Grow your Own Garlic

Garlic is an easy vegetable to grow and requires very little care. In southwestern Ontario it needs to be planted in the fall for harvest the following summer. Seed garlic is sold as bulbs and looks very much like the garlic from the grocery store. Seed Garlic is considered to be the largest garlic bulbs that are separated from the harvested garlic and saved to produce the following year's crop.


Garlic growing in rows in a garden

Garlic is best grown directly in the ground or raised bed. It is not really suitable for container gardening. It is important to prep/work the soil prior to planting so it is nice and loose. If possible add some compost to the earth - particularly if your ground is heavy. The garlic bulb needs to be divided into cloves prior to planting. Make sure to leave the papery covering on each clove. Plant each clove approximately 6 inches apart and 3 inches deep in the soil with the pointy end up. Take care not to compact the soil by walking on where you have planted your garlic. The cloves will start to grow in the fall under the ground, sight unseen. It will most likely not show any signs of growth above the ground until early spring -however don't be alarmed if shoots appear above the soil in the fall as they will not affect next years harvest. The crop will benefit in the spring by adding fertilizer to the ground either by water soluble or slow release pellets. Take care not to disturb the soil in the spring. Weed and water as needed.



Garlic scape growing in the field

The garlic will produce a plant that will grow to approximately 2 feet tall. Hardneck varieties of garlic - such as Music - will produce a scape. Scapes can be harvested when they’ve grown one and a half turns, before the stem straightens, generally at the end of June/beginning of July. Eating the scapes is optional, but either way removing them helps the plant to produce a more robust crop of garlic. The bulbs will be ready to harvest between 4 and 5 weeks after the garlic scapes, generally the last week in July or the first week in August when approximately 2/3 of the plant has died off. If possible, do so on a dry and windy day. Take care when harvesting the bulbs. Loosen the soil around the bulb and try to remove the bulbs by lifting underneath them. External skins will be paper-thin - you want to keep that skin intact and undamaged as much as possible. Do not delay harvesting, as the heads will then open and lose their nice tight shape. Hardneck varieties will need to have the stick-like stem trimmed off with a clippers. Lay the bulbs out to dry for another week or two prior to storing to make sure any dirt has had time to dry out. Turn the bulbs every few days for even drying. If dirt remains on the bulbs use a bursh to remove it. Do not wash the cloves prior to storing them. Store them in a breathable container in a cool place. If you want you can save your largest cloves to use for seed the following year.