How to grow garlic

separating garlic cloves before planting

Once upon a time, garlic was planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest – how I loved that tradition! But life is change and now we plant as early as poss to get bulbs to a good size before rust, a fungal disease, hits. Plant garlic anytime from May through August. Spread plantings over a few different months until you get to know your particular growing environment.

Good drainage and yummy soil

garlic bed prep
Soil mounded up to improve drainage

Drainage is a make or break moment for your garlic crop. If you are on heavy soil, plant in pots or make a mound and plant into that.

As for yummy soil, you wont do better than good old compost. Homemade is the best. Not quite enough homemade?, then mix bought compost with your own. Other possible additions to increase your homemade supply are vermicastings, very well rotten manure or any other cheats compost amendment.


Garlic is hungry, so don’t grow after a heavy feeder. Nor should you grow after any of its antagonistic oniony relations – create as long a gap as you can.


garlic shoots 4 weeks after planting

Space bulbs diagonally, at 10 – 20cm spacings. Use the closer spacings if your soil is fab and the likelihood of rust is low; take it out further for poor soils and if you are likely to get rust. The bigger the space, the more weeding to do and the less crop in a small area – it’s a balancing act.

With the advent of rust, I like to plant little groups of garlic dotted about the place rather than one big block as per the good old pre-rust days.

Make a little hole with a stick and slot the bulb in so the tip is level with the top of the soil. In about a months time, the new shoots will appear.

Mulch is a great idea to help keep weeds at bay.


garlic is ready to harvest

Liquid feed as often as needed to boost growth in the first few months: as much as weekly or as little as monthly. Garlic is the same as onions and is the same as leeks – we want strong top foliage growth from the outset because this will bring a big bulb.

Stop feeding from about mid spring (when you can see the bulb beginning to grow at the base), so as to focus the energy below ground, rather than above.


Yes I know, it’s like outside housework, but some crops need weeding and garlic is one such. Scratch weeds up when they’re little with a Niwashi or hoe, then leave them in situ to melt back into the soil or keep laying more mulch on top of them.


A mixture of garlic varieties is part of my rust prevention plan. Hardneck garlics are hardier than softnecks, though they don’t store as well: growing some of each is smart. Team them up with an early variety and all your bases are covered.