead to prevent them from getting damaged by the cold.
After this, the potted garlic plants were placed in an area where they could receive more or less 6 hours of direct sun with temperatures around 80–85°F (26–29°C). The humidity was between 50–60% and they were watered once or twice a week.
The Experiment Results: Growing Garlic in Pots
Results show that store-bought garlic can be grown at home. The first growth was observed 2 weeks after the garlic cloves were planted. Prolific root and leaf growth could be seen on one clove within 3 weeks. But because garlic plants require consistent moisture and sun exposure, it quickly wilts after a week without water.
Growing garlic is easy but what if you end up missing a week or two of care? After setting the experiment up, here’s what happened!
Week 1: No Visible Growth Above the Soil
No changes were found during the first week of planting the garlic cloves.
This wasn’t a surprise, especially when it was unknown whether or not the garlic was sprayed with growth inhibitors beforehand.
Nevertheless, I still watered the potted garlic at least twice a week and kept it in a sunny spot.
Week 2: No Visible Growth Above the Soil
The garlic had not yet sprouted in the second week but I continued to care for it throughout the experiment.
It also started to rain at this point. The garlic cloves were only manually watered once this time, as they had already received heavy soakings from the rain throughout the week.
Week 3: First Growth is Seen Above the Soil
Around the third week, the cloves had finally sprouted!
It continued to grow quite well up until the final week.
Week 4: The Final Result
The garlic I had purchased from the store and planted in pots grew quickly after the first couple of weeks, proving that even the same garlic we buy from the groceries can be used to grow garlic.
Because this was a transparent container, I was able to see prolific root growth throughout the soil as well! However, the garlic plant had died as quickly as it had arrived and wilted after a week of missed watering sessions.
The garlic cloves were unable to continue growing without its much-needed water and so they had quickly turned yellow and wilted within just a few days.
Despite this, I was glad to have been able to perform such an experiment. One of the great things about growing garlic and gardening, in general, is just how easy it is to start over. You can always plant anew!
This project has shown that store-bought garlic can still be used to plant with. But for higher success, it might be best to buy local varieties to grow the best garlic for your environment and preferences.
Silverskin garlic, for example, can be grown for a traditional softneck garlic. If you live in a cold climate, consider trying the hardneck Purple Stripe garlic variety for a frost-hardy plant with a unique pattern!
Growing Potted Garlic Indoors
Garlic grows best in the fall in 5-gallon plastic containers with nutrient-rich soil and 6 hours of full sun daily. Provide garlic with 1 inch of water per week and apply liquid fertilizer monthly except during frost. Bulb will only grow once the plant is exposed to temperatures of 32–50⁰F during winter.
You might be eager to grow your own garlic indoors now, which is great!
To help make the process easier for you, all you need to do now is check out the following factors to keep in mind when growing your own garlic at home.
A 5-gallon plastic container is ideal for growing garlic. Wider planters are also ideal because they allow garlic to form new bulbs to harvest. Ensure they have adequate drainage to prevent rot.
Garlic is quite easy to grow and can be planted directly in your garden or kept in containers indoors.
You can even reuse some old, plastic containers, providing they’re thoroughly cleaned. Just make sure to add some drainage holes.
In fact, plastic may be the best material to use in container gardens due to the fact that it can help retain more moisture than clay or terracotta.
Here are some good indoor pots I recommend for growing garlic.
But what about the size of the pot?
For garlic plants, a standard 5-gallon pot will work perfectly for growing garlic. You can use whatever planters you have available but make sure that they are at least more than 6 inches deep!
For optimum growth, plant garlic in loose nutrient-rich soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Organic matter, such as manure and compost, must be mixed in the soil. Grow garlic in garden beds or containers with soil that’s at least 6 inches deep.
To choose and prepare for the best planting site, focus on growing your garlic in loose and fertile soil. Although garlic can be grown in a variety of soil types, old and compact soil would not be ideal.
Well-rotted manure or compost should be blended into the soil before planting. These organic matter can also be introduced to old soil to help restore nutrients.
The goal of adding organic matter is to ensure your soil is as fertile as possible!
Whether it’s in a container or a raised garden bed, make sure that the soil is at least 6-inches deep for the garlic.
