Garlic is an essential part of most well-stocked kitchens, because it’s used in such a wide variety of recipes. While a head of garlic can last you quite a while, many people love growing their own garlic, so they don’t have to run to the store every time they need a pinch of garlic for a recipe. However, not many people know how to grow garlic in their backyards or window sills—but it’s not as hard as you’d think!
How to Grow Garlic Indoors
Depending on where you live, it may make the most sense to grow your garlic indoors. Many people enjoy growing vegetables and other food inside, because it prevents pests and animals from getting into the plants. Furthermore, people who live in especially cold or warm climates find that indoor planting provides the most consistency in the plant’s environment.
Luckily for you, garlic is a plant that can be grown indoors as long as you can provide it with everything it needs.
How to Grow Garlic from Cloves
If you want to grow your own garlic, growing it from cloves is typically the best way to go. Many people prefer garlic that comes from a farmers market or other natural source, but you can decide what works best for you. Regardless, you just need one head of garlic to start several plants of your own.
To plant pre-purchased garlic, start by breaking the head of garlic apart gently to keep the soft wrapping around each clove fully intact. Using the largest cloves from the head, plant as many cloves as you wish by either planting them in small, individual pots or spacing them 4 to 5 inches apart from each other and approximately 3 inches deep within the soil of a large container. Then, recover each clove so that the top still has about 1 inch of soil covering it.
Using Grocery Store Garlic for Planting
Believe it or not, you can actually use leftover garlic from your most recent grocery store haul to grow garlic indoors as well. As long as the garlic has not been treated with sprout prevention chemicals, a clove of garlic should sprout if you follow the needed steps during planting.
Caring for Indoor Garlic
Since garlic is a root, it needs loose, well-drained soil. You’ll want to make sure that the pot you use for your garlic allows for adequate drainage. Otherwise, the garlic heads will become susceptible to fungal diseases that can occur on root plants like potatoes and onions.
Garlic also requires lots of sunlight, so place your pots or containers near windows that receive direct sunlight for at least 6 hours each day. If you can’t do this, you can also purchase a growing light to provide sunlight to your garlic.
Garlic thrives in moist soil. Therefore, you’ll need to water your garlic frequently using room-temperature water. Just keep in mind that overwatered soil or soil that does not allow for drainage will harm your garlic. You can avoid this by simply checking the soil before each scheduled watering.
Harvesting Your Garlic
When you grow garlic indoors, you have two options for harvesting. You can either use the greens that form above the soil or harvest the heads under the dirt. Garlic greens grow quickly and provide a mild garlic flavor to any dish, whereas the actual heads of garlic take 7 to 9 months to fully develop.
If you decide to use the garlic greens, you can trim the garlic plant each time the greens reach 4 inches or more in length. Unlike the roots, garlic greens do not stay fresh for long, so plan to use any harvested greens with 2 days of trimming.
If you’re in it for the long haul to get a fully-grown head of garlic, look for the greens to turn yellow or brown and shed leaves sometime within 7 to 9 months of your original planting. Once this happens, harvest the heads of garlic within a couple of weeks so the garlic doesn’t have time to decay. Then pull the head from the soil, clean off the greens and any dirt, and get ready to enjoy some garlic!
Growing Garlic Outside
Unfortunately, many people find that growing garlic indoors doesn’t provide the same harvest as outdoor growing would provide. Oftentimes this is because garlic needs the dormancy of a cold winter to fully develop.
Luckily, garlic is a relatively easy plant to grow outdoors—you just need the right setup.
How to Grow Garlic from Cloves
Most experts agree that fall is the best time to plant garlic outdoors. This gives it enough time to start growing before the first freeze, and it allows for a full winter dormancy so it can properly sprout in the spring.
Before planting your cloves, prep the soil by loosening at least 8 inches of depth. Also consider adding some sort of natural fertilizer or compost to ensure that your garlic receives the nutrients it needs.
Once the soil is prepped, break up the heads of garlic you intend to plant just as you would while planting them indoors. Leave the paper-like exterior on each clove, then gently plant them about 3 to 4 inches deep into the soil. Cover the cloves, and then gently water.
After you plant the cloves, consider covering them with straw or a light layer of mulch to protect them during the winter. Let them grow naturally through the fall until winter comes.
When spring arrives, keep the area where you planted your garlic well watered and weeded.
Starting Garlic from Seed
Although you can technically find garlic seeds in some cases, most people either plant their garlic from fully-grown cloves or from bulbils, which are tiny clones of the original garlic plant that appear as the garlic plant ends its growing season in late summer or early fall.
These bulbils are much smaller than fully-grown cloves, which means they will take longer to return a harvestable head of garlic. However, if you’re wanting to grow large quantities of garlic, bulbils are usually cheaper and provide more seeds to start.
Once planted, care for the garlic the same way you would if you started it from cloves. Just keep in mind that these will sprout a little faster and need careful attention to prevent the development of fungal root diseases.
Harvesting Your Outdoor Garlic
In most cases, garlic grown outside is ready to harvest in late summer or early fall. In fact, most experts recommend that you begin watching your garlic around July so that you can harvest it at its peak readiness.
Just like the indoor plants, you want to watch for the greens to change to yellow or brown and look for leaves to fall off. When this happens, stop watering your garlic and give it approximately 1 to 2 weeks to dry. Next, carefully lift the garlic from its roots and clean off the garlic. Trim off the bottom roots and carefully cut the stalk from the head, leaving a little stalk at the top.
Final Thoughts on How to Grow Garlic
Although garlic does require very specific conditions for optimal growth, it isn’t a difficult plant to grow and harvest. You just need to provide it with adequate sunlight and water, and then be patient and let Mother Nature run its course.
Whether you plant your garlic indoors or out, you’ll absolutely enjoy the delicious flavor of fresh garlic in your favorite dishes!
Another great vegetable to have on hand is green onions, don’t you agree? Click here to learn how to grow your own green onions too!
Megan Glosson is a mother and freelance writer based Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys writing on a variety of parenting topics, but loves taking on anything with a personal connection to her own life. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Megan building Legos or playing board games with her two adorable daughters. To check out more of Megan’s work or to contact her about freelance opportunities, visit meganglosson.com