Garden of Eatin' / How-To / Vegetables

Get Your Garlic On: Planting and Growing Garlic the Easy Way

Ajo Rojo garlic clove

I love garlic in everything. There’s no better smell in the kitchen than the smell of garlic (and onions!) sauteed in olive oil and wafting through the air.

So of course, growing garlic — lots of it — was definitely in the plans for this season.

I found organic seed garlic online from Gourmet Garlic Gardens and drooled over all the different varieties of garlic available. Who knew there was so much more out there than the generic white bulbs sold at the supermarket? Seed garlic is the actual garlic bulb, not a typical “seed” from a flower. The cloves are the seeds themselves, and the largest cloves from the healthiest bulbs are used to propagate new garlic plants.

I chose Ajo Rojo (a spicy Creole) and Siciliano (a softneck Artichoke) — both well-suited to SoCal’s warm winter climate. Ajo Rojo is an especially striking garlic, wrapped in a pinkish-burgundy skin, with a pungent, spicy flavor. I smell Ajo Rojo fries in my future!

The best part about growing garlic is how foolproof it is:

  1. Choose a sunny spot in the yard with good drainage.
  2. Separate the cloves. Choose the biggest cloves for planting, and use the smaller ones for cooking.
  3. To plant a row of garlic, dig a shallow trench about 3 inches deep using a trowel.
  4. Plant the cloves individually, about 6 inches apart, with the pointy tip facing upward. They should be 1 to 2 inches below the surface.
  5. Cover with soil. Water. Within a week, new sprouts will appear.

That’s it. No tiny seeds to lose or blow away, no delicate seedlings to transplant. You don’t even have to peel the cloves, just leave the wrapper intact and plant the whole clove. If I was a farmer, I would farm garlic, hands down.

I recommend at least 6 inches of plant spacing to give the garlic enough room to breathe. Since garlic is planted in the fall with rainy winter and spring weather ahead, you want plenty of air circulation between the plants. Wet leaves, combined with high humidity and overcrowding, can lead to a fungal disease called garlic rust.

I usually end up with more cloves than I have room for in my allotted garden plots, so I’ll just push a clove into the ground wherever I see an open space among my other vegetables. Interplanting garlic with your crops can help repel common garden pests (such as aphids and Japanese beetles) that are turned off by the strong aromatic.

Garlic should be planted in fall (mid-September to mid-October) before the first frost, or by early December in frost-free regions. In warm climates, your crop will usually be ready for harvest in late spring or early summer. Cooler climates will have garlic maturing through the summer months, with harvests in July.

Learn how to determine when your garlic is ready, and how to harvest and cure your garlic crop.

Planting garlic cloves
Planting garlic cloves
About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


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