Having worms can help aerate soils but bear in mind that small containers do not provide adequate space they need to thrive.
To learn more about worms, read our article on the 12 types of earthworms.
Garlic requires 1 inch of water per week to thrive. However, watering must temporarily stop 2 weeks before harvest to prevent stains and diseases.
Try to keep the soil evenly moist as your garlic grows, especially in the first few weeks of planting.
If you’ve prechilled your garlic beforehand, the garlic should root quickly once it’s planted in the soil. It will require plenty of consistent watering—give it an inch of water a week.
About two weeks before harvest, however, it’s best to stop watering. This will help reduce the chances of the garlic bulbs catching a disease, like neck rot. Doing so will also ensure that the garlic’s skin does not stain.
Light and Temperature
Garlic plants require at least 6 hours of full sun per day. This plant can be grown in partial shade but will not produce large bulbs with limited exposure to light. Indoors, a full-spectrum grow light must be on for up to 14 hours to induce bulb growth.
This vegetable prefers full sun but can still be grown in partial shade. But to increase your chances of harvesting large garlic bulbs, a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun is recommended.
Fall-planted garlic should be exposed to temperatures from 32⁰F to 50⁰F in the winter. This exposure to lower temperatures is required for the garlic to start forming new bulbs.
Garlic leaves and tops will die at 5°F (−15°C) but if the bulb is covered in mulch, it will go into dormancy and continue growing during the spring. Otherwise, the garlic will grow just fine at an average of 40°F (4.5°C).
But after this initial period, the garlic should grow just fine in a wide range of temperatures and can still be grown under grow lights for 6 hours. All that’s needed now is to wait!
When you want to grow them inside the house, you will need to your potted garlic about a foot under a full-spectrum grow light for up 12–14 hours.
Growing garlic indoors? Read our article on grow lights vs sunlight: which is better?
Garlic is a heavy-feeding plant that requires consistent fertilizing every month to encourage and maintain bulb growth, except during winter. Liquid fertilizers with blood meal and fish emulsion are ideal
When it comes to fertilizing garlic crops, you might be surprised. All that compost and manure from when you first planted is enough, right? Not exactly.
Even if you planted your garlic in soil rich with nutrients, it requires plenty of supplementary fertilizer to produce large bulbs.
Liquid fertilizer is recommended since it can be directly poured onto the garlic bulb and its roots. Blood meal and fish emulsion are two great choices.
Apply this fertilizer once every month—save for winter—and then watch your garlic plants grow!
This fish fertilizer on Amazon can be used for garlic and other plants.
When is the Best Time to Plant Garlic?
The garlic bulb can be kept in the fridge for 1 month before being planted. Garlic is best planted during fall and must be overwintered to form new bulbs. If it is not overwintered, the garlic will only grow green shoots and will not produce bulbs.
For the garlic to produce new bulbs, the garlic cloves must be exposed to temperatures no higher than 50⁰F. You want established root systems with minimal leaf growth.
Planting garlic in the fall is great because the garlic will inevitably be exposed to winter temperatures and will continue growing again in the spring to grow new bulbs.
Then, be sure to cover your garlic with 1–2 inches of mulch to help protect it from the upcoming frost.
In most circumstances, home gardeners might recoil at the thought of exposing their crops and hard work to frost. Now, you can plant garlic at any time of the year without this cooling period, but the plant will only produce greens.
So if you live in a hot region without snow or it’s too early in the year to grow garlic, you can put the garlic in the fridge for 1–2 months to cool it artificially.
Using this method, you can plant garlic in spring or any other season and harvest them after 9 months!
When Should You Harvest Garlic?
Garlic fully matures after 9 months and can be harvested after half of its leaves have wilted. Young garlic, known as green garlic, can be harvested earlier. Harvest garlic by lifting bulbs from the ground with a spade and pulling them gently.
It takes around 8–9 months for garlic to fully mature.
The best time to harvest garlic is when 50% of the leaves at the top start to dry up and turn brown. Since the garlic has finished growing, it no longer requires the leaves to photosynthesize.
The garlic bulbs harvested at this stage are at their full size and should hopefully be large!
