Garlic is used in many different dishes from around the world. It is always a handy ingredient to have around, and you can easily add it to your garden.
While growing garlic from seed will take longer (up to 3 years) and isn’t as standard, you can grow garlic from a clove in a shorter period. This process is known as propagating and is used for many different vegetables and herbs.
Propagating garlic has many benefits and will definitely save you time in the kitchen and your garden. However, the main drawback is that the process isn’t infinite, and as with propagating other plants, they will eventually become smaller if you don’t regrow garlic from the largest bulbs.
Why Grow Your Own Garlic
The most obvious reason to grow your own garlic is, so you always have some around and don’t have to worry about taking a trip to the store if you forgot to buy garlic or you’ve run out.
Garlic is extremely handy in a garden and should be kept near specific plants such as roses because it is known to prevent diseases that roses and other plants are susceptible to. Garlic is also excellent to place around fruit trees to prevent insects and diseases from harming the tree.
- Garlic has been known as a natural insect deterrent for many years.
- Some insects that garlic keeps away are aphids, spider mites, and Japanese beetles.
- It is also known to kill different fungi.
- This also makes garlic a great indoor plant to deter pests indoors.
An additional benefit of growing your own garlic, or any food for that matter, is that you can keep your mind at ease at the source of it. You control the growing conditions and any pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers you may use.
Varieties of Garlic
There are hundreds of types of garlic you can choose to grow; however, they can be divided into two distinct types: hardneck and softneck.
There is a third variety, Elephant garlic, which is more closely related to the onion. Its large size and sweet, mild flavor and the small quantity, but large cloves are known for their large size and sweet taste.
Elephant garlic is commonly eaten raw because it doesn’t have as strong a flavor as other varieties.
Other garlic varieties have properties similar to both hardneck and softneck strains, such as the Creole, also known as the “ajo rojo.” It is a member of the silverskin variety; however, it sprouts like a hardneck.
It has white bulbs with red/purple cloves. The amount of cloves varies, depending on the size of the bulb. It also has a sweet and robust flavor.
Hardneck garlic will have a more robust stalk when it is growing and will produce scapes. It does better in colder climates and has more flavor than softneck garlic. If you are purchasing garlic at the store, it probably won’t be hardneck unless labeled. Your best bet at buying hardneck garlic to propagate is to try a local farmer’s market.
Some varieties of hardneck garlic are:
|Porcelain||Robust and garlicky flavor.||Large white bulbs with a red/brown skin around each clove.|
|Purple Stripe||Strong, sweet garlic flavor. Excellent for roasting.||Multiple varieties with thin cloves. Other types are marbled purple stripe and glazed purple stripe.|
|Rocambole||Balanced garlic flavor.||Large red/pink bulbs with a red/brown skin around the cloves.|
Softneck garlic is usually what you buy in a grocery store, so if you’re propagating what you purchased from the store, this is probably what you’re growing. This is also the type of garlic you’ll see that’s braided and hanging from ceilings because their stem is more flexible than hardneck garlic. Their flavor isn’t as strong as hardneck garlic, and they produce fewer cloves.
The two main varieties of softneck garlic are:
|Artichoke/Siciliano||Milder flavor than hardneck strains of garlic.||Have about 20 large cloves and have layers, like an artichoke. They have a thick white outside.|
|Silverskin||Robust and potent flavor.||Smaller white bulbs than the artichoke with more cloves inside. Cloves are a yellow/tan color.|
There are many sub-varieties that are tasty, colorful, and easy to grow within these two varieties. Depending on your region, or if you’re growing the garlic indoors, you can get away with planting almost any strain of garlic in your home.
Preparing Your Garlic Plant
Once you’ve decided to grow garlic from a clove, the first thing you need to do is to get your materials assembled and ready. The items you will need are:
- A deep pot that is big enough for several cloves and allows the garlic roots to grow with good drainage. If you are growing only one clove, make sure the pot is at least 8 inches in diameter. For any more garlic, make sure the pot is big enough to separate each clove by a 6-inch diameter.
- Soil: garlic grows best with a soil pH between 6.8 and 7.0; some suggest adding wood ash to the soil to make it more alkaline. You should use a sandy or clay loam for better drainage.
