Frequently Asked Questions about choosing garlic planting stock, planting garlic, how to grow garlic, harvesting garlic and much more.
General Garlic Seed FAQ's
What are the best garlic varieties to grow in a warm climate?
Answer: Growing garlic in warm climates, Zones 7 through 10, the softneck garlic varieties are the best choice. The Softnecks include: Artichokes and Silver Skins. Artichokes: California Early, Chet’s Italian Red, Chinese Red & White, Early Italian Red, Inchelium Red, Polish White, Red Toch, Siciliano, Susanville and Transylvanian. Silver Skins: Nootka Rosa and Silver White. If you want to try a hardneck variety, the Creole group is your best choice. The Creoles are Ajo, Rojo, Burgundy and Keeper. The Marbled Purple Stripe group is another good choice, Marbled Purple Stripe varieties include: Bogytar, Brown Tempest, Kahbar, Metechi and Siberian. For early harvesters, you can try the Turban group varieties. As early harvesters, they will be harvested before the extreme summer heat sets in. The Turban varieties to choose from are: China Stripe, Chinese Purple, Morado Giant, Red Janice, Shantang Purple, Thai Fire, Thai Purple, Tuscan and Xian.
What are the best garlic varieties to grow in a cold winter climate?
Answer: Growing garlic in cold climates, Zones 1 through 6, the hardneck garlic varieties are the best choice. The Hardnecks include: Asiatics, Creoles, Glazed Purple Stripes, Marbled Purple Stripes, Porcelains, Purple Stripes, Rocamboles and Turbans. A few sub-varieties that thrive in extremely cold winter climates are the Purple Stripes [Chesnok Red, Persian Star and Shatili], Marbled Purple Stripes [Bogytar, Metechi and Siberian] and the Porcelains [Leningrad, Romanian Red and Premium Northern White]. There are also a few Artichoke softneck varieties will do well in cold climates, they are: Polish White, Red Toch, Susanville and Transylvanian.
What are some spicy/hot garlic varieties?
Answer: Here are a few ideas for spicy garlic.
What are some mild garlic varieties that are not too hot?
Answer: Here are a few ideas for mild garlic that is not too hot.
For a sweeter garlic flavor and the best garlic to eat raw are the Rocamboles [German Red, Russian Red, Slovenian and Spanish Roja and the Creoles [Ajo Rojo, Burgundy, Keeper]
What is the difference between hardneck garlic and softneck garlic?
Answer: Here are some of the different characteristics of hardneck garlic and softneck garlic.
How many cloves per bulb in each variety?
How much garlic seed will I need to plant?
Answer: You will plant your garlic seed 6 inches apart. So whatever your square footage is, multiply it by 2. For example, for a 5 X 5 plot. You will plant 2 cloves in each foot, so that equals 10 plants in 10 rows. Multiply 10 x 10 and you get 100 cloves. For 100 cloves you will need approximately 1 & ½ to 2 pounds of garlic seed. (See chart above for approximately how many bulbs per pound in each sub-variety .)
Planting Garlic - FAQ's
Do I have to peel the garlic cloves before planting them in the soil?
Answer: No, you do not need to peel the garlic cloves before planting. If some of the cloves get peeled off, that is OK, just as long as they get planted with in a day or two.
Which way do I plant garlic cloves? Do I plant garlic with the pointy ends up?
Answer: Yes, plant your garlic seed with the pointy ends up. The bottom part of the garlic clove is the basal plate and that is where the roots will form.
Do I have to soak garlic cloves before planting?
Answer: No, it is not necessary to soak garlic cloves before planting.
What is the most important thing about growing great garlic? A gardener writes, "If you had one piece of advice what would you say the single most important factor to growing a nice crop, what would it be?"
Answer: The most important thing is your garlic planting stock. It all starts with the clove! It also helps to have loose loamy soil with good drainage. (oops that's 2 things!)
How to Grow Garlic - FAQ's
Why are the tips of my garlic plants are turning brown? Does is sound like some sort of deficiency or something? What should I do?
Answer: Don't worry, that happens quite frequently in northern climates. It is just minor frost damage and will not harm the plant in any way. Garlic is very hardy and can with stand even the hardest spring frost.
Is it OK to have new plant growth going into the winter months? A customer planted a variety pack of garlic the 1st week of November and it grew 8" - 10" high. He asked if he should do anything with them, and that he was not expecting this growth until the spring.
Answer: There is no need for concern. Garlic is very hardy and the green growth can handle even the coldest of winters. (See question above.) It is a good idea to have a nice layer of mulch for the coldest winter months. Just remember to thin it out in the spring time to allow the plants to get maximum sunlight.
How often should a foliar feed be applied to garlic plants?
Answer: Start applying foliar feed in the spring, around mid April, when the garlic plants have grown about 10 inches tall. Then we apply another foliar feeding when the garlic plants grow another 5 inches in May.
Is it necessary to remove excess mulch off the garlic plants in the spring? A gardener writes, "The threat of snow is now pretty much over although temperatures are still in the 20's and 30's at night, and 40's and 50's during the day. I mulched when I planted with about 6" of straw and it compacted quite a bit from the snow and I am worried about the garlic not growing properly. Can I now safely remove the straw with the temperatures still so cool at night...or is it even necessary to remove it?"
Answer: We do not recommend that you remove the straw (or any other mulch) completely. The mulch will help keep weeds down and also helps retain some moisture in the late spring/summer. You may want to remove any straw that is compacted over individual plants, sometimes it helps just to move the straw around a bit. You may find a few plants that are buried under the straw and deprived from sunlight; these plants may look yellowish, but should green up as soon as they are uncovered.
Why do you use Buckwheat as a cover crop?
Answer: We plant buckwheat because it grows very fast, and therefore it inhibits weed growth. It draws Phosphorous up from the soil, making it available for the future crop. When it gets tilled in, it adds organic matter to your soil. Buckwheat is a good quick cover crop, which does not need to be over wintered. (Clovers should really be in the ground over the winter). After your garlic harvest, plant the buckwheat. Let it grow through the summer/ early fall. When you are ready to prepare your garlic beds in the fall, whack it down with a weed whacker and till it into the soil. And there you have a nice quick cover crop.
What are some tips for growing garlic in a soggy wet climate?
Answer: Garlic actually does well in wet winter climates and lots of rain. It is also very cold tolerant so it likes cold spells. The most important thing to growing garlic in a wet climate is to plant in raised beds. Garlic likes loose loamy soil with good drainage. You can try to add some sand to the soil for optimum drainage. Also add all the organic matter that you can get your hands on. If there is lots of rain, there should be lots of trees! So mulch up some leaves and till them into the soil as well.
How tall should garlic be in the beginning of spring?
Answer: Look at the Garlic Calendar on our web site, you will see that 6" is just perfect for spring time here in the North West. In warmer southern climates, the garlic will be a lot taller, probably 10 to 12 " tall. In cold northern climates, they may be just starting to poke their little heads through the thawing snow.
Can garlic be grown under black plastic?
Answer: We do not suggest growing garlic under black plastic. The plastic may hold in too much moisture and the bulbs may rot. Try a weed fabric, rather than black plastic. Or as we prefer, just use a lot of organic mulching materials.
Garlic scapes and garlic bulbils FAQ’s
Is there such a thing as garlic seeds?
Answer: Garlic seeds are actually the garlic cloves themselves. Each clove is a seed and it will grow into a garlic bulb. For more information on this see, See How to Grow Garlic - Step #1. Also see the Garlic Calendar - "Choosing organic seed stock".
What are the tiny bulbs that grow above the actual garlic bulb (above ground) anywhere from 1” to 12” up the stem? Does this mean harvest soon or is it normal for some varieties?
Answer: These small bulbs that form above the ground are called garlic bulbils (see next question). When they form just above the surface of your soil up to 1 foot, you will find them mostly in the softneck varieties, and sometimes in the Asiatic hardneck varieties. It happens quite frequently, this is also the reason that you will find a softneck varieties with a hard-neck. It usually occurs when the garlic is under stress, the garlic plant is actually bolting. So yes it does mean that your garlic is ready for harvest. What the plant is actually doing is sending out a seed, for it's survival of the fittest instinct.
What is a garlic bulbil and can I plant them? If I let a few garlic bulbils go to seed, and then plant the seed, will this give me good garlic maybe an extra year later?
Answer: If you let the garlic scapes bloom and go to seed, what you will have will be garlic greens. They look just like chives and they come up in the early spring. You would snip them with scissors and eat them just like you would eat chives. As far as getting large sized garlic bulbs from garlic bulbils, there is a very complex science to planting the bulbils. It takes many years to get decent sized bulbs from garlic bulbils and requires manual pollination.
When are my garlic scapes ready to pop off?