Nevertheless, garlic can be harvested early—commonly known as green garlic. It looks very similar to scallions and can even be cooked the same way.
To harvest garlic, simply grasp the stalks at the base of the plant and carefully lift it out of the soil with the use of a spade. As you know, garlic skin can be quite thin, so you want to avoid excessive damage.
Don’t hesitate to use the leaves for cooking. These chives are delicious!
Read more in our article on garlic chives vs chives.
Dying and Storing Garlic
Dried garlic can last between 6–12 months. Clean the garlic bulbs and sun-dry them for 24 hours before trimming the roots and stem, cutting the stem 2 inches above the garlic head. Store garlic in a dry and cool place at 32–38°F or keep in jars of honey.
Now that you’ve harvested your garlic, you might have way more than you might need. But that’s not a problem!
Dying or curing garlic is the best way to store and keep them for long periods. This is done by drawing as much moisture out of it as possible to help preserve it.
To store garlic, leave your freshly harvested garlic in the sun for at least a day, with all its leaves and stems still attached. This initial drying process helps ensure the garlic is as dry as possible before you start trimming it for more long-term storage.
Once a minimum of 24 hours have passed, carefully brush the dirt off the sun-dried garlic. Just be sure to leave the skin intact. The roots and neck of the garlic are ready to be trimmed at this point.
But you don’t want to expose the inner cloves to moisture. So be sure to cut the main stem of the garlic 1–2 inches above the bulb. Keep your dried garlic in a cool and dry place around 32–38°F.
Does Softneck Garlic Last Longer Than Hardneck Garlic?
Softneck garlic lasts 3–8 months longer than hardneck garlic. A softneck garlic can last for 9–12 months. Hardneck garlic has a shorter shelf life of 4–6 months but it can tolerate frost better than softneck.
You might be confused what the difference is between a softneck garlic and a hardneck garlic.
[quote] Hardneck garlic is just a garlic bulb with a hard central stem in the middle of the cloves. Softneck garlic can be identified by their absence of a central stem.
You may also store a few garlic bulbs, both hardneck and softneck, in the fridge. But keep in mind that they will probably sprout after a month or two.
If you’d like to grow more garlic in the future, save the healthiest and largest bulbs from your harvest and plant them again for more garlic!
Garlic rarely faces any pests or problems. It’s even commonly used to repel certain pests.
Read more in our article on the 15 plants that repel squirrels.
What is the best month to plant garlic?
Garlic should be grown at least 4–6 weeks before winter and is best planted during fall months—around late September or mid-October. This allows the garlic to overwinter and produce new bulbs in the spring.
How do you care for garlic in the spring?
Fall-planted garlic should be covered with mulch to prevent weeds in the spring. Water regularly and side-dress with compost. Remove scapes or pinch off flowers to encourage further bulb growth.
Should garlic be planted with or without the skin?
Garlic can be placed in the soil with or without their skin. However, garlic cloves are typically left with their skin on when planted to protect the cloves and prevent them from rotting.
Summary of Growing Garlic at Home
Plant garlic cloves in 5-gallon plastic containers filled with loose soil mixed with compost and nutrients. Garlic plants must be given 6 hours of full sun per day and 1 inch water per week. They must be grown at 32–50⁰ F in the winter to encourage new bulb growth. Apply fertilizer every month except during the winter.
Organic garlic is better suited for planting because store-bought garlic is commonly sprayed with growth inhibitors. However, the experiment shows that some store-bought garlic can still grow though they develop slowly and require consistent watering. Otherwise, they will likely die.
Garlic plants are ready for harvest when 50% of the leaves turn brown and can be lifted out of the soil with a fork or spade. To store garlic, sun-dry them and then remove the roots and cut off 1–2 inches of the main stem above the bulb. Store garlic in a dark and airy place like a kitchen pantry so garlic can last for 6–12 months.
- “Garlic” by n/a in North Carolina State University
- “Growing Garlic” by Minda Daughtry in North Carolina State University
- “Growing garlic in home gardens” by Marissa Schuh, Carl J. Rosen, and Cindy Tong in University of Minnesota
- “Growing Garlic in a Home Garden” by n/a in University of Maryland Extension