- Lighting: make sure that it is in a spot that has full, direct sun. You can leave your pot in a sunny area outside or on a windowsill that gets a lot of sunlight.
- Temperature: different strains of garlic will do better in different temperatures. Hardneck garlic does better in colder winters, while softneck garlic grows better with milder winters.
- Several garlic cloves. You can even plant a garlic clove that has already started to sprout.
- Compost to promote the amount of nutrients in the soil and promote drainage
- Mulch, especially if your plant is outside, to help insulate the garlic through the winter.
Planting Your Garlic
When you have all of your materials ready, you have to prepare the garlic. If you are planting the garlic from a bulb, you should separate the bulb into individual cloves. When planting, separate each clove by 6 inches.
If you plant them too close, once the stalk and leaves start growing, the plants will shade each other, reducing the amount of sunlight they receive.
Make sure to leave the pointed part of the clove upwards and then cover the clove with about 2 inches of soil. This is especially true for garlic’s hardneck strains; softneck strains are a bit more forgiving with placement.
The best time to plant most garlic is in the early fall. Some types of garlic can be planted in late spring and early summer. Researchers have also found that the soil temperature should be 50ºF at 4 inches deep, so if you’re growing it outside, you should leave the soil in a pot for a few days to get an accurate soil temperature reading.
Even though growing garlic from a clove is faster than from seeds, the process doesn’t happen overnight. As your clove is propagating, it will go through a few phases.
When hardneck garlic starts to grow, it will produce a little curved tip, also known as a scape. You should clip the scapes when you see them make your bulb larger.
You also can eat them; they’re wonderful to have grilled, as a pesto sauce, or even as a hummus. Softneck garlic won’t produce a scape, but some in-between strains might.
If you don’t snip the scapes, they will grow as the garlic would grow underground, just hanging in the air. This won’t severely affect the plant or weigh it down, but it will delay the growth of the bulb underground because the nutrients are being diverted from the bulb.
After the leaves are done growing, usually around the summer, the bulb truly starts to grow. When harvesting, if you notice your bulb is small, you can replant it for a few extra days to allow your garlic to have more time to grow.
As all plants have unique needs, the best way to take care of garlic is to:
- Make sure that it gets adequate sunlight.
- It has at least 40 days below 40ºF.
- Watering about 1-2 inches of water per week during the plant growing season, not bulb
- Remove any weeds that grow in the pot; this can still happen if you add mulch and if your plant is potted.
Here’s a helpful video with some tips on caring for garlic:
Garlic is generally planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. This holds especially if the plant is outside. If you’re keeping your garlic plant indoors, it will grow a bit faster, especially if you are protecting the garlic plant from a harsh, cold winter. One clove of garlic should produce a bulb of about 6 or 7 cloves.
You will know that the garlic is ready to be harvested and used when the lower leaves start to turn yellow and brown. You should stop watering the garlic once you notice this process starts, which is about two weeks before harvesting.
Since the garlic leaves grow first, and then the bulb grows, the nutrients will start to be drawn away from the leaves into the bulb.
When your garlic is ready to harvest, you should gently dig a hole seven inches around the garlic plant, making sure you don’t damage the bulb or any cloves.
Next, expose the bulb and carefully grasp the plant’s neck, using a trowel to loosen the roots—finally, dust off any easily removable dirt. Do not wash your garlic if you are going to cure it.
Be sure to harvest your garlic before it’s exposed to temperatures above 90ºF. If it is exposed to such temperatures, the plant will stop growing and start to die. The best time to harvest is between May and August, depending on your regional temperatures and the type of garlic you planted.
Curing the Garlic
After your garlic is harvested, you should cure it if you’re not using it right away. Hardneck garlic will last longer than softneck without curing. The curing process can take several weeks, but it is well worth the time to make sure you have plenty of garlic throughout the year.
You don’t have to cure garlic, but you should in order to prevent your yield from going to waste.
Curing the garlic allows the garlic to form a protective barrier, preventing it from growing mold. It is much safer to cure your homegrown garlic than having imported garlic from the store that was cured in China and other locations that don’t have strict regulations.