Answer: Your garlic scapes are ready to pop off when they have started to curl. This is usually around mid June, see The Garlic Calendar. The garlic scapes will start out growing straight up towards the sun, then they make a U-turn and head down towards the dirt. They will curl again and heading back to the sky, forming a curly Q. Now the garlic scapes are ready to be popped off! FYI, we call it "popped off" because it really does make a popping sound when snapping them. I prefer to wear vinyl gloves, but Eric does it bare handed, he does not mind smelling like garlic when the garlic oil drips all over his hands. Some gardeners prefer to use a sharp knife.
Why did my garlic plant produce a double scape?
Answer: If you pop off your garlic scapes too early, the garlic plant may send out a new scape to replace it. You want to wait until a full curly-Q occurs and sometimes even a double curl before popping off the garlic scape. If you popped the scape too soon and a new scape grew in it's place, there will be no harm to your garlic, though the bulb size may suffer a bit since the plant had to put energy into a new garlic scape.
Where do I pop off the garlic scapes?
Answer: You want to snap off the garlic scapes, right before it starts to curl: about 1 inch before the start of the curl.
Can I eat the garlic scapes?
Answer: Yes! They are wonderful! There are many splendid recipes and fun things to do with garlic scapes. Please see Garlic Recipes for fabulous garlic scape recipes.
Harvesting Garlic FAQ’s
When is a good time to stop watering garlic plants?
Answer: You want to stop watering at least 2 weeks prior to harvest. If there is some rain, you would want to wait a day or two and let the ground dry out before harvesting.
When are my garlic plants ready to harvest?
Answer: Your garlic plants are ready to harvest when there are three to four green leaves left. See The Garlic Calendar for an image of some Music garlic ready for harvest in mid July.
Should we hose off the garlic bulbs after harvest?
Answer: No! You do not want to hose off your garlic plants. Your garlic bulbs do not want any more moisture on them. Moisture will only lead to mold. Please do not hose off your beautiful garlic harvest! You may brush off most of the dirt in the field, but careful not to peel off any outer skin. See Curing and Storing Garlic. Then hang the bulbs to dry, the dirt will brush off easily after a few weeks of curing.
How to Store Garlic FAQ’s
What is the best way to store my harvested garlic?
Answer: The best way to store your garlic is to keep it cool and dry, away from any direct heat source and out of direct sunlight. A basement is a terrific place. You need to protect it from freezing, so an unheated garage is too cold in winter months. Try to find the coolest spot in your house and store the bulk of your garlic there. Then just have one bulb at a time on your countertop. Also see our Garlic Tips page for how to store garlic in olive oil and butter in your freezer!
What is the best way to store my garlic planting stock, if I am not going to plant for a few weeks?
Answer: The best way to store your garlic seed is to store it in the box that it arrived in. When your box arrives, open it up and check the contents. Open all individual bags, but keep the hang tag for reference. All of the bags will have the abbreviated garlic name on the bag. Once you open the bag, place the hang tag inside the bag for future reference. See all of the above for storing in a cool dry place.
Planting garlic in containers and pots FAQ’s
If it is late fall and the ground is frozen, and I didn't get my garlic seed in the ground, can I plant it in pots?
Answer: Yes, you can plant garlic seed in containers, and certainly until the spring thaw. Your pots are going to have to be rather large. Garlic likes 5 to 6 inches all around it, and at least 5 inches deep. Keep evenly moist, in full sun. If you do decide to put them in the ground in the spring, make sure the hole is big enough and try not to disturb the roots as much as possible.
What are good garlic seed varieties to take to the Farmer’s Market?
Answer: For market sales I would suggest that you try a few different varieties...the Turbans are great because they are the first garlic to harvest and get to market, the Purple Stripes are noted to retain their flavor even after cooking. The Porcelains have huge easy to peel cloves and have a high content of allicin. The softnecks have a long storage life. The Creoles have a long storage life for a hardneck... to sum it up, they are all fun to grow and have their own unique characteristics!
What garlic would you recommend for Hawaii?
Answer: Garlic is not a great crop for Hawaii and other tropical climates, because it needs a drying out period after harvest to cure. Unless you live on the leeward side of the island where there is less rain fall, we do not highly recommend that you grow garlic in a tropical climate. However growing a small amount can be a fun experiment. The recommended garlic varieties for tropical climates would be the same as warm winter climates: Artichokes and Silver Skins for softnecks and Creoles, Marbled Purple Stripes and Turbans for hardnecks.