How to Grow Garlic in the Garden

Growing garlic for the first time can be an exercise in patience, but once it’s ready for harvest, you’ll be so glad you took the time to cultivate it. Nothing beats fresh garlic, as not only is it flavorful, but it’s incredibly healthy too. 


The Benefits of Growing Fresh Garlic


1. It’s Healthy: Freshly picked garlic is packed full of nutrients. It’s naturally antibacterial and has plenty of vitamins to support immunity and speedy healing. Packed with cancer-fighting Vitamin B6, it’s proven to help slow down tumor growth. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and can even help reduce plaque buildup in our arteries. That’s pretty impressive for a veggie we typically associate with pizzas and pasta!

2. It’s Versatile: Roasting garlic will help neutralize the smell if you plan on eating it in large quantities—and why wouldn’t you eat it in large quantities? It’s beyond delicious, and there are seemingly endless recipes to use it in. 

3. It’s Organic: When you grow your own garlic (GYOG), you’ll know everything that’s going into it. No mystery chemicals, just the good stuff. Plus, the sooner you use it after harvesting, the more vitamins and nutrients it will contain! Store-bought garlic can’t compete with these benefits. 


The Basics of Garlic Care in Chicago


Growing garlic is a piece of cake! Even rookie gardeners can pull it off. Here’s how to grow your own in garden beds or containers at home. 


Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago-Growing Garlic Basic Care-Planting garlic cloves

Planting Garlic

The ideal time to plant garlic is late October. Planting at this time offers just enough time for the roots to get established but not enough time for the sprouts to break the soil surface. If your plant breaches the surface before winter, it becomes much more vulnerable and prone to cold damage. A single clove is all you need to grow an entire bulb. The biggest fattest cloves will provide the best results, especially with the help of these garlic bulb planting tips: 

  1. Choose a strong clove—if it’s squishy, it’s probably old and starting to rot. Don’t peel the skin off as it adds a layer of protection.  
  2. Plant cloves 6–8 inches apart, 3 inches below the surface, with the pointy side facing up. Find a spot with well-draining, sandy soil that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  3. When you dig your holes, sprinkle a bit of bone meal in the bottom before you add your clove. This product will provide calcium and other nutrients, which help your plants grow bigger and stronger! 
  4. Once your cloves are in place, and you’ve back-filled the holes up with soil, add 2–3 layers of mulch for added protection from the cold. 


Garlic Care as Your Bulbs Develop

Garlic doesn’t need much fertilizer. Sprinkling some pelletized chicken manure or blood meal across the soil surface in spring will be sufficient to keep your plants fueled. Plus, the bone meal you added during planting will have fortified the soil with nutrients as well. 

Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago-Growing Garlic Basic Care-Garlic scapes

Green scapes will sprout from your garlic bulbs. Snip them off when they begin to curl so your plants can direct their energy towards more giant, fuller, tastier bulbs. You can use the scapes in various delicious recipes—they have that same garlicky flavor we all love!  


How Often Should You Water Garlic? 

Garlic doesn’t need nearly as much water as other garden veggies. Water is required at least half an inch per week, and at most one inch. If we’re getting some decent rainfall, there’s no need to water your garlic bulbs. Water every 5–7 days for best results. 


Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago-Growing Garlic Basic Care-Pulling up garlic from garden

Harvesting Garlic Bulbs

Harvest time usually falls around late July to August. You’ll know when it’s ready for picking when the lower leaves start turning brown. Don’t leave them for too long once they’ve matured—this can break down their protective layers, and they won’t stay fresh for as long. If you’re unsure if your garlic is ripe, pull up a bulb and inspect it. If your cloves fill out the skins, they are ready for you to enjoy.


Platt Hill Nursery-Chicago-Growing Garlic Basic Care-Garlic stalks growing in garden


Platt Hill Nursery has plenty of garlic for sale, ready for you to plant. Visit our garden centers in Bloomingdale and Carpentersville to stock up in time for fall planting! 


Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.

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