Why You Should Grow Garlic in Your Garden

Garlic Planting

If you’re a home cook you likely start many dishes by throwing chopped garlic and onions into a pan with olive oil. It’s the foundation of many, many meals! If you plan ahead this season you can grow garlic and have your own year round supply of with little effort.

Lots of people ask me about my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden. Although it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one, garlic is definitely up there!  I plant around 220 bulbs every fall and harvest them in July.

My garlic stores in my basement for the whole year, so I never buy garlic from the grocery store and haven’t for many years.

If you live in a colder climate like mine in Wisconsin (zone 5a/b), you should plant your garlic between mid-October and mid-November depending on the fall weather. You have to plant before the ground freezes. I like to wait until I get a hard frost in my garden so I can clean out some garden beds to make room for growing garlic.

(If you live in a warmer climate, read this and this for tips about growing garlic in your region.)

To get you excited to grow garlic in your garden, I’m sharing the reasons why I love it so much and think you should add it to your fall garden to-do list.

7 REASONS TO GROW GARLIC IN YOUR GARDEN

garlic growing in the spring garden

Garlic growing in my spring garden.

It’s super low maintenance. Once you plant and mulch your garlic in fall there’s very little to do until the harvest the following summer. Just keep it weeded (which is easy to do if you mulch it heavily) and watered if it gets dry in spring.

It loves cold climates. Where I live in WI we can get lows down to -40 degrees F in winter. (I know, I ask myself why I live here every January and February!) There aren’t a whole lot of vegetables that can take that brutal weather. But, garlic survives and thrives in cold climates.

Garlic in garden ready for planting.

Minimal pests and diseases. In my garden, garlic has always been pest and disease free. There are a few that exist, but they’re not very common in the home garden. Growing garlic will be a relief if you’ve struggled with failing plants in summer due to pest and disease pressure.

Plant a lot in a small space. You can grow garlic 6” apart on all sides. That means you can fit a lot of garlic in a garden bed. My 220 cloves take up about two garden beds. Not a bad payback for so little space!

How to grow garlic in your garden

It stores for a long time. If you grow the right types you can store your garlic fresh in your basement or another cool area for up to a year. It’s so fun to use your own garlic in the kitchen all winter long! (See how I harvest and store my garlic here.)

You get a bonus food crop. Not only do you get the garlic bulb as a food crop when you grow garlic, but some types also produce a crazy looking scape in late spring from which you can make pesto. I freeze the pesto I make and we eat it with pizza, pasta, and egg dishes all year round.

It’s fun! Anything that’s easy to grow and requires little work from me is a fun vegetable to grow in my book. As a bonus, garlic pokes up through the mulch soon after the ground thaws in spring and adds much needed greenery to the early season garden.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, 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.  Read about it here.

Growing Garlic

 

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Comments

  • Just a question, I planted garlic this year in a pot, it is doing well, but isn’t ready, I didn’t realize it took so long so I am wondering, do I leave the pot outside during the winter? Or bring it in?

    • Hi Lisa- Where do you live? Usually it’s planted in the fall and harvested the next summer after it gets a nice, cold winter. You could dig one up and see what it looks like. If it hasn’t formed a bulb yet I’d leave it out for the winter.

  • Hi! Does it grow in pots well? I have a balcony with shade in the morning and full sunnin the afternoon/evening.
    Thanks!

  • Thanks for the tip about garlic planting. Though I live in Puerto Rico, is it possible to grow garlic in our weather? What’s the highest you’ve had in the fall when you plant them?

  • I just moved to work and I’m wondering if there are any plants I can plant now

    • Hi Aubree- It depends where you live. I live in Wisconsin, zone 5a/b. I just planted the last of my vegetables for the year – arugula, spinach and cilantro. I also plant garlic in October. If you live in a warmer climate it’s likely you can plant more than that.

      • Hi Megancain,
        I also live in Wisconisn. Are you saying we can plant garlic and leave it out in our kind of weather? Should I plant some now. I live in Milwaukee. I use garlic all the time.

        • Hi Regina- Yes! Garlic is awesome because it survives the winter in WI. Just make sure to mulch it thickly with leaves, hay or straw to protect it from the freeze and thaw we get here. I’ll be planting mine in the next few weeks! I haven’t gotten a frost yet, so I’m waiting to clear out space until then.

  • I just moved to MO/KS and was wondering what type of garlic would you recommend planting?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Michaela- I’ve gotten this question a lot and it’s more than a few line answer. I’ll be writing a blog post in the next 2 weeks addressing it. Keep your eyes peeled!

