10 Fantastic Reasons to Grow Your Own Garlic

Garlic Planting

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It’s incredibly easy to grow your own garlic, especially if you live in a cold-weather climate. In fact, it’s so simple to grow that you can plant it and basically forget about it until you harvest it nine months later.

It’s the perfect vegetable for beginning gardeners because it’s so forgiving, and advanced gardeners will like the challenge of growing large quantities to store over the winter.

And if you’re a gardener who also loves to cook from scratch, you likely already start many dishes by throwing chopped garlic and onions into a pan with oil. It’s the foundation of many different types of cuisine!

Sure, you can buy garlic from the grocery store, but it’s never as tasty as homegrown garlic. And most of it is grown in California and China.

When other gardeners ask me about my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, garlic is up there as one of the top five. I plant around 220 bulbs every fall and harvest them in July.

I store them in my basement for the whole winter, and I haven’t used store-bought garlic in many, many years.

Unlike most other vegetables, garlic is planted in the fall, not the spring. If you live in a colder climate like mine in Wisconsin (zone 5), you should plant your garlic between mid-October and mid-November depending on the fall weather.

You have to plant before the ground freezes, but not so early that the bulbs begin to sprout.

As the climate warms I’ve been pushing my garlic planting back into November. I like to wait until I get a hard frost in my garden so I can clean out several garden beds of dead plant debris to make room for growing garlic.

Read all about how and when to plant your garlic for a spectacular harvest here.

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

If you plan ahead this season you can grow your own garlic and have a year-round supply of bulbs with little effort. You’ll never have to buy garlic from the grocery store again!

To get you excited about garlic, I’m sharing 10 of the reasons why you’ll fall in love with growing it and permanently add it to your fall garden to-do list.

garlic growing in the spring garden

Garlic growing in my spring garden.

10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Garlic This Year

#1: 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. The first main task is to keep it free of weeds, which is easy to do if you mulch it heavily after planting.

You should also make sure the plants get 1 inch of water per week in the spring. If you live in a climate that gets regular spring rains you may not have to do any supplemental watering.

But, if your garden goes through a dry period you’ll need to keep the garlic plants watered since they’re putting on a lot of growth in the spring.

Because it’s so low maintenance, garlic is a great choice for a garden that’s not located at your home, such as a community garden plot or friend’s backyard.

Garlic doesn’t require daily or weekly attention, so if you go long periods of time between visits to the garden your garlic won’t suffer.

spring garlic covered in snow

#2: Garlic loves cold climates.

Where I live in Wisconsin winter lows can dip down to -40 degrees F in winter. I know, I ask myself why I live here every January and February!

There aren’t many vegetables that can survive in the garden through winter weather that brutal. But, garlic not only survives but thrives in cold climates.

In fact, it’s easier to grow your own garlic when you live in a cold climate as compared to a warm one.

Garlic in garden ready for planting.

#3: Minimal pests and diseases.

In my garden, garlic has always been pest and disease-free. This is a relief in the summer garden when many of us struggle with failing plants due to pest and disease pressure.

There are a handful of pests and diseases that do exist, but they’re not very common in the home garden.

Growing garlic will be a relief if you’ve had difficulty with other challenging to grow crops like carrots, sweet peppers, and cilantro.

#4: You can plant a lot in a small space.

Garlic can be planted 6” apart on all sides. That means you can fit a lot of garlic in one garden bed.

One of the challenges of a small garden is that it’s difficult to grow significant amounts of individual vegetables. Not true with garlic! In a 4′ x 4′ garden bed you could plant between 32 – 40 garlic cloves.

Depending on how often you eat garlic this could provide you with an entire winter’s worth.

If you garden in a larger space, you’ll be able to produce a substantial crop of garlic in minimal space.

For example, in my 1600 square foot home garden, I plant 220 cloves of garlic every fall.

This amount of garlic fills up two of my bigger garden beds. Those beds supply me with a year’s worth of garlic and plenty of cloves to plant for the next season.

Not a bad payback for so little space!

grow your own garlic in the garden

#5: There are lots of options to choose from.

When you shop at your local grocery store for garlic, you may notice that it all looks exactly the same. This is because most of the garlic grown for global production is softneck garlic of one or two varieties (or more accurately cultivars).

Personally, I don’t even grow any softneck garlic because the cloves are usually very small. I hate trying to peel and chop tiny cloves!

Instead, I prefer to grow larger cloves that are easier to work with in the kitchen.

Hardneck garlic, the other type, generally produces bigger individual cloves. I plant several different varieties of hardneck garlic in my garden and no softneck.

Within each type, hardneck and softneck, there are plenty of varieties to choose from.  Some of my favorites are the red varieties that produce beautiful mottled colors on the garlic skins. (See above photo.) Check out Russian Red and Chesnok Red.

You can check out more of my favorite varieties on Etsy here and in my Amazon storefront.

Read more about how to choose the right varieties to grow in your garden in this post.

garden garlic ready for storage

#6: It stores for a long time.

A fun garden challenge I pose to participants in my workshops is to pick a vegetable and see if you can grow all that you need for an entire year. Meaning – you never have to purchase it from the grocery store that year.

It’s an interesting experiment in self-sufficiency and one I practice every season.

One of the easiest vegetables to start this challenge with is garlic. It’s very possible to grow a large amount of garlic in a small space. And if you choose the right varieties for storage you can keep it in a cool place in your house for many months.

I dry my garlic in my garage to prep it for long term storage and then I store it in my basement in crates for the winter months. It’s so fun to use your own garlic in the kitchen all winter long!

I’ve now perfected my process so most years I don’t have to purchase any garlic from the farmers market or grocery store.

Even if you’re not aiming for garlic self-sufficiency you can grow enough to supply yourself with homegrown garlic for many months of the winter.

(See how I harvest and store my garlic here.)

grow your own garlic and make garlic scape pesto

#7: 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 garlic scape in late spring from which you can make pesto.

The garlic scape is the flower stem that grows from the stalk of hardneck varieties. You’ll notice them start to emerge from the tops of the plants in early to mid-June depending on where you live.

Most farmers recommend cutting them off to encourage the garlic plant to direct its energy towards producing a bigger bulb.

The bonus of harvesting the scapes is that they’re edible! They have a sharp garlic-y taste and aren’t super tasty fresh.

But, they can be sauteed in oil and salt and added to any dish in which you’d use garlic, roasted on the grill, or (my favorite!), made into a pesto.

I use most of my garlic scapes in batches of pesto I freeze in jars for winter eating. We love using this bright green paste on pizza, pasta, and egg dishes. Find the recipe and more tips in this blog post.

growing garlic in garden

Garlic putting on a lot of growth in April in zone 5.

#8: It comes up early in spring.

The spring vegetable gardening seasoning can be a bit torturous in my opinion. The weather starts to warm up and it feels like you should be harvesting from your garden already, but the plants and seeds you’ve sown are taking forever to grow.

That’s where your garlic plants come in! You’ll notice them popping their perky leaves through the mulch as the sun starts warming the soil in spring.

They usually start growing in earnest and provide you with the feeling that things are really beginning to happen in your garden!

I love the promise they hold of robust summer garden harvests. What can I say? Gardening is a mind game sometimes!

And the visual interest they add to the early spring garden is a major bonus of this plant.

How to grow garlic in your garden

#9: It’s the perfect complement to a fall garden.

There are many benefits to growing a fall garden – fewer pests and disease, less weed pressure, hard to grow crops like cilantro thrive in cooler temps, and large, colorful harvests to enliven holiday meals.

But, one of the most common complaints I hear from gardeners is that in mid- to late summer, when it’s time to plant fall crops, they don’t have any room left in their gardens.

This is a big benefit to growing your own garlic! In many zones, garlic harvest happens in early to mid-July.

That means space will open up in your garden just in time for fall plantings.

Every July, after I harvest my 220 garlic plants, I immediately prep some of those garden beds for fall plantings of beets and carrots. I also reserve some space for later summer sowing of spinach, radishes, salad greens, cilantro, and salad turnips.

If you’ve struggled to find space for fall plantings in your garden, choose to grow garlic next season and you’ll have the perfect area to seed new plantings in July.

Read more about 8 Easy Vegetables to Grow for Big Fall Harvests.

garlic and woman in garden

#10: It’s fun!

Is there anything not fun about the previous nine points on this list?

Garlic is easy to grow, requires little work to maintain, stores for many months of the winter, provides you with an excuse to make lots of pesto, and adds much-needed greenery to the early season garden.

All of these add up to make garlic one of the top choices for easy (and most “worth it”) vegetables to grow in the home garden.

If you’ve never grown your own garlic, it’s time to add it to your list and give it a try this season.

You’ll be amazed at how little work it requires and extremely excited when you’re ready to harvest your first crop in mid-summer!

If you’re pumped to grow garlic now, learn more about the process with the below resources.

garlic from the garden

Additional Resources for Growing Your Own Garlic

If you’re wondering how to decide between all of the different garlic types, I help you figure out which variety is best for your garden in this article: What Kind of Garlic Should You Plant?

You can check out more of my favorite varieties on Etsy here and in my Amazon storefront.

After you’ve ordered your garlic seed and prepped your garden, it’s time to plant! Here’s how to Plant Your Garlic for a Spectacular Harvest

If you’ve planted hardneck varieties you can start harvesting the scapes in late spring the following year and make loads of garlic scape pesto. Here’s my recipe: Make This Bright & Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe.

And the following summer, here’s how to know when it’s time to harvest and how to cure it for winter storage: How to Harvest & Cure Your Garlic

 

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Comments

  • Avatar

    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?

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      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.

  • Avatar

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

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    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?

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

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      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.

      • Avatar

        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.

        • Avatar

          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.

  • Avatar

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

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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!

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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!

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar
    Didi Pierce

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

    • Avatar

      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.

      • Avatar

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

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          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!

  • Avatar

    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?

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      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.

  • Avatar

    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?

    • Avatar

      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 […]

  • Avatar

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

    • Avatar

      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.

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

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      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!

  • Avatar
    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.

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar

      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.

  • Avatar

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

    • Avatar

      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.

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        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.

        • Avatar

          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 […]

  • Avatar
    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?

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

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

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    its december so is it too late to plant garlic?

    • Avatar

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

  • Avatar
    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

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar

      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.

  • Avatar

    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??

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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!

    • Avatar

      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!

  • Avatar

    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.

    • Avatar

      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!

  • […] Plant fall garlic before the ground freezes and mulch well for cold winter areas; you can spring plant garlic, if you forget to do it now, but the bulbs won’t be as big […]

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