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Growing Garlic in the Garden

Garlic is a smell is strongly associate with my grandma on my Mom’s side. Not only do I remember her growing garlic and having bulbs around her house, but she would make her own yummy garlicky pickles. When you gave that 4 foot 9 inch tall Hungarian woman and good firm hug, you would always get a strong garlic smell too. To me it meant comfort. I always thought she had the garlic smell was because she ate so much of it. (This is NOT medical advice, always consult your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.)   Looking back now, it’s actually because she was a PILL POPPER. Grandma K loved her vitamin supplements. Grandma K had a shoe box FULL of vitamins on her kitchen table, and she would take them ALL DAY LONG. Weird things like Alfalfa, and of course her garlic pills.  I could only imagine her blood smelled like pizza; it’s probably what made her so feisty. Garlic exuded itself from her skin in a warm aroma, probably trying to escape from all of the other vitamins and supplements she was jamming in there.

Garden in spring with garlic tops growing

I personally prefer my garlic on my pasta and growing garlic is really easy. It’s a great companion plant too, because it keeps a lot of other pests away, and if you forget about it and it goes to seed, it will self sow, so really there’s no reason to not grow garlic!

Garlic bulbs after harvest. How to grow and store garlic

You can watch this video on the steps to grow garlic, or skip below to the pictures.


You know those bulbs you buy at the store and then break into cloves? You may or may not be able to grow those based on your planting zone. We live in zone 5a, so I grow hardneck garlic here. Check your planting area for the proper varieties of garlic to grow.

Breaking up garlic into cloves for planting

In our area,  we plant garlic in the late summer, early fall. It over winters ( it needs a period of cold to grow), then comes up as early as May.

Plant and harvest your own garlic

Plant about 2 inches under the soil and cover, and then forget about it. Enjoy the winter, and look forward to it being one of the first things that comes up in the spring besides asparagus!

Early spring garlic with garlic scapes

First, little green shoots will come up. They will produce long curly bulblets (bulbil) that are known as garlic scapes (and are completely edible!). Just cut the bulblet part off and cook the stiff green part (once the scape starts to uncurl it’s no longer edible). If you leave the bulblet, the garlic will self-sow. You can grow garlic from seed instead of a clove, but it just takes a lot longer. And, if you forget to harvest it, or miss some bulbs, you’re in luck! They will just keep on growing the next year and be a little bigger. I prefer to leaves smaller bulbs in the ground for the next year’s harvest and let them get closer to a golf ball size.

Garlic scape

When your tops die back in the late summer, early fall, the garlic are ready to harvest,use, store and replant!

How to grow and harvest garlic

To store, brush off any loose soil and allow to dry for a few weeks until the skin becomes a paper-like coating. When dry, hang in a mesh bag  in a dark cupboard with lots of air circulation, or keep the garlic bulbs in a shallow bowl in a cabinet. It will last a few months this way. Check garlic periodically, and don’t use and discard any garlic that is soft, mushy, has an off-scent,or has mold or mildew. If there is any question at all, just throw it out.

Enjoy! I love adding mine to bruschetta and our lemon garlic rosemary chicken.