  • What variety of garlic do you suggest I plant. I live in Southwest Michigan so it’ll get pretty cold here through the winter as well. Thank you!

    • Hi Katie- Great question! This has been a popular request so I’m going to write a blog post next week about it. It’s a longer answer than can fit in the comments. Stay tuned!

  • I am super excited about growing garlic this winter with my eight (8) year old. I woke her up this morning with that news. She cannot wait!

    • That’s SO cute! Thank you so much for sharing that with me this morning. It’s so fun to plant with kids because the cloves are a nice size for them to work with. Keep me posted on how it goes!

  • Didi Pierce

    There are many squirrels living near my garden. What steps do you take to keep squirrels from digging up your garlic beds?

    • Hi Didi- Great question! I have squirrels as well and they sometimes both my flower bulbs, but have never dug up any garlic. Most animals don’t like it because it has such a potent smell and taste. If you want to be extra careful you could stake down some wire over the bed or use row cover to protect the newly planted beds.

      • Pocket gophers do eat garlic! Guess we must have Italian ones here in NE WA!

        • Oh, no! Sorry to hear that. Usually alliums can escape the wrath of pests and animals because of their strong taste. You have some hardy gophers out there, Jan!

  • We get a lot of snow, I was thinking of planting in a raised garden bed. If I mulch and quit watering when the snow comes will it survive?

    • Hi Catie- If you live in a cold climate like I do (Wisconsin) then you should not water your garlic after planting. It’s basically dormant until the spring, like a flower bulb. Mulch it thickly and it will survive the winter just fine. It gets down to -40 F here sometimes.

  • I live in La Crete, Alberta Canada, and we get -30° Celsius weather during winter. Can I still plant garlic in fall or will it just freeze?

    • Susana – Yes! Garlic actually does better in colder climates. Think of it like a flower bulb – they easily survive cold temps in winter. I live in Wisconsin, which gets extremely cold, and my garlic does great every year. Definitely try it this fall!

  • […] 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.) […]

  • […] of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden, especially if you live in a colder climate. (In this post I share the other reasons you should plant […]

  • Will garlic bring pests along? I have trouble with squirrels and mice on our property.

    • Great question, Bethany. In general most pests don’t bother alliums (garlic, onions, leeks) because they have such a strong smell and taste. The squirrels and chipmunks in my garden tend to leave them alone. If you’re worried, you could cover the bed with some wire after planting to make sure the critters don’t dig them up.

  • Can I plant my garlic in my raised garden in NNY now? Will it survive the winter? Thanks

    • Hi Mary- Great question! Yes, garlic can survive the winter in cold areas. Here in WI it goes down to -30-40 F in winter and my garlic does just fine. You can plant it now if you’d like, although I wait until the warm days are gone so it doesn’t sprout. I plant mine in early November. Good luck!

  • Lawanna Pond

    Also, if you have garlic in your garden or back yard you will never have gophers or moles. I have a 100 x 75 ft. back yard and one garlic plant in the front corner and I have never had any rodents except once when my neighbor decided he didn’t like the plant and reached over the fence and pulled it up. It wasn’t long before I had a gopher and I put the garlic back and haven’t had one since. It always spreads into a bunch of stalks and I harvest some and give it to family members and use some and leave one piece in the ground and it still keeps working.

    • That is one nice thing about alliums, Lawanna, animals don’t usually bother them because of their strong taste and smell. Gophers can be such a nuisance, so it’s great that you’ve found a way to keep them out of your yard. Thanks for sharing!

  • I plant garlic every year and it’s always grows well. At times you get small bulbs along with bigger ones I braid them and leave outside till the green is brown.I have tried Spanish,Italian and even from California corms and it seems always the same. I always remove the seed flower (drumstick in the middle) My grandmother used to remove them as the strength goes to the bulb not to seeds. We cut the flower on top and use it for soups and sauces. How deep do you plant your garlic? “Some say the white point should be visible” at ground level.I live in Toronto Canada and at times gets pretty cold

    Don Durante.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Don. I plant my garlic about 6 inches deep and then cover it with a thick layer of mulch to protect it from the winter weather here in Wisconsin.

  • HOw about Atlanta, Georgia?
    I’m putting some garlic in just to see
    What happens!

    • Hi Leslie! Depending on what zone you’re in you will want to read the links for southern gardeners in the post above. If you have trouble growing bulbs like tulips and daffodils you’ll likely need to pre-chill your garlic before planting.

      • One of the joys of living in the South is you can grow all year round. Garlic grows wild here in SC. What is an annual in the North is a perennial in the South. So, yes, you can grow garlic in Atlanta.

        • That is a great joy! You should make sure you buy a variety that’s more suited for the south though.

  • […] written a few popular posts on growing garlic: why you should plant it, how to decide what types to grow, and how to harvest and cure […]

  • Leslie Fernandes

    I live in Rhode Island and planted my garlic bulbs about 6 weeks ago. They have started to sprout. Will they be okay or should I try again?

    • Because of our warm fall, mine have sprouted too, Leslie. They should be fine. The sprouts will die back when it gets cold and the garlic should recover in the spring. In the future, I’d wait a little bit longer to plant your garlic. The bed I planted last (at the beginning of November) is the only one that didn’t sprout. Good luck!

  • I live in Dayton NV which garlic is best to grow here

    • Hi Michelle– I looked up Dayton and you live in Zone 7a, so you should be able to grow either softneck or hardneck varieties. The best place to find a variety that does well in your area is to visit a local farm or farmers market and ask what varieties they have success with. Good luck!

  • hi from canada we are new at the garlic growing what is the best way to fertilize the ground and with what . can you plant garlic in the same spot more than once thank you

    • Hi Tom- You can always add a high quality compost to your soil, or use an organic fertilizer specifically for vegetables. You should rotate everything in your garden every year so you’re not planting in the same place for as long as possible. This helps with disease, insects, and soil nutrients. But, it is difficult to do when you have a small garden!

  • its december so is it too late to plant garlic?

    • Hi Sandra- If you can still plant in your garden then I say go for it! Mine is covered in snow right now…

  • james liest

    hi, i live in omaha ne and i plant my garlic as i harvest in july. it grows during the fall and is about 2 ft by the time the cold withers the tops. i mulch with leaves and grass clippings. in spring it grows and gets about 4ft with the scarps, which i break off to focus the growth to the bulbs.
    i think the extra growth during the fall is the reason last year i harvested 35 lbs in a 5×7 ft area last year. the largest bulbs were as big as a tennis ball. no its not elephant garlic, i discovered a neglected patch at my dads house in the dells area of wis and brought back about 20 very small bulbs 10 years ago.i have replanted every year since and they just keep getting bigger.
    as i see it, planting within a week after harvest give the plants a full year of growth

    • I’ve never heard of planting garlic in the summer. I’m glad to hear that it’s working for you! Garlic is one of my favorite vegetables to grow in my garden. Thanks for your tip!

  • I too plant lots of garlic in the fall about 400 bulbs, in wisconsin. I do find some varieties that don’t store as long and with these I peel, chop in large pices and then dehydrate, I then use the dehydrated pieces in soups or stews and also grind some to make my own garlic powder-nothing better! Thanks for all the wonderful tips, one can always learn something new.

    • Wow, that’s a lot of garlic! Do you eat it all yourself? At my house I find that the porcelain types tend to last in storage the longest. Sometimes I’ll dice and freeze some if it’s starting to sprout.

  • I planted elephant garlic 6+ months ago. We went away & moved the plant inside and wYered it well. When we moved it back outside a bit withered looking. The stem/stalk broke off they were about 3′ tall. I thought that was the end of it. So we started to dump the pot and there were a ton little roots and found the stalk intacted about 5″ down. So I recovered it with the dirt and been watering it and nothing…..will it grow or should I dig up whatever I have??

    • I would think it would regrow. Garlic starts to sprout in spring. I’d leave it a bit to see what happens. Keep it watered and in a warm place. Let me know what happens!

  • Hello. What month do you usually harvest your garlic and after I harvest the garlic in the spring would I still have time to rodatill my and plant my garden as usually? Any vegetable plants I wouldn’t be able to plant because I grew garlic in the same area or the garden? I live in SD. Thank you. I would love to do this!

    • Hi Ann- You generally plant garlic in October/November and harvest it in July. So, you wouldn’t be able to plant in that spot in spring.
      But, you could plant some fall vegetables after you harvest. That’s what I do!

  • When I try growing garlic, the squirrels always dig up and run off with literally every one I planted, within just a few weeks of planting. What can I do? It’s discouraging to see my effort, time, and money wasted, so I’d given up after a few attempts. I didn’t even realize squirrels liked garlic.

    • Sorry to hear that, Bree. You can cover newly planted bulbs with row cover, chicken wire, or hardware cloth to keep the squirrels out. Good luck!

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