To cure garlic, you need a dry, well-ventilated room. You shouldn’t clean the garlic with anything more rigid than a soft-bristled brush before curing it because that will just allow moisture to get into the bulb.
You can lay out the garlic on a tray placed on a shelf or tie them up in bundles and hang them from the ceiling. Make sure that the garlic gets indirect sunlight.
The garlic will be fully cured when the roots are hard, and the leaves are brown and brittle. When you notice your garlic looks like this, then you can trim the leaves and roots and clean off any dirt that is still on it. You can use, store, or even save some garlic to be planted again.
Here’s a helpful video about curing garlic:
Storing the Garlic
After you’ve grown and cured your garlic, it’s time to store it. Garlic should be stored in a container with good airflow, such as a mesh bag, in a cool, dark space. You can use a garlic keeper, a terracotta pot, or a wire container.
Garlic should never be stored in the refrigerator. Storing garlic in the fridge will shorten its shelf-life and make it more susceptible to mold. Garlic should also never be stored in a plastic bag or container because they prohibit airflow, trapping any moisture.
You should also keep the bulb intact until you are ready to use it. While in its full bulb form, some strains of garlic can last up to eight months. Separated, it can only last a few days.
How to Know if There are any Problems
Even though garlic is known to fight off insects and diseases, they still are susceptible to their unique problems. While you are growing your garlic, you can sometimes experience problems with the plant. Some of the issues are fixable; however, others will require you to dispose of the plant. Some problems you can have from garlic plants are:
|Nematodes||Bloated leaves and bulbs. The top of the plant will turn yellow.||Naturally live in the soil.||Soak cloves in a solution of 100ºF water and 0.1% surfactant for 30 minutes, then repeat with 120ºF water for 20 minutes. You can also remove the plants and place them in a different area that isn’t affected.|
|Rust||White spots on leaves that turn orange. Bulbs will turn yellow, shrink, and die.||High humidity without watering and low light. The plant is stressed.||Consistent care and treating the soil with rotating plants.|
|White rot (fungus)||Dying older leaves, tip burn, and eventually the bulb rotting away.||It occurs mostly below 75ºF, could be present in the soil before planting.||Treat soil before growing by spraying garlic extract.|
|Fusarium||Dying older leaves starting at the tips, tip burn, bulb rotting away, slower than white rot.||Stressed plants in temperatures above 70ºF. The fungus is in the soil and extremely difficult to remove.||Remove the plant from the soil. You may have to burn the plant, and you will have to sanitize the soil and the pot.|
Some other common problems in garlic plants are penicillium mold, purple blotch, and powdery mildew.
If you notice any of your garlic plants have these problems, you should remove and isolate the plant and treat the soil.
Can you Grow More Garlic from What you Grew?
As mentioned earlier, propagating plants isn’t an infinite process. The issue with re-propagating from already propagated plants is that the next generation will become smaller.
If you are going to propagate from the same clove and bulb continuously, you should try to grow more than one bulb and then save the largest bulb for replanting.
If you are going to do this, make sure to cure the garlic and don’t break the bulb until you are ready to plant it. Garlic only lasts a few days to a week once the bulb is broken.
It’s best to use the largest bulb of garlic to ensure that your yield is consistent and doesn’t get smaller.
Things to do With Your Fresh Garlic
Now that you have a few fresh garlic bulbs, there are many things you can do with them outside of cooking them in your food. It is also essential never to store your garlic in the refrigerator. This will cause the garlic to decay and grow mold. Some great things to use garlic for are:
- Create a spray to kill mildew on plants by boiling a few cloves and letting them cool
- Create a fungicide spray by mixing garlic with dish soap and water
- Create a wellness drink known as “fire cider.”
- Crush a few cloves of garlic and rub onto your feet to cure athlete’s foot
- Freeze minced garlic with olive oil and herbs for later use.
Other Foods you can Grow From Plant Scraps
Garlic isn’t the only food you can regrow from plant scraps or leftover plants. Some fruits and vegetables that you can regrow from the scraps, rather than the seeds, are:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint