The Truth about How Long Does It Take to Grow Garlic

Growing garlic

Garlic adds delicious flavor to your dishes, and it is easy for all gardeners to grow. Determining how long does it take to grow garlic depends on the type of garlic you pick and the method you chose to grow. Knowing how these factors change the maturity of your garlic allows you to plan your planting calendar.

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Softneck vs. Hardneck Garlic

Gardeners select one of two types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. There is no perfect choice. Each type has reasons you may want to pick that type and reasons not to select it. The term “neck” refers to the green stalk that grows from the garlic bulb, and whether it grows from the center or the leaves.

Hardneck vs Softneck Garlic

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Hardneck Garlic is a hardier version, ideal for gardeners in Northern areas. If you love garlic scapes, hardneck garlic is the best choice because a strong stalk will emerge from the ground in spring. There are three types of garlic: purple stripe, rocambole, and porcelain.

Harneck Garlic Buld

Softneck Garlic is better for those who live in a mild climate. You cannot harvest scapes from Softneck garlic, so consider that. One of the benefits of growing softneck is that they mature and store better long-term than hardneck.

Softneck Garlic

Ideal Time for Plant Garlic

There is one perfect time to plant garlic, but it might answer the question about maturity rates. There are two general times when you might plant garlic: the early spring or late fall into early winter.

Spring planting is unpredictable because of the weather. These plantings typically produce smaller bulbs. However, a spring planting is better for those who live in a warmer climate. Spring planted garlic typically take less than eight months to mature. Planting in February or March will bring a harvest in fall, around August.

It is more common for gardeners to plant garlic bulbs in the fall, around the first major frost of the year. Depending on your location, this time could fall between October and November. One thing to remember is that, while garlic is winter hardy, it can be damaged by extremely cold temperatures. Fall planted garlic takes at least eight months to mature to size. Garlic planted in October and November should be ready around May or June.

Growing Garlic Outside

Garlic requires the correct conditions to mature in the average eight months. Learning the conditions required is helpful for all gardeners! Let’s take a look at some general recommendations.

Grow garlic outside
  • The garden bed you select should receive full sun. Garlic needs at least eight hours of sun each day. You cannot move planted garlic after they’re on the ground, so select the spot wisely.
  • Garlic prefers acidic soil, but it will deal with alkaline soil that contains extra, organic matter.
  • Don’t try to grow garlic in wet soil, because it could cause the bulbs to rot. Instead, ensure the soil is well-draining.
  • Make sure you water and mulch the garlic. Mulch stops the growth of weeds and will retain soil moisture. The average recommendation is for water garlic every eight to ten days. Mulch is not a requirement, but it does reduce the risk of your young shoots dying because of freezing temperatures during the long winter. Without mulch, your plant may produce smaller bulbs.
  • Fall and spring planted garlic require some fertilizer. An ideal choice is 12-0-0 blood meal that will give the garlic all the nutrients required.

Garlic is prone to many different pests and diseases. You should have a working knowledge the common ones and ways to treat them.

  • Thrips result in foliar damage. A liquid insecticidal soap sprayed onto the foliage can take care of thrips.
  • Onion maggots into the bulb, causing the top foliage to turn yellow and, eventually, wilt. The best way to control onion maggots is to follow the recommended crop rotation and remove affected plants immediately.
  • Wireworms damage your bulbs by digging underground. Wireworms are common in areas recently covered in grass.

Steps to Grow Garlic Outside

  • 1
    Pick an appropriate site for your garlic. Ensure it has the right soil pH level, receives adequate sunlight, and make sure not to grow garlic in the same area you did last year. Rotate beds for three years.
  • 2
    Prepare the soil by adding an inch of compost. To increase the acid level, add in some wood ashes.
  • 3
    Break your garlic heads up into individual cloves. Don’t do this until right before planting.
  • 4
    Space the cloves four to six inches apart. Each row should be 15 to 24 inches apart. Each clove needs buried four inches deep with the pointed end upwards.
  • 5
    Add three to five inches of mulch to the top of the area.

Harvesting Garlic Outside

Before you know it, it will be time to harvest your garlic! You know the garlic is ready when the skin is thick, dry and feels like paper. Other signs of maturity include brown leaves, with a maximum of six to eight green leaves.

Harvesting garlic on the field

Remember, once the signs of maturity come, you have a two week period to harvest before the bulbs start to degrade!

