What Kind of Garlic Should You Plant?

garlic bulbs

Interested in growing garlic? You’re in luck – garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow in the home garden. You can plant a large amount in a small space, it doesn’t have many pests or diseases, and it loves cold weather.

It survives the harsh winters in Wisconsin where we sometimes get -40 degree F winter weather. That’s a tough plant! (I share more reasons I think you should plant it here.)

As a bonus, harvested garlic will store for many months in your home, allowing you to use it as the base for delicious meals all year round. Cooking with your own home grown garlic will make dinner prep even more satisfying.

Common questions I get from new garlic growers is what kind of garlic they should plant and where to get it. There are a few options, so let’s dive right in!

garlic growing in garden

The Different Types of Garlic

There are two main types of garlic and which one you choose to plant will depend upon what you’re looking for in a garlic harvest.

Softneck garlic is the most common variety found in grocery stores. Softnecks often have many smaller cloves and they sometimes form multiple layers around the bulb.

Softnecks tend to store for longer periods of time than hardnecks. They grow well in most climates. They have a flexible stalk that’s great for braiding garlic. There are two main types of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke.

Hardneck garlic generally has fewer and larger cloves than softneck. Hardnecks produce a scape, or stalk, in late spring that grows from the center of the plant. (I love to make pesto from them.)

Because the outer paper on the bulb is thinner they won’t store as long as softneck garlic. They are best grown in cold climates. There are three main types: rocambole, porcelain and purple stripe.

Elephant garlic is a completely different kind of garlic and grows huge bulbs.

In my garden I grow hardneck varieties because I don’t like to deal with lots of tiny bulbs when cooking. I like big bulbs that are easy to peel and chop.

If you want to store your garlic for many months (I’ve successful stored it until the next summer in my basement!) and you live in a cold climate like mine, I recommend growing a porcelain variety.

If you garden in a warmer climate then a softneck variety is better for you. Warm weather gardeners will also need to pre-chill their garlic, read about it here and here.

hand with garlic seed to plant

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Where to Get Garlic Seed

When you plant garlic you take a bulb and break it into its individual cloves and plant each clove separately. Over the course of about 9 months each clove will grow into a bulb. (That’s a pretty good return!) Seed garlic is simply bulbs that you buy for planting.

You’ll need to buy seed garlic if you’re planting garlic for the first time this year. Don’t plant garlic you buy from the grocery store. It’s possible that it’s been sprayed by an anti-sprouting agent and it’s likely a softneck type.

Shop at your local farmers market for seed garlic or order some online.  The great thing about garlic is that once you buy seed you can save a portion of what you harvest each year to plant in the fall.  (I show you exactly how to do this in my garlic eBook.)

Some favorite places to buy seed garlic online are:

Seed Savers Exchange

High Mowing Seeds

Hudson Valley Seed Library

Boundary Garlic Farm – for Canadian gardeners

I plant my garlic in my zone 5a garden at the end of October or beginning of November, after we get some frosts and I do some garden cleanup to make room in a few garden beds.

Garlic is one of the champions of the garden in my opinion! If you’ve never grown it before, put it on your fall to-do list. I suspect that you’ll fall in love with growing garlic as much as I have!

Growing Garlic

I walk you through the entire process of planting, growing, harvesting and curing your garlic (with full color photos!) in my eBook, The Essential Guide to Growing Garlic.  It’s on sale for only $5 since we’re heading into garlic season! Read about it here.

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