To harvest your outside garlic, simply take a garden fork and press into the soil about an inch or two from your garlic plant. Then, using the fork, lift the bulbs out of the garden bed. Lay the harvest bulbs in a single layer somewhere that is warm, dry, airy and shady! Leave the bulbs there for three to four days until the leaves are dried before putting in storage.

Growing Garlic in Containers

You don’t need a lot of space outside to have a supply of fresh garlic. You can grow it inside or in containers as well. Garlic, unlike many other plants, does exceptionally well in containers. The roots are shallow, but you still need space for the garlic to grow. The container should be at least 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Drainage holes at the bottom are essential for proper growth.

Grow garlic in small pot

Steps for Growing Garlic in Containers

  • 1
    Select a container adequate for the amount of garlic you want to grow.
  • 2
    Fill the container with potting soil.
  • 3
    Break apart the garlic clove and bury each clove vertically one inch deep. Then, cover the cloves with soil. There should be at least one inch of soil on top of the cloves.
  • 4
    Place the container in an area that receives the recommended amount of sunlight.
  • 5
    Remember to water the soil as needed, checking for dryness daily.
  • 6
    As the greens sprout, you can clip them to use in dishes! Don’t clip until they are three to four inches tall. Eventually, they will stop growing and turn brown.
  • 7
    Once the greens are brown, dig up each clove of garlic. Now, the single clove is a full bulb. Take one of your bulbs and start over for an easy, endless supply of garlic!

Harvesting Garlic in Containers

When to harvest your garlic in containers is far from a perfect science. The bulbs have to be the appropriate size and dry. You should know they are ready when the greens start to dry. A general rule to remember is to harvest when the leaves are yellow at the bottom.

Harvesting garlic in containers

While yellowing is a typical sign of maturity, don’t depend on that alone! Many gardeners, including myself, learned the hard way that yellow leaves can be a sign of under-watering or other issues. If you harvest at the first sign of yellow, you may pull up an underdeveloped garlic bulb. Instead, wait for that whole plant to change colors and start to wilt!

To harvest garlic in containers, remember never to pull by the stem. Doing so can cause the stems to break and the bulb to be in the ground. Instead, use a fork or small shovel to dig into the ground and pry the bulbs loose. Gently brush dirt from the bulbs and leave to cure in a warm, ventilated area. Once the skin feels papery, they are ready for storage.

How to Store Garlic

You worked hard to grow your garlic, so storing it properly is essential. You don’t want all of that to go to waste! One tip to always remember is to keep the head whole if you plan to store it for several months. Breaking apart the head means your garlic will only last a week or two at most.

Storing garlic requires a place that is dark, dry and has good air circulation. Many people select a mesh basket or even a paper bag inside of your pantry. You do not want to store in your refrigerator because the garlic will sprout!

Cut the stems, ensuring all of the greens are removed. You can also trim the roots. Gently brush off any remaining soil.

3 Easy Ways to Store Garlic

  • 1
    Place the prepared bulbs in a basket in a dark, cool, dry location until you are ready to use them! You can purchase a garlic keeper, which allows individual cloves to be pulled off.
Store garlic in cool and dry place
  • 2
    Learn how to make a garlic plait or braid! The dried leaves and stems can be braided into a stem, allowing you to hang them in your pantry or basement. People love the look of braided garlic, plus it is out of your way!
Store garlic plait or braid
  • 3
    Store garlic in oil or vinegar. If you opt for this method, you have to store garlic in the refrigerator to avoid bacteria growth.
Garlic in oil
  • WARNING: Be careful if you are preparing flavored oils or storing garlic in oils. You cannot store garlic in oil at room temperature because it could lead to the growth of botulism. While you may purchase garlic-in-oil at stores, you cannot keep it at room temperature if done at home! 

So, How Long Does It Take to Grow Garlic?

Growing garlic requires patience on your end. A fall planting can take eight months to harvest, but the bulbs will be larger and more flavorful. A spring planting is for someone who isn’t ready to wait eight months for delicious garlic bulbs. A spring planting can take around six months to harvest, just in time for a fall planting!

Determining how long does it take to grow garlic requires that you understand the difference in planting times and that you maintain the proper requirements for growing garlic. Remember to harvest quickly to avoid rot! Nothing beats the taste of homegrown garlic in your dinner dishes. Enjoy! 

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